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Local authorities are providing 140,000 children and young people with free school meals


By Alan Hendry

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Around 140,000 children and young people across Scotland are being supported with the provision of a free school meal as part of efforts to support the most vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak.

Local authorities are providing most of the meals through vouchers, direct payments or home deliveries, according to the latest monitoring data.

Meals are also provided at some education/early-years hubs, around 400 of which are open across Scotland for young people including those with additional support needs, as well as children of key workers.

New guidance to support continuity of learning at the start of term four – which, for the vast majority of children and young people, will be experienced at home – will be published in the coming days, the Scottish Government has said.

The Parent Club Scotland website also continues to be updated with a range of advice and support through the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Scottish Government says it is working with a range of partners to support children and families and mitigate the impact of the outbreak and the necessary social distancing measures on education and other services to support health and wellbeing.

Funding has been provided for a range of local and national projects.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney says free school meals are a key measure for families, children and young people who need extra help.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney says free school meals are a key measure for families, children and young people who need extra help.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “In the midst of this terrible pandemic, with the harm and potential harm to our loved ones and communities, ministers remain steadfast in our determination to support children and families, both for their health and wellbeing and to help everyone continue their learning, whether through the education hubs or with home learning.

“Free school meals are a key measure for families, children and young people who need some extra help and I am pleased that so many are receiving them. We have worked closely with local authority partners to ensure they are able to put in place provision that meets local needs and circumstances.

“As schools term four starts in the next few days, we will be publishing guidance from Education Scotland, both for teachers/practitioners and for families, to support continued learning. This will provide information about curriculum, teaching and learning at home, including digital learning, and include sources of further advice and support.

“I am grateful for the commitment of all those working in Scotland’s education system in their efforts to support families and learners during this difficult time. Parents and young people too must be commended for how they have responded to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and by the very necessary closure of schools.

“The Scottish Government will continue to review the available advice and guidance to ensure parents, carers and learners get the support they need, when they need it. That includes work with key partners to provide and adapt a range of support for those children and families facing particular disadvantages or additional vulnerabilities during this crisis.”

Councillor Stephen McCabe, spokesperson for children and young people at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: “In the face of the massive challenge posed to our communities by the coronavirus, local government has moved quickly to support those most in need.

“With the closure of schools and early learning and childcare settings councils have rapidly set up bespoke methods to ensure that eligible children continue to receive free school meals, whether that is through vouchers, direct payments, home deliveries or providing food through community hubs.

“Councils will continue to work at the front lines to make sure that the most vulnerable in Scotland’s communities are supported as we respond to Covid-19.”

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