Coronavirus in Scotland: Free school meals extended over summer holidays

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School mealsImage source, Reuters

Children in Scotland who qualify for free school meals will continue to get them during the school holidays, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Ms Sturgeon said local authorities would receive £12.6m to provide the service to about 175,000 pupils.

That number has risen by 53,000 since the start of the pandemic due to the impact it has had on family incomes.

Meals are currently distributed in schools that are still open or through direct cash or voucher payments.

The funding will see the scheme extended from the end of June through to the start of the new term in August.

During her daily briefing Ms Sturgeon said: "We know families are under considerable financial pressure just now and free school meals are a vital help to many but they are also really important to the health and wellbeing of children."

The funding was announced shortly before the UK government confirmed the school meal voucher scheme will be extended in England.

This followed a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, which was praised by Ms Sturgeon.

Image caption,
Footballer Marcus Rashford has campaigned to have the voucher scheme extended south of the border.

The first minister said the new funding in Scotland would be a continuation of the arrangements that has been in place during the pandemic.

Her announced came as the latest figures showed a large rise in unemployment.

She said they "undoubtedly" showed that "dealing with the public health crisis of Covid has created an economic crisis that demands our full focus and attention".

Ms Sturgeon said funding free school meals was an important part of "trying to mitigate the somewhat unusual circumstances we are living in just now but also some of the economic impact that the kind of figures we reported today are having".

The Scottish government said the meals would be provided as part of £27.6m package of additional funding

The extra money will also enable councils to continue to support a range of people who may be facing "new or continuing barriers to accessing food" until the end of September.

This includes those who face a reduced income if they are asked to self-isolate through contact tracing.