Nicola Sturgeon to announce £100 for every family receiving free school meals before Christmas
Christmas will come early for many of Scotland’s most vulnerable families with Nicola Sturgeon set to announce plans to provide a £100 direct payment to all families with children receiving free school meals.
In a move which the First Minister hopes will help tackle child poverty during one of the toughest winters in living memory, the payment will be made before Christmas and those receiving it will be able to use it for whatever they wish.
It will also cover the gap in time between now and the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, a £10 per month additional payment to low income families for every child under the age of six, due to start paying out from February 15 next year.
The announcement also follows John Swinney confirming the SNP will introduce free school meals for every child in Scotland, following from the Scottish Conservatives’ announcement in September.
Referencing the £100 payment, the First Minister will say: “The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter. That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids.
“Families will know best what they need. That’s not for government to decide.
“Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most - they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.”
Ms Sturgeon is also expected to say that the Scottish Government will not wait until it is running an independent Scotland “to start doing the right things now” as she sets out her vision for Scotland ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election.
The leader of the SNP will add that it is important for Scotland to be working “to the right plan” rather than rebuilding back from Covid-19 “in the image of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers”.
Echoing rallying calls from Ian Blackford and other senior SNP figures such as constitution secretary Michael Russell, she is also likely to outline her vision for an independent Scotland.
Alongside the new £100 payment, the First Minister will also announce a £100 million funding package for winter and outline how it will be used to reach the most vulnerable people in Scotland.
She will say: “We will shortly become the only part of the UK to give low income families an extra £10 per week for every child - initially for children up to age six and then for every child up to age 16. This has been described as a game-changer in the fight to end child poverty.
“The first payments will be made in February. But I know that for families struggling now, February is still a long way off.”
“So I am announcing today a £100 million package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of Covid over the winter months.
“It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry.
“It will offer additional help for the homeless, and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected.”
The announcement will come as Scottish Labour warn that child poverty in Scotland is “unacceptably high” with the pandemic threatening for the issue to develop into a “humanitarian crisis”.
Calling for the Scottish Government to work with Scottish Labour to tackle child poverty, the party's poverty spokesperson Elaine Smith said child povery should “shame us as a nation and galvanise us to take action”.
Around 230,000 children in Scotland live in poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate, with the children’s charity Aberlour Child Care Trust reporting a surge of more than 1,000 per cent in demand for the emergency cash grants it hands out.
Ms Smith said: “It is vital that the SNP government does all it can to support and fortify the Scottish Welfare Fund during this crisis – we must not allow any more families to fall through the cracks.
“All weekend we have heard the SNP pontificate about a post-independence land of milk and honey, but they have spent a decade failing to use the levers at their disposal to tackle child poverty.
"Their record in office over the last decade has been one of abysmal failure – the fact that Scotland is not on course to meet its interim child poverty targets within three years is indicative of that.”
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