Glasgow & West Scotland

Low-income families 'need holiday help'

Children at play Image copyright BBC/PA/Getty Images

Low-income families should be given help to cope with increased emotional and financial pressures over the school holidays, a report has recommended.

The Child Poverty Action Group report said some families felt the strain when free school meals were not available.

This could be exacerbated when working hours were cut for childcare reasons and families resorted to borrowing.

The report states that subsidised travel and free activities and lunches could help struggling families.

The research was commissioned by Glasgow Life - an arms-length body of Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

'Essential reading'

As part of the study, focus groups and questionnaires were conducted with hundreds of parents and children in the city.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said the results could help inform policy changes across the country.

"The pressures low-income families face are magnified during school holidays," he said.

"It's harder for parents to juggle work and childcare and it's harder to feed, clothe and keep children warm, never mind give them the kind of holiday experience better off families take for granted.

"This report must now be essential reading across Scotland for every level of government and for all those providing services to families."

The research highlighted the problems posed by the extra costs of feeding children over school holiday periods when free school lunches were no longer available.

Lack of affordable childcare, leading to reduced working hours was also identified as an issue.

'Living to survive'

Many families also reported borrowing money during holidays to pay for the additional costs of heating and clothing.

Parents also spoke of the guilt they experienced at not being able to meet children's expectations.

One parent told researchers: "You are living just to survive not to actually live a valued life. You just have to live through each day and thank God it's one less."

Another added "It's worse at Christmas when it's cold and I have to put more money in my gas to heat my house.

"When the kids are in school I don't use my heating and I save it for them coming home."

The report states that struggling families could be helped in a number of ways.

These include using dormant school facilities to provide activities and free lunches; removing barriers such as requirements for block-booking and advance payment and reducing transport costs, through holiday travel passes.

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