Edinburgh school closure parents turn to food banks for help

SCHOOL closures have forced parents to turn to food banks for the first time because they cannot afford to feed their children.

Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 5:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 12:54 pm
Tony Anderson, food bank coordinator for the Community One-Stop Shop in Broomhouse. Picture: Jon Savage

As council chiefs announced arrangements for some pupils from the 17 closed schools to return to class, one food bank said there had been a noticeable increase over the last two days in families seeking help.

Meanwhile, lawyers said parents had a good case to seek compensation for the extra costs involved in having to look after children during the closures.

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Carol Swan, manager of Community One Stop Shop in Broomhouse, which operates a food bank, said families had budgeted on youngsters being back at school after the Easter holiday and were left struggling to find the cash to give them food during the day.

She said: “We’re supporting families who cannot afford to feed their kids because they expected them to be back at school.

“We have Burdiehouse and St Joseph’s primaries both closed, so there are a lot of kids in this area not at school. One mum came in yesterday – she’s on Jobseeker’s Allowance, looking for work. It was the first time she had accessed the food bank, but she said she had spent all her surplus money during the Easter holiday because in her head the kids were going to be back at school this week. Now she has to find money to get food for them and she’s not due to get her benefit until later in the week.

“She didn’t think she had to budget for food during the day because she thought the kids were going to be getting a hot meal at school. We were able to give her an emergency supply.”

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Over half of Broomhouse Primary’s 215 pupils and almost a quarter of St Joseph’s 292 qualify for free meals. Ms Swan said the council could offer packed lunches in the meantime.

A council spokeswoman said: “We know that some families rely on free school meals as part of their budgeting and that while schools are closed they won’t have access to school meals.

“The council is arranging for funds to be distributed to affected families directly, via school headteachers, as pupils return to school.”