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Families face a cost-of-living disaster this winter

The Scottish Government must turn promises into policy to ease food insecurity for thousands of young people, writes Finlay Allmond, Magic Breakfast’s Policy and Public Affairs Officer

Four million children in the UK are now living in food insecurity, according to the 2022 Food Insecurity Tracking report published by the Food Foundation earlier this year. As some families sit down to unwrap presents and carve the turkey, others will be struggling to provide the basics and many children and young people will be facing a hard winter. The youngest in our society, those with little to no political power, will be living through the effects of decisions made here and abroad.

Since last Christmas, families have seen average fuel bills almost double, their food shop increase by around 12%, and overall inflation hit around 10% (Ofgem; Ofgem Grocery Gazette; Office for National Statistics, 2022). The phrase “cost-of-living crisis” has become a built-in part of the daily news discussion. What we really face is a cost-of-living disaster.

Offering lifelines of support

For so many of us, festive food is a central part of this season’s celebrations. But consider a different reality. Consider a child waking up on Christmas morning, not to a large festive lunch, but instead to a cold home. Consider a parent who has managed to provide food for their family but to do so goes hungry themselves. These stories are realities for too many Scots.

Scotland has a vibrant and effective charity sector doing everything it can to support communities across the country.

Like all members of Children in Scotland, Magic Breakfast is dedicated to improving the lives of young Scots now and for the future. We’ve been operating in Scotland since 2018 and every school day we deliver breakfast for almost 4,000 children and young people. The support we offer is a lifeline to many. This summer one of our partner schools told us a story which we’ve adapted below to maintain the privacy of those we work with.

Wanted: resilience and fairness 

A boy with four siblings from a single parent household had been unable to have breakfast at home on a regular basis. The school proposed that he attend breakfast club, an intervention that supported him to be better rooted at the start of the school day. At the same time, it allowed school staff a chance to better understand how the boy was on a day-to-day basis. The boy’s mother also commented on how the support of the breakfast club had stopped rows at home when she couldn’t afford to provide breakfast. 

Our work and that of other charities can only go so far to plug the gap that poverty creates. Significant support from the state is needed to respond to the cost-of-living disaster and to create a long-term solution for a fairer and more resilient Scotland. The Scottish Government should be praised for the interventions they’ve already committed to, like the game-changing Scottish Child Payment. But more needs to be done.

Rights-based planning

Writing for Children in Scotland last month. the Children’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, spoke about the challenge poverty creates for human rights. As a nation committed to protecting and defending the rights of all, including children, we must ensure policies are in place to do so. This doesn’t always mean creating new polices after long consultations. Sometimes, enacting existing ones is what we need first.

The Scottish Government has already committed to delivering breakfast provision universally in all primary and special schools. This Christmas, as part of a package to alleviate the impact of food insecurity and to support the rights of children and young people, we’d urge the Scottish Government to deliver a costed and actionable plan to turn their promises into policy. 

Click here to read Bruce Adamson’s piece about progress on children’s rights for our #CiSMagazine web pages 

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Finlay Allmond is Magic Breakfast's Policy and Public Affairs Officer in Scotland

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