Listening council changed way of providing free meals during emergency

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Emergency meals provided in a dignified and efficient manner by Scottish councils.

By Bill Heaney

Free meals for people who need them should be provided in a dignified and efficient manner by councils who have been delegated that responsibility by the government.

Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, spotted problems with the way West Dunbartonshire Council was fulfilling its duties from the beginning of the initiative, which has been kept going during the lockdown.

She said: “At the beginning I understand that the Council were making people go to hub schools on a daily basis to collect packed lunches.

“This was impractical and for single parents with more than one child it was very difficult especially if they had to travel by public transport.

“Thankfully the council reviewed this and I believe that parents can now access a weekly food voucher for each child.

“In this case the council listened to parents and responded by changing the system.”

The subject came up at the Scottish Parliament this week when Maureen Watt MSP asked Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, to update MSPs on the situation with these meals.

Aileen Campbell said: “Dignified is precisely the principle that we are trying to use to guide our actions.

“We are taking a ‘cash first’ approach to supporting those who cannot afford food during the crisis, by endeavouring to put money into people’s pockets.

“We want to ensure that people can afford the necessities in life, including food.

“That is why we have more than doubled the Scottish welfare fund, and have made an additional £45 million available, in addition to the £35.5 million that was committed in the Scottish budget, thereby giving local authorities flexibility in how they deploy the funds for the people who require them most.”

She added: “We have committed £350 million to support communities and vulnerable people.

“In the £70 million that is specifically for food, £30 million has been allocated to the shielded population.

“We have also provided local authorities with £30 million—£15 million for free school meals and the rest for helping with local efforts.


“That is in addition to the direct support that we have given to FareShare and other organisations, so that they can make food available.

“We did not ever want to see food banks being used in Scotland: we wanted to get rid of food insecurity before the pandemic, but it continues.

“We want people to be able to comfortably afford food, which is why we are continuing to work with food providers so that we can principally take the ‘cash first’ approach, but also support people who have emergency needs.

“We also recognise that there are other groups that we need to support, including older people and people who need culturally appropriate food provision.

“Through the £350 million support package, we have endeavoured to support a variety of organisations so that the right packages and measures of support get to the people who most need support.

“I encourage people to apply to the Scottish welfare fund for cash support, if they need it.”

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