This evidence round-up brings together new evidence on two issues that will likely continue to be relevant in the coming months, food insecurity and the challenges of learning loss amongst children from low income families.
The Trussell Trust has cited unprecedented increases in the utilisation of food banks. This includes an 89% increase in the need for emergency food parcels during April 2020 as compared to the same month last year, and a 107% rise in parcels given to children. The Trussell Trust report goes on to read that food banks in the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reported a parallel increase in need of 175% for the same period. Such figures fuel the Trussell Trust’s insistence that the government ought to institute measures, such as increasing benefits or providing emergency cash grants, to address food insecurity caused by the economic impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) echoes a call for cash grants to aid families experiencing food insecurity, and has been working with Dr Chelsea Marshall to make this a reality from a local level by using the Scottish Welfare Fund. IFAN states that “By ensuring income is maximised first, the number of people seeking assistance from food banks can and could be significantly reduced”. This is supported by evidence gathered from both the Trussell Trust and IFAN which demonstrates that “a cash-based response is the most effective and dignified way to support anyone in financial crisis.”
The Poverty and Inequality Commission addressed the Scottish Government’s advisory group on economic recovery in this document (PDF), which also includes the issue of food insecurity as a central aspect of recovery. The initial suggestion that a ‘V-shaped’ recession and recovery would be possible is now seeming unlikely, raising concerns over the long-term economic impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on vulnerable groups such as children from lower-income families, BAME populations, women, and those with disabilities among many others. They urge the Scottish government to more centrally consider the needs of these and other vulnerable populations when considering how to distribute public funds.
The Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit detail the local actions being taken in Scotland to address food insecurity during the coronavirus in this report (PDF). Four out of five frontline providers of food support are concerned they aren’t reaching everyone they need to, and the vast majority of these organisations have reported a higher demand for emergency food support during COVID-19.
This blog post written by Morag Treanor of Heriot Watt University details how free school meal (FSM) provisions are being delivered as children have made the transition to home-based learning. Exact figures of how many pupils utilise FSM are cloudy, however a 2019 estimate using the School Healthy Living Survey suggested around 124,000, with numbers climbing as COVID-19 widens wealth gaps. The blog post also explores the variety of approaches local authorities have taken in distributing these funds to families, and how much these distributed funds vary from location to location (minimum to maximum payments per day are between £2-£4). She argues that providing cash support to families to replace FSM provision is the most dignified way to address food insecurity among this population, but the variation in approaches means that there is still stigma and inefficiency for food provision in some local authorities.
This Glasgow Centre for Population Health blog post looks at how COVID-19 has affected and exacerbated food poverty in the city of Glasgow, and examines what initiatives have been taken by the community food sector in response. Main takeaways from this blog post are that many food banks have had to close because of either a lack of food donations or volunteers, and that organisations have been coming forward to offer storage space, volunteers and drivers to help coordinate and support emergency food provision in the city.
Educational impacts of lockdown for those in poverty
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has published a report on ‘the cost of learning in lockdown’. It finds that “the cost burdens of school closures have fallen most heavily on families already living on a low income” and that “40% of low-income families were missing at least one essential resource to support their children’s learning”. Implications for such findings indicate that families in poverty are struggling disproportionately to ensure their children are able to participate in education from home to the fullest extent.
The Poverty Alliance overviews a small-scale exploratory study on flexible educational arrangements in Fife, which also considers future challenges faced by students and schools. Flexible educational arrangements refer to a student following a reduced timetable, oftentimes referred to as ‘flexi-schooling’. The recommendations made by Poverty Alliance include “a need for clear guidance and information for parents and their children on a young person’s timetable (e.g. who is responsible for what and when) as well as the involvement of key partner agencies (e.g. third sector organisations) in the planning of a young person’s timetable”.
This short UNESCO report examines the adverse consequences school closures may be having on children, families, and education professionals. Some of these consequences include interrupted and/or loss of learning, the rise in dropout rates, loss of social contact which is crucial for the learning and development of children, and confusion or stress for teachers who’ve had to make a transition to online teaching without adequate training.
For additional resources on how COVID-19 has impacted students, their families and the education system, please check out the Education, Children and Families theme of our COVID-19 Urgently Needed Insights project. That theme includes a research and policy briefing specifically on this topic and how learning loss may exacerbate the attainment gap, how schools around the world have adjusted their approaches during the crisis, and the outdoor learning pedagogical response.
Written content is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.
Image credit: iStockPhoto | Daisy-Daisy