Universal Free School Meals in Scotland.

The STUC Women’s Committee is calling for the expansion of Universal Free School Meals in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has said that education and tackling the poverty-related attainment gap are their top priorities: we ask the Scottish Government to take stronger action in support of these priorities by introducing Universal Free School Meals for all.

Our children and young people’s life chances cannot be put on hold – immediate policy action is required now

Why is this important?

Poverty and inequality were already at an unacceptably high level in Scotland well before the Coronavirus pandemic struck, and we have grave concerns that such socio-economic disadvantage has only intensified, especially for children and women.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to significantly reduce Child Poverty by 2030, with a view to ultimately eradicating it, and the creation of the new Scottish Child Payment Benefit is welcomed by the STUC Women’s Committee. Similarly, we welcome the Deputy First Minister’s pledge to expand free school meals provision to all Primary school pupils if the SNP retain power at the 2021 Scottish Parliament Elections.

However, we strongly believe that further urgent action to mitigate child poverty is required immediately. The Scottish Government have the power and resources to go further in introducing progressive policies that can more strongly mitigate poverty and inequality and make life-changing differences to children and families now. Firm and decisive action on child poverty in Scotland cannot be further delayed.

That is why the STUC Women’s Committee is calling on the Scottish Government to expand Universal Free School Meals to all children and young people, including those of Secondary school and Nursery age, with immediate effect. Moreover, we are calling on the Scottish Government to combat holiday hunger by ensuring that there are programmes and provisions in place in all of Scotland’s local authorities so that all children and young people have access to sufficient food during the school holidays.

Our most vulnerable children, young people’s right and access to a nutritious meal should not be determined by chance of the local authority they live in or based on the goodwill of community volunteers.

We know that the roots of the poverty-related attainment gap stretch well beyond the school gates, but the significant role our educational institutions play in tackling poverty, challenging inequality, and helping to build a healthier, more inclusive society cannot be underestimated.

We strongly believe that the introduction of Universal Free School Meals will not only help to combat hunger and poverty but will shatter the stigma and shame associated with the provision of meals on a means tested basis and will fuel young people’s ability to learn in the classroom. Neither empty tummies nor low self-esteem make for full days of learning in school. Furthermore, this progressive policy sends a clear and positive message to the rest of the devolved nations and beyond that we are serious about ending poverty in Scotland, and that we are genuinely committed to educational equity and to the wellbeing of our young people.

Sign the petition today and email the First Minister showing your support.

Pay 2021


Please see below update for Local Authority and SJC Conditioned (red book) members:

Pay 2021
 
Yesterday the SJC joint trade unions received a response to our pay claim for 2021/22.  The offer put forward was to apply the public sector pay policy (as revised last week). The letter outlining the offer is attached for your information. 
 
The SJC Steering Group (COSLA) met, as scheduled, to discuss pay.  The employer outlined their offer. 
 
We expressed our disappointment that the offer fell short of our claim and did not even mention many of the elements of our claim.  We also outlined a number of questions we had about the offer that had been put forward.   
 
We have sent our response to the offer outlining a number of points and questions in writing and this is also attached for your information. 
 
We made the point to COSLA that negotiations need to continue at pace now given how long they have taken to respond to our claim and the impending implementation date of 1st April 2021.  A number of further negotiation meetings have therefore been scheduled to progress discussions and we will of course let you know as soon as there are any developments. 

Please see UNISON Scotland’s press release:

COSLA pay offer is a ‘slap in the face’ to Scotland’s local government workers, says UNISON – UNISON Scotland (unison-scotland.org)
 
£500 COVID reward

UNISON understands that guidance has now been issued to local authorities regarding the implementation of the £500 COVID bonus payment for those employees in scope.

UNISON is in the process of arranging meetings with the relevant employers to establish who is in scope – COSLA have indicated to the Scottish Government that this payment should be available to all local authority employees (UNISON is also making representations to the Scottish Government and COSLA on this matter).
 
We have a number of concerns about this and know that our members will have many questions on it.  We are seeking clarification on a number of issues including eligibility and consistency with regards the application of the criteria it contains.  UNISON is seeking legal advice on whether there could be any equal pay issues arising from it.  We will come back to you with more information in due course.
 
Plug The Gap campaign 

The current pay negotiations underline the need for us to engage with members about our ‘Plug The Gap’ campaign and start mobilising activity on the ground.  We now need to shift the emphasis from ‘Plug The Gap in LG finances’ to ‘Plug the Gap in Pay’.

COVID Workforce Issues Update March 2021

Changes to level 4 restrictions were outlined yesterday.  Updated guidance and regulations will be published on Friday 12 March to reflect these changes.  In the meantime you can read more here: https://www.gov.scot/news/changes-to-level-4-restrictions 


Schools 

The revised guidance on arrangements for the phased reopening of schools in March 2021 has been published.  You can read that here: 

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-schools-reopening

The Health and Safety Executive’s bulletin on education and schools is also here: 

Education and schools eBulletin: March 2021 | Hse.gov.uk (newslettercollector.com) 

Elections 

A joint statement has been issued by the Scottish, UK and Welsh governments regarding the elections due to take place in May.  You can read that here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/elections-2021-joint-statement-scottish-government-uk-government-welsh-government  

The UNISON Stirling branch are requesting that the risk assessments associated with all polling stations, polling places and counting places.be shared with them and indeed that they receive a report/update on how a safe election in Stirling will be facilitated.

Library Guidance Updated 

The Covid guidance on public libraries has been updated and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-libraries-guidance