HE children should not miss out on winter payment

A winter support fund for families and children was announced by the Scottish Government on November 30.

This included £16m to give low income parents and carers of an estimated 156,000 children (in receipt of free school meals) a one-off £100 payment by Christmas.

After making inquiries, home education families in the low income group found they were ineligible to receive this payment. This is despite senior stage home educated children (16-19, in full-time education) in that group being entitled to Educational Maintenance Allowance from local authorities.

HES members asked their LAs and MSPs why they were not being included in the payment and they received inconsistent and unsatisfactory replies.

The view of HES is that this payment should be given to the families of HE children who meet the same criteria as the families of schooled children receiving it. After all, poverty and hunger can happen in any setting.

To make this point, our vice-convener, Mark Nixon, has written to the government’s ‘Social Justice Strategy Unit’, as set out below:

I have read with dismay that the £100 COVID Winter Hardship Payment is to be withheld from home educated children, many of whom live in poverty. It is a clear case of institutional prejudice.

However, my concern goes further. We know from research published by the Scottish Home Education Forum in 2018 that around a third of home educated children are not home educated by parental choice, but because they have been forced out of schooling.

In most cases, the children to which this applies are children with additional support needs. Thus, this discriminatory policy disproportionately affects children with ASN.

It beggars belief that a part of the Scottish Government known as the Social Justice Strategy Unit is not willing to take a position on this which supports, and asserts the need for justice for, children with ASN living in poverty.

These children are arguably our most vulnerable children, many of whom are already subject to both social and institutional prejudice. In many cases, of course, their parents are unable to work due to their child’s complex needs; you will be aware that financial support for full-time carers is pitifully inadequate.

This policy, which discriminates against home educated children, and in particular home educated children with additional support needs, must be revisited. Social justice demands it.

We await a reply.

Further detail can also be found on the Scottish Home Education Forum blog at: https://scothomeed.co.uk/school-centric-rules-exclude-low-income-home-educating-families

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