School Clothing Grant (Payments in 2017)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th March 2018.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

4. To ask the Scottish Government what the average school clothing grant payment was in 2017. (S5O-01857)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Local authorities spent £9.2 million on school clothing grants in 2016-17, although the level paid varies across local authorities. I am determined to help families with the cost of the school day and am working closely and constructively with local authorities on the provision of a minimum school clothing grant.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I welcome that response from the cabinet secretary. He did, of course, agree to work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to produce a minimum payment in 2016, but we have not seen evidence of that yet. I am concerned, because just this week the Scottish National Party members of West Dunbartonshire Council considered reducing the school clothing grant to £50. Thankfully, they did not. The Labour group proposed an increase to £130, and the cabinet secretary will of course be aware that the poverty truth commission says that the true cost of kitting out a child for school is, indeed, £130. Will he consider using that as the appropriate minimum figure for all local authorities in Scotland?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

There have obviously been discussions in local authorities about the level of the school clothing grant. Jackie Baillie cited the proposals that were considered in West Dunbartonshire. Glasgow City Council is a very large local authority that is controlled for the first time by the SNP, and I notice that it has increased the school clothing grant from £52 to £70, which is very welcome progress after all the years in which the Labour Party could have done something about the issue.

To give Jackie Baillie the assurance that she is seeking, I had a very constructive meeting a couple of weeks ago with Councillor Stephen McCabe of COSLA. We are undertaking joint work to establish an agreed approach to a minimum school clothing grant for all local authorities within Scotland. That work is actively under way just now. I welcome the collaboration that we have with COSLA on the issue and as soon as we have reached the conclusion of that work I will, of course, report to Parliament.