New research into the cost of the school holidays

23 December 2015

CPAG report says low income families struggle with food, childcare and heating costs during the school holidays.

New research published today by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland highlights how struggling families face additional pressures when schools close for the holidays. 

With the Christmas holidays underway, parents say they feel guilty when they can’t afford to provide the same holiday experiences, toys, trips and memories as their peers. 

One parent described how “You kind of feel disappointed with yourself because you are not meeting up with their needs. It’s not that we don’t want to go out but when we do all these things it has to come down to money. You are living just to survive not to actually live a valued life. You just have to live through each day and thank god it’s one less. You feel like, what a shame.”

Another added “It’s worse at Christmas when it’s cold and I have to put more money in my gas to heat my house. When the kids are in school I don’t use my heating and I save it for them coming home to a warm house and getting up with heat in the mornings.”  

Parents say that too often the extra costs of feeding children when free school lunches are no longer available puts real strain on already overstretched family finances. Lack of affordable childcare also leads some parents to reduce working hours, putting further pressure on already limited incomes. Many families report borrowing money during holidays to pay for the additional costs of heating, clothing as well as uniform for the next school term. 

The research was commissioned by Glasgow Life, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health to inform a working group tasked with improving holiday provision for Glasgow families.

The report highlights the value of existing holiday provision but makes a series of recommendations for possible action including:


  • Using dormant school facilities to provide holiday activities
  • Providing free, healthy lunches within existing holiday activities
  • Addressing  barriers to holiday activities caused by block-booking, advance payment and face-to-face booking requirements
  • Reducing transport costs through provision of holiday travel passes
  • Ensuring holiday activities fit with working hours and needs of low income parents and carers.

Commenting on the findings John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland said:

“The pressures low income families face are magnified during school holidays. It’s harder for parents to juggle work and childcare and it’s harder to feed, clothe and keep children warm, never mind give them the kind of holiday experience better off families take for granted. 
We are delighted that Glasgow Life and its partners are looking at how to improve existing highly valued holiday and childcare provision in the city, but this report must now be essential reading across Scotland for every level of government and for all those providing services to families”.  

Access the report The cost of the school holidays: Meeting the needs of low income families during school holidays as well as a summary of the research.


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