School holidays are meant to be the dizzy height of childhood, long summer days which never seem to end full of sunburn and ice cream and memories which last a lifetime.
But for an increasing number of parents, summer holidays are fraught with anxiety, caught in the paradox of finding an income to maintain a home and looking after the children who inhabit it.
School holidays in Scotland start a month earlier than the rest of the country, from June 25. One in four Scottish children live in poverty, according to the latest figures, and almost 70 per cent of those live in a household where someone works.
“For kids, summer holidays should be great, that school bell should ring and you should dance out the gates because you think you’re going to have fun, see more of your pals, do what you like doing,” says Chris Birt, deputy director for Scotland at poverty-fighting charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. “For too many families in poverty that’s not possible.”
Summer brings a combination of challenges for families trapped in poverty, Birt says, and housing, food and childcare are chief among them.
Without school meals, often either kids go hungry or their parents do instead. More than 7,000 children in Scotland were living in temporary accommodation at the start of the pandemic, a figure that rises to almost 130,000 children in England, according to the Local Government Association. Half of children in poverty in the UK live in single parent households. And, when children aren’t old enough to look after themselves, childcare can cost hundreds of pounds a week.