Supermarkets urged not to challenge families with children when out shopping for essentials


Parenting organisations and the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland have written to supermarket Chief Executives to urge them to provide guidance and training to staff on the legitimate reasons why parents and carers may have to shop with their children during Coronavirus restrictions.

The letter also suggests signage be posted at entrances to shops explaining that some parents and carers may need to shop with their children and that customers abusing them or challenging their right to be there will not be tolerated. 

This comes amidst increasing reports to parenting organisations of parents and carers being challenged by staff and other members of the general public where they have had no choice but to shop with their children. Some children shopping on behalf of families have also been challenged when doing so.

The letter has been sent to the British Retail Consortium and the Chief Executives for:

  • Tesco,
  • Sainsbury’s,
  • Asda,
  • Morrison’s,
  • Farmfoods,
  • Scotmid,
  • Co-op,
  • Lidl,
  • Aldi,
  • M&S,
  • Waitrose, and
  • Iceland.

Legitimate reasons exist to shop together

The letter outlines some of the legitimate reasons why families may have to shop together including:

  • Single parent families who have no one else to leave their children with and cannot be expected to leave them alone at home
  • Families with disabled children
  • Families where one parent is a healthcare or key worker and the other parent may need to take the children to the shops either because their partner is working or is self-isolating
  • Families where a parent cannot leave a child home safely, for example, with an abusive parent or one with addiction problems.

It also raises the issues for young people out shopping alone for their family.  The letter raises the issue that in some cases, parents may be unable to shop for reason of disability, shielding or because of a mental health condition.  Alternatively, sending an older child to the shop may avoid parents having to bring younger children with them.

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland said:

“We know that staff in supermarkets and shops are working particularly hard during coronavirus restrictions and that everyone wants to keep themselves and others safe and healthy. During these restrictions, families will need to legitimately shop together and children and young people have the right to shop for their family’s essentials without being accompanied by an adult. I’ve heard about young people distressed at being challenged whilst doing their family shop for parents unable to do the shop themselves.  It’s important that we remember that families are diverse and that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.”

Clare Simpson, Manager of Parenting across Scotland, a coalition of family and children’s organisations working on issues which affect parents and carers in Scotland, said:

“We have been disturbed to hear reports from parents and carers about being challenged by staff and members of the public about taking their children to the shops with them. No one takes their children shopping for fun at the best of times, and this is far from being the best of times. If parents are shopping with their children, it’s likely to be because there’s no other option. All we’re asking is that people remember this and show families some compassion and kindness in these difficult times.”

Satwat Rehman, Director, One Parent Families Scotland said:

“We have heard from single parents across Scotland that they are being criticised and challenged when they take their children shopping, both by store staff and members of the public.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of single parents and their children has the potential to be devastating. The last thing they need is to be shamed for something over which they have no other option- single parents can’t leave their children home – alone. We very much recognise the pressure that frontline workers are under but kindness and the recognition of the diversity of families is so important during these unprecedented times.”

Signatories to the letter

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Scotland

Clare Simpson, Manager, Parenting across Scotland

Satwat Rehman, Director, One Parent Families Scotland

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive, Children in Scotland

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st

Sally Ann Kelly, CEO, Aberlour

Justina Murray, CEO, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs

Susan Walls, Scotland Manager, Contact

Douglas Guest, Acting Scotland Director, HomeStart

Jackie Tolland, Chief Executive, Parenting Network Scotland

Stuart Valentine, Chief Executive, Relationships Scotland

Eileen Prior, Chief Executive, Connect

Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive, Families Outside

Charlie McMillan, Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD)


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