Hundreds of thousands of children across England will continue to access free, nutritious food and engaging activities over the school holidays, as the government confirms £200 million to fund the holiday activities and food programme throughout 2023.
These free holiday clubs run across England, supporting parents with childcare costs over the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays by providing free, nutritious meals and enriching activities, such as football, play sessions and cooking classes. New figures out show that around 600,000 children benefited from the scheme over summer 2022 across over 8,000 clubs, events or organised activities in England.
To continue supporting families most in need, the government has confirmed over £200 million in funding for local authorities for the programme in 2023, enabling every local authority across England to continue to provide for their communities.
Speaking at a holiday activities and food club in Guildford, Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said:
Giving children access to nutritious meals and fun, enriching activities over the holidays supports children’s mental, physical and social development and offers them opportunities that they may otherwise not have, whilst helping parents who may not be able to afford similar childcare.
It’s fantastic to see that over half a million children benefitted from the programme over the summer, and I’m delighted to announce the continuation of the programme into 2023.
The government’s holiday activities and food programme started as a pilot in 2018. It was created in response to the pressures that low-income families can face over the holidays, with some children being less likely to access organised out-of-school activities, and more likely to experience social isolation and ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health.
It provides for school-aged children from reception to year 11 who receive benefits related free school meals and is available for local authorities to fund clubs over summer, Easter and Christmas breaks.
Evidence indicates that attending holiday clubs can have a positive impact on children’s attainment, health and wellbeing. This is especially true of clubs that provide enrichment activities as well as meals – and that involve children and parents in preparing healthy food.
The continuation of the holiday activities and food programme is part of the government’s commitment to support vulnerable families with rising costs due to global inflationary pressures, particularly in disadvantaged areas. This programme runs alongside the household support fund which supports vulnerable households through small payments for food, clothing, and utilities. The fund has recently been extended to 30 March 2024 with an additional £1 billion to be used by used by local authorities to support vulnerable households.
Local families and holiday club providers are encouraged to share their experiences of the programme on social media, using the hashtag #HAF2023 next year.