Somerset County Council has joined up with Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP) to organise a programme for the forthcoming Easter Holidays aimed at countering the triple inequalities facing Somerset’s most disadvantaged young people – holiday hunger, physical inactivity, and social isolation.
The County Council has already confirmed it will continue to fund Free School Meals provision for vulnerable families over the Easter holidays.
Now, in an initiative funded by the Department for Education, existing or prospective organisers of holiday activity programmes can access funding to deliver daily, four-hour programmes where young people in receipt of free school meals will be able to take part in a range of food, sports and cultural activities, and receive advice on nutrition and cooking skills.
Programmes can be led by a range of organisations from public, private, community and voluntary sectors.
In light of ongoing restrictions and uncertainty, the programmes – subject to any prevailing lockdown restrictions – will be held at a range of venues including schools, community halls, parks, and leisure centres to name a few.
The programme will also include a virtual offer for young people to take part in with a menu of activities that can be done at home and online, along with the face to face provision.
Delivered across Somerset throughout the Easter holidays, the Holiday Activities and Food Programme will be a welcome boost to some of those facing the greatest need at this time. School holidays can be pressure points for some families because of increased costs (such as food and childcare) and reduced incomes.
For some children that can lead to a holiday experience gap – with children from disadvantaged families less likely to access organised out-of-school activities; more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health; and more likely to experience social isolation.
The council says it knows that returning to school in poor physical and mental condition can have a ‘detrimental impact’ on children’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their educational attainment.
The impact of Covid-19 has meant more families are applying for free school meals and social isolation has increased. There are more than 13,000 children receiving free school meals (Dec 2020) in Somerset with a likely increase by Easter 2021.
The aim of this fund is to make the positive benefits of holiday clubs available to all those on benefits-related free school meals for at least four hours a day, four days a week, for six school holiday weeks of the year.
For now, the council is only inviting applications to cover a minimum of four days and a maximum of eight days of provision during the 2021 Easter school holiday.
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, explains: “While Somerset County Council has committed to extending Free School Meals provision for vulnerable families over the Easter holidays, we are also promoting and supporting a Holiday Activities and Food Programme which will do so much more for the County’s children.”
“The programme is a welcome initiative to ensure all children in Somerset have the opportunity to stay active and socialise over the school holidays, and I want to encourage providers to step up and think about the activities they could deliver through the programme.”
“There is strong support in place to help potential providers set up and run the activities, and the team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.”
SASP welcomes prospective delivery organisations to attend an information webinar which will take place on Tuesday 23rd February 18:00 – 19:00.
For anyone unable to attend the live webinars a recording will be available along with a Frequently Asked Questions list. Book your place at www.sasp.co.uk/events
The grants programme for the Easter holidays is being administered by Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership and opened on Thursday 11th February. Anyone hoping to deliver at Easter is encouraged to find out more about the criteria of the programme on the SASP website – www.sasp.co.uk/holiday-activity-fund The deadline for applications is 1st March 2021.