According to Lee Elliot Major, an expert in education and social justice in the Guardian “Children from low-income homes are still falling behind their more privileged peers in school”(Guardian 2023)
And the education system is biased toward middle class children, so the Holiday and Food (HAF) Programme is seen as an opportunity to level the gap and gives an opportunity for the VCSE sector to do what they do best by meeting the needs of those with less resources. Although given the need in Coventry where 24,000 children are living in poverty 4500 children supported through HAF seems a small percentage of children and young people in need.
Holidays and Food is a programme funded by the Department for Education which enables eligible children and young people to attend free activities and experiences with free nutritional food provided.
Implemented through a grant from the City Council, which VCSE, schools, Leisure Centres and other organisations can apply to, HAF enables organisations to provide holiday activities and healthy food to help struggling families, without enough resources to make the most of their children’s summer holidays. There is a range of activities from football, nature workshops, drama to cooking for children to participate in.
During the summer, activities fill the gaps for children who may be bored and hungry with dire consequences for their health and wellbeing both mental and physical. As well as affecting the wellbeing of their local community creating issues from anti-social behaviour to involvement in criminal activities, or negative mental health. Through the scheme they receive a nutritious meal as well as opportunities for development. Many VCSE organisations are already participating in activities that help with these issues.
The voluntary sector is best positioned to address these needs through their interconnectedness with the community on the ground, a knowledge of the issues impacting on the children and young people they serve, as well as understanding their culture, experience, and knowledge of the world around them. One of the concerns of the report is that education ignores the experience of children and young people from working class backgrounds, for example, Stormzy and other music, cultural styles are more relevant to their experience than ski trips.
- For VCSE organisations the HAF can provide a small amount of funding and support the development of activities within the organisation, as well as promoting the work they do.
- People volunteering to help out at the activities can grow and gain confidence, learning new skills building potential and moving into positive destinations.
- The HAF activities based in the community are also an opportunity for people to share and network to support the whole family, given the cost of living crisis.
Organisations that participated in HAF include Foleshill Community Centre, Moat House Community Trust, Wild Earth, Sky Blus in the Community, Albany Theatre and many more.
If your organisations work with children and families and are interested in providing holiday activities and food, the next holiday is after Christmas, you can find out more by contacting Coventry City Council and using the link below:
If you have any stories you want to share about the work you are doing, please send in a short article to firstname.lastname@example.org