Thousands of Somerset youngsters set to benefit from summer holiday activity programme
Posted: Fri, 24 Jun 2022 10:32
Thousands of children who are eligible for free school meals are set to benefit from free fun activities and food during the upcoming summer holidays – thanks to the Happy Healthy Holidays Somerset (HHHS) project.
The initiative is part of the Government's Holiday, Activities and Food programme which has been designed to help tackle inequalities in holiday hunger, physical inactivity, and social isolation for children eligible for free school meals.
Somerset County Council has teamed up with Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP) to deliver the programme across the county.
More than 60 venues across Somerset will be offering face-to-face provision during the summer holidays for children aged 5 to 16, with activities on offer including kayaking, sports, music workshops, and much, much more.
Eligible families receive a code through their school which allows them to book places for their children through an online portal. Bookings for the summer programme have been open since June 22 and have already seen a huge take up.
The programme has gone from strength to strength and is making a big difference to families in Somerset. During the Easter holidays, a total of 2,500 individual children attended activities for an average of four days, with children, parents, and activity providers all offering positive feedback.
One mum whose son attended activities at Millfield School at Easter said her boy enjoyed it so much she caught him sleeping with his course activity timetable at night as it was the last thing he looked at before going to bed.
Somerset County Council and SASP have strived to incorporate feedback and adapt the programme so that it helps as many people as possible. These improvements have included finding transport solutions for rural areas, making the activities more accessible for SEND children, and providing more unique activities for youngsters aged 13+.
One of the aspects of the HHHS programme that has proved popular is 'make and take' food, which is being expanded for the upcoming summer holidays. One of the providers in the Frome area, Purple Elephant, reported back that: "The families really appreciated the meal packs we gave them to take home. They have been asking for more in the way of healthy recipes at our sessions. It really helped the families on Free School Meals to bridge the gap over the holiday period."
SCC and SASP are also working with the charity Fareshare and have organised for ambient goods to be delivered once a week to 40 of the HHHS venues. This food is to be used for activity snacks or food cupboard support for families. Alongside this, a specialist nutritionist has been commissioned to create a series of videos highlighting healthy, cheap, and easy to source recipes for families to make at home.
Councillor Tessa Munt, Somerset County Council Executive Lead Member for Children's Services said: "This programme is making a big difference to families in Somerset and I am really pleased that it is returning for the summer holidays.
"The programme provides thousands of children and young people with access to opportunities that may otherwise have been unavailable to them.
"The strong collaborative work between the Council, SASP, the providers, and local schools has meant that Somerset has performed brilliantly in terms of bookings and attendance."
Jane Knowles, SASP CEO said: "We are really pleased to be managing this programme again for Somerset and we are constantly learning and improving to bring a more enriching programme to young people. The programme has expanded for summer 2022 and we want as many young people and families to benefit from this provision as possible".