Thousands of Hampshire children served up hot food and new adventures in school holidays

As Hampshire holiday club providers gear up for a bumper summer for the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, Hampshire County Council is reminding local qualifying families that a full programme of support will once again be available over the school holidays

Jun 5 2023

child face and hands with finger paints

Building on the success of the past 12 months, as detailed in the Local Authority’s HAF annual report, this summer’s programme is set to take place over 140 sites, with further details due to be published shortly. Funded by the Department for Education and delivered by the County Council, the HAF programme provides practical support to vulnerable school-age children and their families during the school holidays in a fun and positive way. Free of charge places are available for those on benefits-related free school meals, children with special educational needs and other vulnerable groups, such as refugee children.  

Last year, more than 11,500 local children and young people enjoyed free healthy food and enriching experiences at HAF clubs across Hampshire while school was out. This summer, the 140 individual schemes will operate across the county, run in partnership with a wide range of organisations including local clubs and community groups, sporting and arts associations and larger holiday club providers. Further activities will also run next Christmas and Easter.  

Welcoming the success of the programme in 2022/23, and the opportunities to build on this in 2023/24, Councillor Edward Heron, Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said:

“The HAF programme has brought tremendous benefits to many vulnerable Hampshire children and their families over the past 12 months. Our children’s services teams have worked extremely hard to bring together local businesses, charities, schools and a broad range of services from across the county to help ensure that school holidays provide positive opportunities for thousands of children who might not otherwise experience the leisure and learning activities that many families may take for granted. The fact that the majority of programmes have been rated as either good or excellent, according to the government’s own standards, is particularly heartening and we very much look forward to working with our high-quality providers and participants again this summer.”     

The HAF annual report highlights include:  

  • the benefits of forging strong partnerships, including links with supermarkets, local businesses and attractions which have helped extend opportunities available to local families – such as offers of wider activities and practical support for the whole family through recipe packs, hampers and cookery sessions.
  • the direct contribution of County Council services including libraries, public health and Hampshire’s outdoor learning and education teams who have boosted the programme’s overall success, by running Bikeability courses and leading budgeting, food waste and healthy eating workshops. These services have also delivered training to HAF providers, enabling them to signpost families to further cost of living help such as the Household Support Fund, which assists those in need with food and utility costs.
  • a fantastic range of individual ‘spotlight’ achievements, such as Park Community School in Havant, described as ‘a beacon of aspiration... embedding life skills in its young people’ through its extra work to support youngsters, which included an open Christmas Day dinner and party for 150 people. Local business donations ensured that the Holiday Activities and Food legacy carried many vulnerable families through the challenge of making Christmas special.  
  • how access to local knowledge and connections through attending HAF activities can also pay dividends for children. For example, when organisers of a scheme in the New Forest discovered that two refugee teenagers taking part had represented Ukraine in international karate competitions before the start of the conflict, they introduced them to the Forest Karate Club. The club has since offered to sponsor them, funding their outfits, insurance and classes.