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Warwickshire’s roll out of the national Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme has provided food and fun to over thousands of children in Warwickshire during the summer break from school.

The programme is a government scheme providing funding to local authorities to coordinate free, enriching holiday activities and/or provide healthy food for families eligible for benefits-related free school meals. The activity clubs taking part offered a range of exciting activities including sport, arts and crafts, creative experiences and more – all to support some of the most disadvantaged children in the county.

Families of 17,000 children were sent a HAF code at the start of the summer break which allowed them to book onto the activities during the school holidays, available across all areas of the county from around 90 providers, and promoted via the council’s Family Information Service.

Cllr Jeff Morgan, Portfolio Holder for Children and Families said: “The HAF programme has enabled many organisations in Warwickshire to support families who would have otherwise struggled over the holiday period giving children and young people across the county a special and memorable summer holiday.

“I am thrilled with the success of the scheme in Warwickshire, which is testament to the efforts the fantastic HAF team, who worked tirelessly managing the project alongside their existing roles, as well as the providers who took part in the programme. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved for making a difference to the lives of so many children across the county this summer.”

Equine Learning in Wootton Wawen was just one of the many providers that took part in Warwickshire. As a community equestrian centre, Equine Learning offers therapeutic horsemanship, riding lessons, and alternative education including equine and animal assisted learning. They specialise in working with autistic young people but the team, along with their horses and other animals, also run programmes with disabled and disadvantaged children and young people, in addition to offering inclusive and mainstream horsemanship activities.

Nicola Hepburn, Director at Equine Learning, said: “The HAF programme has been a fantastic opportunity for us to offer horsemanship and animal care activities to local children who we may not usually reach, and we have really enjoyed running the programme. A huge thank you to the Warwickshire HAF team for their hard work and support and for enabling us to be involved.”

Flourish at the Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon also took part in the HAF Programme. The organisation focusses on the positive emotional effects of being outdoors and connecting with nature to improve anxiety and stress. They combine energetic activities within a natural setting to support both physical and mental wellbeing. Looking after precious plant life, animals, insects and wildlife systems is key to sustaining the environment, so at Flourish their whole ethos supports the protection of our natural environment and helps children to appreciate and look after the simple things many take for granted.

James Robins, Director of Flourish at the Farm said: “It has been a real pleasure to work with so many wonderful children and families that have embraced and thrived in our outdoor environment. Our unique blend of activities such as bush craft, survival skills and archery have promoted resilience, teamwork and a ensured a fun experience for all.”

Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families in the Department for Education (DfE) said: “I am thrilled to champion our expanded Holiday Activities and Food programme in every region of England this summer.

“I’ve seen first-hand how this scheme benefits children from lower incomes, who may not get the same opportunities to take part in summer activities as others. It is enabling councils to provide important wellbeing and enrichment support, in a versatile way that best suits children and young people in their area. I look forward to seeing how the programme helps thousands more pupils throughout the summer holidays, and beyond.”

From September, the DfE’s National School Breakfast Programme will continue providing free breakfasts to children in Warwickshire. The county’s HAF programme will also continue during the upcoming Christmas holidays and eligible children will be able to access up to 4 days of activities, more information will be announced by The Family Information Service in the Autumn.

Parents can find out more about what’s on in Warwickshire, including the HAF programme at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/childrenandfamilies.

If you are a provider who would like to be a part of the HAF programme during the Christmas holidays, email haf@warwickshire.gov.uk

Watch the video to find out more about the HAF Programme and the support from Marcus Rashford - https://youtu.be/_opDr8EMRGM

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Published: 6th September 2021