More than 400 new families signed up to Central Bedfordshire Council’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme over the Christmas holidays, bringing the total number of families registered to over 1,600.
The HAF programme is for children eligible for benefit related free school meals. All children attending face to face activities were provided with healthy snacks and a hot lunch.
The Council worked with 19 providers, including Whipsnade Zoo, Woburn Safari Park, Luton Carnival Arts and Bedford Blues, to offer a range of free activities for children and young people, including sports and game sessions, craft and creative activities as well as trips to see Christmas productions. There were also specific activities for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
One parent said: “My children had a wonderful time, they enjoyed the performance and said the food was delicious. The staff I spoke to were really friendly and engaging with the children. The gift of the puppet making set was very well received, it was obvious a lot of thought and care had gone into the whole thing.”
Another parent spoke of the impact of the activities on their daughter, saying: “My daughter suffered through lockdown and developed OCD so these clubs in the holidays really help to keep the routine and keep her busy so she isn't over thinking. She is a young carer for myself who suffers mental health and lower back problems which affect my mobility a fair bit, and these clubs just keep her smiling.”
Under the HAF programme, the Council also provided free recipe boxes to 328 families. The boxes contained all the ingredients to make a number of meals including breakfast fruit pancakes, potato and swede dauphinoise and vegetable frittatas, plus some additional varieties of fruit and vegetables.
Cllr Sue Clark, Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, said: “We have again received some excellent feedback from parents about our HAF programme over the Christmas holidays, and I hope the programme helped to ease some of the pressure on families over the festive period, which can be a stressful time for many.
“I am also pleased that the Department for Education has committed to funding the HAF programme for the next three years, to cover holiday activities during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays. This extra funding will ensure that for the next three years, children and young people who are eligible for free school meals in Central Bedfordshire will have access to fun, free activities and healthy snacks and a meal. We remain committed to making sure the most vulnerable children and families in our area are supported, and the HAF programme is just one of the ways we offer support.”