Supporting Bristol’s families in the summer holidays

Councillor Helen Godwin, standing on College Green, Bristol.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Families, Education and Women and Labour Councillor for Southmead.

For most parents in Bristol, we are nearing the end of the second week of the summer holidays. The honeymoon may well be over although the Olympics in Tokyo is helping stave away the boredom in our house – thank goodness for Tae Kwon Do and Canoeing! 

This summer will be more challenging than ever for so many Bristol families. As we slowly readjust to a world that is opening back up, the aftershocks of the COVID pandemic are reverberating across society. So many families are dealing with grief, the impact of long COVID or navigating the mental health impact of the last 18 months on their own families, including on their children. 

As we hurtle towards September and the end of furlough, with the eviction ban already lifted, we will also see the economic fall out. These changes will undoubtedly put further pressure on families who may already be struggling. 

The incredible work of everyone’s football hero (and I write as a Liverpool fan), Marcus Rashford, has meant that some of our less well off families can at least be assured that their children are able to access lunch and fun activities this summer. Over 85 providers have joined forces with the council to provide over 1,700 different sessions for children to take part in healthy, fun, creative activities across the city with delicious food also provided – funded by the government’s Holiday Activity Fund. This work has been brilliantly coordinated by Tommy Jarvis in our Education team and Rachel Robinson and Kirsty Wilson from Playful Bristol. This is another example of One City collaboration – key organisations coming together with the common goal of keeping our children safe, active and well-fed this summer. 

Of course this fund cannot support all our children, and with both parents working in 70% of families, the summer holidays do bring challenges to all of us. It has been reported that after long periods of home schooling this year many women have been left with very little annual leave, and availability at holiday clubs as been reduced leaving parents once again with really difficult situations to manage over the six week period. This once again raises the question of the cost and availability of childcare for working parents and the need for regional and central government to start to consider childcare for what it is – infrastructure; as essential for a successful economy as decent transport and connectivity. 

This past year has been so impactful and challenging for families across Bristol, and  as we move into the next stage of our response to COVID we need to regroup and ensure we learn from our pandemic experience and begin to prioritise families and their role in a successful recovery, both in term of the economy but more vitally, our health and well-being.