Funding holiday activities and food programmes for school-age children in Bristol

Councillor Asher Craig, smiling, with bushes behind.
Today’s guest Blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities

For many parents and carers, finding ways to entertain children and make sure they are eating healthy meals can be something of a challenge.

In Bristol, the Your Holiday Hub (YHH) programme provides free holiday activities and meals to thousands of children and young people (CYP) during the Easter, summer, and winter school holidays. Last year over 32,800 spaces were available on the programme for children and young people from Reception to Year 11. Places on the programme are for families who receive benefit-related Free School Meals, or for those children who may require additional support over the school holidays.

Yesterday Bristol’s Cabinet accepted a grant for £1,848,730 from the UK government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, to cover the school holidays in 2023. This means we can continue running the fantastic YHH programme in Bristol until March 2025.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with huge increases in food and energy prices, has widened the economic divide and amplified the inequalities in our city, which we know disproportionally affects our children.

Children from Your Holiday Hub, playing on a football pitch, running towards the camera smiling.

As part of Bristol’s Belonging Strategy, we want our children and young people to have the best possible start in life, gaining the support and skills they need to prosper in adulthood. The importance of offering these opportunities where children and young people are able to socialise and play together, post-pandemic, cannot be underestimated. We know these basic but vital skills were badly impacted by the long periods of isolation.

Getting children to eat healthily can be tricky. Through Your Holiday Hub, children can learn about the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle through exciting and engaging activities, trips and interactive workshops delivered by a network of over 70 activity providers in Bristol. Activities vary from football camps with the Bristol Robins Foundation, to den-building with Branches Our Forest School, to cooking and garden crafts at Redcatch Community Garden to name but a few.

The programme is also a fantastic example of how city partners can come together and tackle city-wide issues with us in a One City approach. Working with us to deliver this large-scale logistical exercise for each of the main school holidays are Feeding Bristol, Fareshare South West, Bristol Association for Neighbourhood Daycare (BAND), and Playful Bristol.

As part of our plans to get more eligible children and young people to access YHH, we have begun to build up a network of trusted school staff or HAF Champions to help encourage eligible families to sign up for to the programme. We currently have 40 wonderful HAF Champions in schools across Bristol. Over the coming months, we hope more school staff will step forward to be the bridge we need between YHH and the children who will benefit from it the most.

I am so grateful for all the hard work and dedication that is put into running Your Holiday Hub which helps so many families in Bristol. Huge thanks to the 72 organisations across Bristol who put together such inspiring holiday activities and food workshops for our children and young people during the school holidays.

Your Holiday Hub activities for the Easter holidays will be available on the Your Holiday Hub website from mid-March. More information about the Department for Education’s HAF programme can also be found on the government website.

Teenagers smiling and laughing, playing with a skateboard at a skate ramp.