DID YOU KNOW?
There are an increasing number of acronyms presented in the media and it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand what they mean and what significance some have with regard to supporting families with children in our local authority.
One of these acronyms is HAF. What does it stand for and how does it help families? The following article may help to assist our understanding.
HAF (Holiday Activities and Food programme) This is money from the Government provided to local authorities to help families and children who are in receipt of free school meals.
As the summer holidays approach it can be very difficult for some families to entertain and feed their children. The cost of living crisis is obviously placing additional strains on family budgets. School holidays can also create issues for parents, particularly if they are trying to combine working, with supervising their children and providing meals for them.
In Sefton (2021/22) 21.9% of school age children are in receipt of free school meals, which is slightly below the national average.
Since 2018, the holiday activities and food programme has provided support to children in receipt of free school meals through holiday periods.
Following successful pilots between 2018 and 2020, the programme was rolled out to all upper tier local authorities in 2021. The money for this project is funded by the Government via The Education Department.
On 27 October 2021 the Government announced a further investment of over £200 million per year over the next 3 financial years for the holiday activities and food programme (HAF), which follows the successful roll out of the programme across England in 2021.
Research has shown that the school holidays can be pressure points for some families. For some children this can lead to a holiday experience gap, with children from low-income households being:
• less likely to access organised out-of-school activities
• more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health
• more likely to experience social isolation
The HAF programme is a response to this issue, with evidence showing that free holiday clubs can have a positive impact on children and young people, and that they work best when they:
• provide consistent and easily accessible enrichment activities
• cover more than just breakfast or lunch
• involve children (and parents) in food preparation
• use local partnerships and connections, particularly with the voluntary and community organisation sector
Who is the programme for?
This holiday provision is for school aged children from reception to year 11 (inclusive) who receive benefits-related free school meals.
Benefits-related free school meals (FSM) are available to pupils if their parents are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits, and have a claim verified by their school or local authority.
Other children and families
Local authorities have discretion to use up to 15% of their funding to provide free or subsidised holiday club places for children who are not in receipt of benefits-related free school meals but who the local authority believe could benefit from HAF provision.
This may include, for example:
• children assessed by the local authority as being in need, at risk or vulnerable
• young carers
• looked-after children or previously looked after children
• children with an EHC (education, health and care) plan
• children who have low attendance rates at school or who are at risk of exclusion
• children living in areas of high deprivation or from low-income households who are not in receipt of free school meals
• children in transition phases between nursery and primary school or primary and secondary school
This list is not exhaustive, and it is open to the local authority to decide which children should benefit from the 15% flexible funding element of their HAF funding.
The aim of the programme is to make free places available to children eligible for free school meals for the equivalent of at least 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, and 6 weeks a year. The funding should cover 4 weeks in the summer and a week’s worth of provision in each of the Easter and Christmas holiday.
The funding also helps to support the position of a Holiday Activity Food Co-ordinator and administration assistant whose role it is to source venues, activities and food provision to support these families across venues in the borough. This role is important in providing venues which are accessible geographically for families to attend and also to provide venues and activities which appeal to older secondary aged school students.
Half term holidays such as the February half term can also cause financial concerns for parents. In an effort to support families the Council is providing through its Household Support Grant funding allocation from the Department of Work and Pensions, vouchers worth £25 per week for each for each child. The vouchers can be used to buy food in-store and online at local supermarkets. They also include £10 to support people’s expenditure on fuel and energy in the face of rocketing prices.
The vouchers, which, cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, phone top ups or stamps.
Like many other countries, we are dealing with the social and financial implications of a two year pandemic, global inflation and the implications of a war in Ukraine. Our taxes are used in a variety of ways to support residents who are our work colleagues, friends and neighbours in these difficult times.
The Government will pursue a programme of work that helps families into employment, supports families to maintain strong relationships and ensures that children can benefit from the greater stability and wellbeing a happy, working household offers.
Latest figures from Sefton Council, reported to Council on 14th July 2022
“Sefton Council receives a grant from central government to support families with Household costs. Via this funding we have ensured that all families with children eligible for free school meals receive vouchers to help them provide meals during the summer holiday. The Vouchers are provided via School and this summer we will be providing the following number of vouchers:
Eligible Children who live in Sefton and go to school in Sefton - 9094 Vouchers
Eligible Children who Live in Sefton but go to School in Knowsley – 196 Vouchers
We also support children who live out of borough but go to School in Sefton:
Children from Liverpool attending School in Sefton - 291
Children from Lancashire attending School in Sefton - 56
Children from Halton attending School in Sefton - 1
For a number of years, The Neighbourhoods team with Support from the Community Transition Fund have offered the Summer Food programme. Healthy meals are produced and offered to families via Family Wellbeing Centres and community Organisations. Over 6000 meals are provided via this scheme.
Sefton Council also receives Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) funding from the Department for Education. This funding allows the Council to commission activities that offer support for families who have children eligible for free school meals. As part of the sessions, there must be healthy nutritious food offered to the participants.”