A new coalition of 16 not-for-profits launches today to help local authorities make a success of the government’s expanded Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, backed by £220m, ensuring multiple benefits for children, families and
communities who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The coalition, the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Alliance, pools the expertise of some of the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisations who have years of experience working in communities to alleviate inequalities, food poverty and inactivity.
With a range of prominent experts backing the new Alliance, including Children and Families Minister, Vicky Ford MP, and Policy Advisor to No 10 on The National Food Strategy Henry Dimbleby, the Alliance is calling on local authorities to use their collective wisdom for strategic planning advice, implementation, delivery support and evaluation as
they are preparing to deliver the Department for Education’s (DfE) HAF programme in
England this summer.

School holidays can be particular pressure points for some families because of the increased costs of food and childcare, reduced incomes and the lack of free healthy meals. For some children that can lead to a holiday experience gap. Those children from disadvantaged families are less likely to access organised out-of-school activities and are more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition, social isolation and physical wellbeing.

Professor of Developmental Psychology at Northumbria University, Greta Defeyter, is one of the founding members of the Alliance. She said:

“The importance of an enriching holiday experience for all children cannot be underestimated, especially following a year in which large numbers of children have not physically attended school due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. This summer, it is more important than ever that children, especially those living in areas of social deprivation, have access to best-in-class holiday programmes. This means a well-structured day full of fun activities that enable children and young people to
learn new skills, socialise with friends, and enjoy nutritious food in a safe environment. On top of this, HAF programmes also alleviate parental stress and support children in returning to school. In the future I would like to see access to HAF programmes provided universally to all children, as is the current practice in Sweden.”

In June 2020, following the high-profile drive for action led by Marcus Rashford, the government announced the expansion of the HAF programme for 2021 following three years of pilots funded by the DfE with a number of local and national organisations.

The new £220m grant funding is allocated to 151 top-tier English local authorities to spend in 2021 on six weeks of free holiday club provision with food and activities for children and young people, aged 5-16, who are eligible for Free School Meals. Many local authorities have been severely stretched by the pandemic over the past year and may not yet have delivered the kind of play and youth holiday provision that is the ideal model for HAF programmes. The Alliance hopes that in sharing its expertise and best practice, it can help local authorities to develop and deliver high quality holiday programmes for their local communities.

Jane Ashworth OBE, Founder of StreetGames and HAF Alliance spokesperson, said:

“We have a perfect opportunity to use the energy of the 16 HAF Alliance members to motivate local authorities to go beyond a minimum-standards approach to HAF 2021 for children and young people and build a platform for future delivery. We’re urging all local authorities to get in touch with us now through www.hafalliance.org in time for the summer holidays.”