Every early years provider needs to be thinking about HAF.

In October, the Government announced a further £200m per year for the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme for the next three years to 2025.  At first glance you might think a programme for school-aged children isn’t for you, but it really could be.  Why?  Read on. 

The idea of activities for children and young people in school holidays is not new.  But the national HAF programme is a relative newcomer on the scene.  It follows a growing interest in the needs of children in receipt of free school meals (FSM) when they are not at school, and the issues of holiday hunger, food poverty, summer learning loss and gaps between the attainment of disadvantaged children and their peers.  Combine with that the real sense that parents find a lack of out of school childcare, and we have a new provider opportunity.

DfE launched pilot programmes between 2018 and 2020, and by 2021/22 the first national roll out in every local authority area saw funds grow to £220m.  HAF aims to offer valuable support to families on lower incomes, through access to rewarding activities for school-aged children in receipt of FSM (including four-year-olds in reception.  Provision is fully funded and free to families, and typically runs for around four hours a day, four days a week, for four weeks in summer, and a week at Easter and Christmas holidays. 

Activities should include provision (with food) across a range of outdoor and indoor sport, physical activities, arts and crafts, games and play, food and nutrition learning and cooking, and trips etc.  All with the aim of supporting outcomes for children and families:

  • Eating more healthily and being more active in the school holidays.
  • Taking part in engaging and enriching activities to support development of resilience, character and wellbeing, along with wider educational attainment.
  • Being safe and socially connected.
  • Building greater knowledge of health and nutrition, and adopting good food behaviours.
  • Being more engaged with school and other local services.

In short, HAF can be a huge agent of change, breaking cycles and opening up new experiences and relationships for families who need it most.  This is where early years and childcare providers come in.  You can support HAF provision, help families find and use it, or become a HAF provider yourself.  One thing I am predicting is that need and demand for HAF will grow over the next three years.  You could play your part:

  • Sharing HAF information with families with school-aged children.
  • Supporting families to understand HAF, find it, and use it.
  • Connecting up or partnering with HAF provision to join up services.
  • Becoming a HAF provider for four- to eight-year-olds, for example. 
  • Extending HAF through much needed paid for childcare supported by parents’ fees, and/or Tax Free Childcare.

Want to know more?  Why don’t you contact your local council early years team and ask them to connect you with the council’s HAF Coordinator?

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