Thousands of Brighton and Hove children to have free holiday club places – with food

More than 6,000 children in Brighton and Hove will be eligible for free holiday club places, with free meals, in the school holidays this year.

The government has granted £780,000 to fund the holiday clubs and food – at Easter, over the summer and next Christmas – in part thanks to a campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson phoned 23-year-old Rashford personally when the decision was made to make the money available.

But the funding is not expected to cover the cost of a place – and food – for all 6,200 children in Brighton and Hove who qualify for free school meals.

Instead, Brighton and Hove City Council plans to offer places to more than 1,200 children over four days in the Easter holidays and twice as many for four weeks in the summer.

Initially, the council will target areas with high numbers of children who have free school meals. It hopes to start publicising what’s on over Easter in about a fortnight’s time.

The council said: “Potential providers include Ofsted registered holiday playschemes, schools, youth providers, activity providers including sport, dance, music, art and drama and community organisations which already provide food and activities.

“Schools will play a critical role in offering activities and engaging with children and families to ensure awareness and high take up, as will community groups which work with more disadvantaged children and families.”

A report to councillors said: “The Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme is a new national government initiative which will fund all local authorities to offer enriching activities and free healthy meals to children eligible for benefits-related free school meals.

“HAF projects ran as a pilot in the past three summers in a limited number of local authority areas in the country.

“Up to 10 per cent of the grant can be used to fund central (council) costs. A programme manager and a part-time support officer are being recruited, which are both fixed-term posts in accordance with the programme timescale.

“DfE (Department for Education) guidance is that the programme should be made available to all school-age children (aged four to 16) who are eligible for free school meals – approximately 6,200 children in the city.”

While not all children are expected to take up the holiday club places, the report said: “Some additional funding will be available to support places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“The aim is for the HAF programme in Brighton and Hove to provide a comprehensive offer of activities which will be attractive to a wide range of children and families with a particular focus on those who are more disadvantaged.

“The HAF is not a replacement for holiday food vouchers for FSM (free school meals) children.

“The DfE has been clear that HAF funding must not be used to buy food vouchers but can be used for food parcels linked to activities if necessary because of covid-19 restrictions.”

The programme is due to be discussed by the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee next Monday (8 March). The virtual meeting is scheduled to start at 4pm and be webcast on the council website.

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