Free activities along with a healthy meal, are being provided to thousands of eligible children aged 4 to 16 in Solihull this summer. Solihull Council are providing this support to families in receipt of benefits related free school meals, funded via a £997,000 government grant for 2022/23.
The range of activities is the widest ever provided in Solihull, and includes creative craft, where children can produce their own fashion design and take part in a mini fashion show, whilst drama sessions from Birmingham REP teachers involve children creating and performing a new play in just one day. Sport loving children are well catered for with a huge number of pursuits including the more unusual like curling, benchball and ultimate frisbee, along with favourites such as football, netball, tennis, cricket, table tennis, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, archery, handball, and hockey.
The Holiday Activities & Food (HAF) programme, confirmed to continue until at least 2025, aims to help children eat healthily and be active during the school holidays. The activities offered support the development of resilience, character, wellbeing and wider educational attainment; providing safe environments and reducing the potential for social isolation.
The programme is accessible to school age children from Reception to year 11, who are in full-time education and receive benefits related free school meals. Professionals working with children are also able to refer cases who they feel would benefit but who may not be eligible for free school meals.
Solihull Council invited potential providers to apply for funding, resulting in a comprehensive mix of activities on offer. During the six week summer holiday period, 38 activity providers will run sessions hosted at 28 schools and other community venues across the borough. Some activities are specifically aimed at providing children with additional needs and/or disabilities, with experiences and opportunities that they might otherwise not get the chance to take part in.
All children who take advantage of the free places, will also receive a nutritious lunch at no cost. Providers are being supported by the council’s Solihull Active team, with ‘Eat Well, Move More’ training to promote healthy eating and nutrition, and workshops also provided for children, young people and parents at some venues.
Councillor Michael Gough, Portfolio Holder for Children and Education, said: “School holidays can be a difficult time for some families because of increased costs such as food and childcare. The Holiday Activities & Food programme provides much needed assistance to parents and carers who receive benefits related free school meals, through a broad range of interesting and educational pursuits, as well as a free healthy lunch . Activities include various sports, cooking classes, drama, craft sessions, youth clubs for older children and even trips to see live commonwealth games sports. Many other activities are also available, meaning there really is something to interest everyone“.