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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/holiday-activities-and-food-programme/holiday-activities-and-food-programme-2021
This document provides information for local authorities delivering the holiday activities and food programme in 2021.
On 8 November 2020, the government announced that the holiday activities and food programme will be expanded across the whole of England in 2021. The programme has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018.
The programme will cover the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays in 2021.
We will make up to £220 million available to local authorities to coordinate free holiday provision, including healthy food and enriching activities. The programme will be available to children in every local authority in England.
School holidays can be particular pressure points for some families because of increased costs (such as food and childcare) and reduced incomes. For some children that can lead to a holiday experience gap, with children from disadvantaged families:
- 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
Free holiday clubs are a response to this issue and evidence suggests that they 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
Who the programme is for
This holiday provision is for children who receive benefits-related free school meals.
Local authorities are asked to ensure that the offer of free holiday club provision is available for all children eligible for and in receipt of free school meals in their area. This does not mean they are all required to attend as the provision is voluntary.
The free holiday club places must be targeted at children who are eligible for and receiving benefits-related free school meals.
We also encourage local authorities to make the holiday clubs available to any children not eligible for and in receipt of free school meals, who can pay to attend. This might be through operating:
- bespoke provision
- as part of already existing holiday provision in the area
- a mixed arrangement depending on the local supply and demand for provision
Other children and families with need
Local authorities must get written approval from us to use their funding to provide free or subsidised holiday club places for children who are not in receipt of benefits-related free school meals.
We’ll consider requests to use up to 15% of your programme funding to provide places for children who are considered by the local authority as vulnerable or in need of this provision. This may include, for example:
- children assessed as being in need
- looked-after children
- children with an EHC plan (education, health and care)
- children assessed as otherwise vulnerable
- children living in areas of high deprivation
You must be able to demonstrate that you are:
- offering the programme comprehensively across the full geographical area
- fully meeting demand from free school meal eligible children in the area
Aims of the programme
As a result of this programme, we want children who attend this provision to:
- eat more healthily over the school holidays
- be more active during the school holidays
- take part in engaging and enriching activities which support the development of resilience, character and wellbeing along with their wider educational attainment
- be safe and not to be socially isolated
- have a greater knowledge of health and nutrition
- be more engaged with school and other local services
We also want to ensure that the families who participate in this programme:
- develop their understanding of nutrition and food budgeting
- are signposted towards other information and support, for example, health, employment and education
Some local authorities may coordinate it themselves, and others may choose to work with another organisation to coordinate the provision on their behalf.
We recognise and greatly value the important role that community and voluntary organisations have played in this programme over the last 3 years. We encourage all local authorities to work with a wide range of partners in the delivery of this programme.
Where local authorities work with community and voluntary organisations whether as a coordinator or as a delivery partner, we expect this to be done on a cost-recovery basis. This is so that these organisations are fully funded for the work they undertake.
Coordination of local programmes
The role of coordinating this holiday provision involves:
- mapping the holiday provision in your area in order to ensure that holiday provision exists and is supporting the areas of greatest need
- establishing a steering group to support implementation and delivery that should include representatives from a wide range of local bodies, including:
- local police and other uniform services
- local public health officials
- school leaders
- youth services
- social services
- charities and the voluntary sector
- drawing in wider support to enhance the local programme, for example bringing in funding from other sources such as philanthropists, sponsors, food providers as well as supermarkets and local businesses
- developing a local plan for provision in your area, based on what you know about local supply and demand
- ensuring that sufficient, adequate provision is available across your area for children with SEND or additional needs
- awarding funding to holiday club providers in order to ensure there is enough provision to meet demand
- supporting all providers to meet our framework of minimum standards including:
- safeguarding requirements
- meals that meet school food standards
- supporting all providers to improve the quality of their provision
- working with families to reduce dependency by providing nutritional education for children and educating families around purchasing and preparing healthy meals on a sustainable basis
- promoting and advertising provision, including working with local schools and other agencies to encourage the most at need children to attend
- working with other local services or agencies to ensure a joined-up and efficient approach, for example, signposting and sharing resources
- building local partnerships and sharing learning and good practice among local partners
Some areas will already have well-developed models for coordinating holiday provision and may not need to take all of these steps.
Local authorities will receive grant funding to deliver the holiday activities and food programme in their area.
Our grant funding is informed by the:
- numbers of children eligible for and in receipt of free school meals in your area
- overall levels of participation experienced in our previous programmes from 2018 to 2020
What the funding covers
The funding local authorities receive is to cover the:
- provision of free holiday places
- coordination of the programme locally
The aim of the programme is to make free places available to children eligible for and in receipt of free school meals for the equivalent of at least 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, 6 weeks a year.
This would cover 4 weeks in the summer and a week’s worth of provision in each of the Easter and Christmas holidays in 2021.
Local authorities and their providers will have flexibility about how they deliver this level of provision to best serve the needs of children and families in their area. There will also be flexibility in how the programme can be delivered to older children.
In the Christmas and Easter holidays, local areas could spread a week’s worth of provision across a 2-week period.
In the summer, you may wish to spread the equivalent number of hours over a longer period.
Families may be eligible for tax-free childcare or the childcare costs element of Universal Credit, through which families may be able to claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs.
We know that there are administrative costs associated with setting up and running the holiday activities and food programme and ensuring you have sufficient staff.
As set out in the grant determination letter, we expect that local authorities will not spend more than 10% of the total funding allocated on the costs associated with running the programme.
The remaining 90% should be used to fund places for children eligible for and in receipt of free school meals. This 90% can be used flexibly.
Funding can be used to support:
- a comprehensive, inclusive and accessible offer, for example:
- setting up new provision where needed
- paying for additional staff to expand existing provision
- paying for additional staff to meet additional needs
- quality improvement, for example:
- bringing in activity providers such as sports coaches
- establishing partnerships with catering organisations
Funding can also be used to purchase equipment for the programme, for example, to improve the catering or sports equipment at an individual club. However, programme funding can only be used where this meets our criteria for capital expenditure. The amount you spend on this should be limited to 2% of your overall programme expenditure.
Capital expenditure is classed as:
- individual assets worth over £2,500
- grouped assets, that is assets of a similar nature that are purchased at the same time, which cost £2,500 or more overall
- bulked assets, for example, a bulk purchase of equipment where the value of the individual item is below the set value, which cost £2,500 or more overall
Any equipment that does not meet this criteria, will not be classed as captial expenditure or be subject to the 2% cap.
Payments and reporting
Local authorities will be responsible for gathering management information from the providers and clubs they fund about the children and families they are supporting. Following each holiday period (Easter, summer and Christmas) we will ask local authorities to report on their activity over the holiday period.
The requirements for local authorities are set out in the grant determination letter which we will use to monitor performance at a high level.
Local authorities can set other performances indicators to measure their own performance or that of partners.
Payments made upon satisfactory receipt of a delivery plan from the local authority by 19 February 2021. The plan sets out the intended scale and reach of their programme for Easter 2021.
Payments of up to 50% of the 2021 to 2022 allocation will be made upon satisfactory receipt by 14 May 2021 of:
- a report detailing the delivery of the programme at Easter 2021
- a delivery plan for summer 2021
Payments of up to 30% of the 2021 to 2022 allocation will be made upon satisfactory receipt by 15 October 2021 of:
- a report detailing the delivery of the programme in summer 2021
- a delivery plan for Christmas 2021
Payments of up to 20% of the 2021 to 2022 allocation will be made upon satisfactory receipt by 29 January 2022 of:
- a report detailing the delivery of the programme at Christmas 2021
- the final report for the whole 2021 programme
- a certificate of expenditure or statement of grant usage
The reports will include data on children attending clubs in each local authority area.
All of the data and information collected by the holiday clubs and providers should all be collected in strict adherence to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
An evaluation will be undertaken this year to evaluate the impact the programme has had and will focus on delivery across the summer.
This will be undertaken by a national provider and will be subject to a tendering process.
We expect all local authorities to cooperate with the evaluation of the holiday activities and food programme.
Support for local authorities
Our programme implementation team will support local authorities in delivering the holiday activities and food programme, focusing initially on the Easter holidays.
Each local authority will have access to a named contact who they will be able to contact with queries and requests for support. As part of the package of support, group meetings, regular communications and the sharing of resources will be promoted and facilitated.
We are also procuring a national support contract which will be in place from April 2021 to provide support, advisory and performance monitoring services to assist local authorities with ensuring holiday provision for school-age children.
We encourage local authorities to work closely with neighbouring local authorities and to establish clear cross border working protocols. This will help to ensure that adequate provision and support is offered to children from surrounding local authorities.
Standards for holiday provision
We have developed a framework of standards to provide a benchmark of what we expect from those delivering the holiday activities and food programme.
One of the key elements of the role of a holiday activities and food programme coordinator will be to:
- improve the quality of provision across the local area
- ensure that providers are supported to meet the high-level standards
Programme coordinators will be able to award funding to providers that don’t meet the standards at the start of the grant period as long as they put a specific plan in place to ensure that the standards are met before the start of the holidays.
We expect all providers who are funded through the holiday activities and food programme to meet our framework of standards.
Framework of standards
These are the standards we expect for 2021 providers.
Providers must provide at least one meal a day (breakfast, lunch or tea) and all food provided at the holiday club (including snacks) must meet school food standards.
Our expectation is that the majority of food served by providers will be hot. However, we acknowledge that there will be occasions when this is not possible and a cold alternative may be used.
All food provided as part of the programme must:
- comply with regulations on food preparation:
- take into account allergies and dietary requirements
- take into account any religious or cultural requirements for food
Holiday clubs must provide fun and enriching activities that provide children with opportunities to:
- develop new skills or knowledge
- consolidate existing skills and knowledge
- try out new experiences
This could include:
- physical activities, for example, football, table tennis or cricket
- creative activities, for example, putting on a play, junk modelling or drumming workshops
- experiences, for example, a nature walk or visiting a city farm
Local authorities should set out how they can support providers to deliver a rich and varied mix of fun and enriching activities that are age-appropriate. We welcome bids that have also considered how they might encourage the continued use of fine motor skills over the holiday periods.
Holiday clubs must provide activities that meet the physical activity guidelines on a daily basis.
Providers must include an element of nutritional education each day aimed at improving the knowledge and awareness of healthy eating for children. These do not need to be formal learning activities and could for example include activities such as:
- getting children involved in food preparation and cooking
- growing fruit and vegetables
- taste tests
Food education for families and carers
Providers must include at least weekly training and advice sessions for parents, carers or other family members. These should provide advice on how to source, prepare and cook nutritious and low-cost food.
Signposting and referrals
Holiday clubs must be able to provide information, signposting or referrals to other services and support that would benefit the children who attend their provision and their families. This could include sessions provided by:
- Citizen’s Advice
- school nurses, dentists or other healthcare practitioners
- family support services or children’s services
- housing support officers
- Jobcentre Plus
- organisations providing financial education
Policies and procedures
Holiday clubs must be able to demonstrate and explain their safeguarding arrangements. They must have relevant and appropriate policies and procedures for:
- health and safety
Accessibility and inclusiveness
Where appropriate, holiday clubs must also be compliant with the Ofsted requirements for working with children.
Holidays clubs may need to register with Ofsted but it is not a requirement for clubs and providers participating in the holiday activities and food programme. Guidance on the exemptions to Ofsted registration is available.
Families may be eligible for tax free childcare or the childcare costs element of Universal Credit. Through this families may be able to claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs if they are attending and paying for extra childcare at Ofsted registered settings.
Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The delivery of the programme at Easter could potentially be impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). Face-to-face delivery of holiday clubs may not be possible in the local authority’s area and remote delivery of the programme may, in some circumstances, be more viable.
If the local authority cannot hold face-to-face holiday clubs as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), the local authority may operate flexibly to ensure that eligible children still receive the type of support detailed in the aims of the programme.
For example, this may involve children receiving food parcels that provide healthy meals, activity packs along with access to online support if they are unable to congregate in holiday clubs due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Our programme implementation team will work with local authorities to keep them up to date on the impact of changes as the programme progresses.