Holiday Activities and Food Programme

Education – in the House of Commons at on 23 October 2023.

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Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

What recent assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of the holiday activities and food programme.

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

The holiday activities and food programme introduced by this Government is hugely important to families up and down the country and supported 685,000 children last summer. We know the positive impacts that these programmes are having on a range of issues, such as by improving attendance. One child in Stoke who attended a HAF programme run by the Kingsland CE Academy increased their school attendance by 32% and is no longer considered to be persistently absent. That is just one example of the wonderful work that HAF programmes do, and there is also strong evidence that they improve health, behaviour and confidence in children.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

I have seen at first hand just how brilliant the Government-backed holiday activities and food programmes are for children and young people and their families in Eastbourne. In one magical piece of feedback, a little girl at the Art House café sidled up to me and said, “One day I will own a place just like this,” and I have seen the same energy across the piece. Given that we are hoping that there is a connection between attendance and HAF uptake, what more can we do to provide and promote opportunities for children and young people with SEND, and also for the 11-plus and early teens?

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

When it launched, HAF was the first summer camp for hundreds of thousands of children—70% had never experienced a holiday club before—and this summer, 4,000 children benefited in East Sussex. HAF is open to children from ages five to 16. Local authorities should meet the needs of all cohorts, including by offering programmes for older children and those with special educational needs. I urge all hon. Members to visit their local HAF over the Christmas recess; they really are heart-warming.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

I have visited my local HAF in Washington over the last few summers, and I certainly will if there is one at Christmas. Does the Minister have any plans to extend the scheme further? There is obviously a lot more need than the current HAF schemes can meet, especially with the cost of living crisis.

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

As I mentioned, 685,000 children were helped just this summer. Our independent evaluation found that around two thirds of the 700,000 children attending overall live in some of the most deprived areas across the country, so we believe we are getting the targeting right. We are very proud of this programme, which we think is a brilliant addition to the landscape, and we want to ensure that it benefits as many people as possible.