Island children and young people enjoy free holiday activities

Published: 25 May 2023

Children taking part in fun activities - a girl eating an apple and two children using a magnifying glass.

Thousands of children and young people across the Island have enjoyed fun activities including sailing, horse-riding and skateboarding, thanks to the Isle of Wight Council's holiday activities and food programme (HAF).

Published today, the HAF Annual Report reflects on a busy 12 months.

Last year, the programme saw 1,375 youngsters eligible for benefit-related free school meals attend free activities over the Easter period, 1,414 during the summer and 897 over the Christmas school holidays.

In total, more than 30 schemes were run in partnership with 13 local clubs and organisations, with almost 9,000 free healthy meals provided.

Funded by the Department for Education and delivered by the council, the HAF provides practical support to vulnerable school-age children and their families during the school holidays in a fun and positive way.

Local organisations supported activities such as skateboarding, climbing and drumming. In addition, some visitor attractions including Robin Hill, Blackgang Chine as well as farms and sports centres, allowed discounted entry for HAF providers to bring children for a day out.

Sovereign Housing supported one scheme by hiring bikes to provide a unique opportunity for the children attending to learn to cycle. Support organisations also attended some of the sessions, including The Footprint Trust which was able to help families with energy bill advice and guidance.

Supermarkets and local businesses have donated food to HAF schemes, which was then shared between the families to take home.

The HAF annual report puts some of our best providers in the spotlight — providers such as West Wight Nursery, an 'outstanding' early years provider, as rated by Ofsted, in Totland.

One advantage of being in a rural location is having easy access to the great outdoors. Indeed, the nursery has a wonderful field — on which they keep chickens and tend allotments and green-houses — as well as a small area of woodland which is just perfect for forest school activities and summer picnics.

Kim Tyrell, from the nursery, explained: "The children embrace collecting eggs, growing their own food, and cooking it. That changes the game for them — they absolutely love putting together and being in charge of their choices. We make sure we share that information with parents — we'll either make up a recipe book or an activity book from the week so they know what we've been doing and how to do it."

Brading Community Partnership, a charity, run and managed by trustees, live and breathe the belief that it takes a community to bring up its children. Social isolation could be a real risk in towns like Brading and BCP is doing its utmost to prevent it.

A HAF day starts in the sports hall where the children gather and play. Simple is often best, and the youngsters point to cooking their lunch on the beach as one of their HAF highlights.

HAF providers are required to provide information, signposting or referrals to other services and support that would benefit the children and families who access their provision. Funding was also set aside for the summer and Christmas holidays for other support agencies to engage with the HAF programme.

As an example, an e-booklet was distributed for the Isle of Wight which included contact information for support organisations, healthy recipes and fun activities for families to do at home. 

Isle of Wight Citizens Advice was also awarded funding. This allowed an advisor to attend each HAF scheme and speak to parents and guardians about the cost-of-living crisis and how they can get support.

Councillor Debbie Andre, Cabinet member for children's services, added: "The HAF Annual Report showcases the breadth of support that has been offered to our Island families.

"I am proud of all of our providers. Thank you for all the work you've done and continue to deliver for the holiday activities and food programme here on the Isle of Wight."

The HAF Annual Report 2022-23 can be read in full on the Isle of Wight Family Information Hub website, or visit connect4communities.