Holiday activity scheme growing in popularity

The activity and holiday programme put on for disadvantaged children over the school holidays this year has grown in popularity and received positive feedback from parents.

Members of Swindon Borough Council’s children’s health, care and education overview and scrutiny programme received a report on the programme from officer Danielle Maundrell.

She said 6,500 children were eligible in Swindon-mostly those receiving free school meals, but also children looked after by the council, those classified as being in need and those with protection plans to receiving targeted mental health services.

The scheme ran for the first time in the Easter holidays. Ms Maundrell said it started relatively slowly: “We had 536 applicants, 337 families went on to confirm a place and 302 actually went on to access a place.”

Asked by councillor Jo Morris why so many places were unfilled Ms Maundrell said: “Mainly because children didn’t want to go. We were told some said they felt it was like having to go to school in their holidays.”

But feedback from both children and parents was good  and word of mouth spread that the programme was enjoyable. 

Ms Maundrell’s report to the committee quotes parents whose children took part. 
One said: “Our child benefits greatly from routine and finds holidays a challenge and behaviour suffers which puts a strain on the whole family. Having the ability to send her on the programme helped everyone immensely, we cannot afford to send her otherwise. She came back from it happy, content and tired.

Another wrote: “Knowing my daughter would receive a lunch, and also time with other children in an environment she already knows was fantastic.

A third said: “My children were kept active, social and away from TV screens.”
The summer programme saw a big expansion – with 31 providers compared to 10 for the Easter holidays. One of the most popular was ATBShop, which ran skating and scooters sessions at park across Swindon for 70 children.

A total of 1,776 applications were received from eligible families for the summer, with just over 1,000 children taking part – a take-up rate of 60 per cent.

Ms Maundrell said: “Getting more of the applicants to take up their place is a priority.”

The scheme will run again for the Christmas holidays this year and Ms Maundrell said the council would be happy to hear from anyone who could offer to put on activities and feed children.