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Look back at how the Winter Holiday Activity Fund brought festive cheer to thousands of Wirral children

25 February 2022
Winter Holiday Activity Fund

As we approach the Spring, we’re taking a look back at how almost 4,500 local children enjoyed an unforgettable winter break thanks to a programme designed to support families who don’t always have spare funds for activities.

Trips to the pantomime, visits to Santa’s grotto, forest adventures and learning how to ice skate were just some of the events for free school meal-eligible children over the winter period, made possible through a Holiday Activity with Food (HAF) grant of £367,000 from the Government Department for Education. This was coordinated by Wirral Council’s Early Help and Prevention team and Schools and Communities Services provider Edsential - a community interest company owned by Wirral and Cheshire West & Chester Councils – on behalf of Wirral Council.

A total of 4,489 children and their families took part in the scheme, which was delivered through a network of 44 activity clubs. All those taking part enjoyed a nutritious lunch each day, with almost 16,000 festive meals provided in total, giving children and families one less thing to worry about. 

Many of the activities were delivered by community, faith-based and voluntary organisations, who were successful in bidding for the HAF grant as a result of their experience and passion for improving children's lives. Those groups were able to provide almost 3000 volunteer hours and 1269 of in-kind venue hire hours.

Councillor Wendy Clements, Chair of Wirral Council’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, said:

This Winter Holiday Activity Fund is a great example of the government’s investment in Wirral families. It has delivered a fantastic programme of activities for thousands of free school meal-eligible children, as well as an enjoyable meal each day for all those taking part.

“I’m sure the young people will put the new skills they learned into practice and remember the experience for many years to come.

Parents were delighted with the support they received, with one parent saying:

My child increased in confidence and had so much fun learning new skills. As a parent, budgeting for childcare and bills makes it hard this time of year, so it was a great opportunity for free family activities.

Another parent remarked:

As a parent this winter has been great. What I loved best about it was seeing how happy my children were to take part in activities that I could not afford. This programme also offered my children a chance to learn something new whilst enjoying themselves.

Since the start of 2020 Edsential’s Holiday Activity with Food programme has provided over 174,000 active attendances across Wirral, Cheshire West and Chester, and Halton. 

Bethan Cooper, Holiday Activity Fund Manager at Edsential said:

The Department for Education made funding available for the first time to organise the Holiday Activity Fund in winter, which was a real success within the local community. Our providers offered such excellent opportunities for young people to get involved and spread some festive cheer when people need it the most. We can't wait to see what 2022 will bring.

Edsential were one of eleven chosen organisations who coordinated the Holiday Activity with Food pilot programme in 2019.  Since the Department for Education announced funding nationally in 2020, Edsential have successfully coordinated the provision on behalf of Wirral Council, Halton Borough Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council.

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