Wirral holiday scheme provider named the best in the North West

17 May 2024
Neo team line-up

Wirral-based charity Neo Community has been recognised by the Department for Education as the best Holiday Activity with Food (HAF) provider in the North West. 

The HAF programme offers a wide range of activities for local children during the main school holidays with funding from the Department for Education.

In Wirral, the HAF programme is coordinated for the council by Community Interest Company, Edsential, which distributes the funds to dozens of community-based organisations to provide enriching activities and nutritious meals for children and young people in receipt of free school meals. 

Winners of the North West HAF Award, Neo Community, have been providing a HAF club for Wirral families since a pilot scheme was set up in 2018. Its success led to the scheme being rolled out across the country in 2021.

Ema Wilkes, CEO of Neo Community, said they were delighted to have won the award. She said: 

We are immensely proud that we have won the regional award and have the chance to win the national award. We were part of a small collective that campaigned and championed the HAF programme, working closely with Frank Field and his team to get to the reading of the ‘Holiday Hunger Bill in 2018’.  We were invited to the Houses of Parliament to see the reading of the bill and this was the start of the HAF journey for Neo Community and so many other incredible community groups and schools.

Every year local authorities are invited to nominate one organisation from their list of HAF clubs for the prestigious annual award. The Wirral Steering Group, which is made up of staff from Edsential, Wirral Council, NHS, community groups, Wirral CVS and Wirral schools, nominated Neo Community for this year’s award. 

The chair of Wirral Council’s Committee for Children, Young People and Education, Cllr Sue Powell-Wilde, said:

The Neo Community holiday scheme has engaged, entertained and inspired many hundreds of local young people over the past six years. Their staff and volunteers should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved and how it has been recognised as the best in the whole North West region.

Heather Lewis, Edsential’s HAF Manager, said: 

We are absolutely delighted that Neo Community have won the regional HAF award for 2024. Neo were instrumental in the HAF programme starting and they work tirelessly to provide a fantastic provision in a safe space, which children and young people know and love. The award is so well deserved – a huge congratulations to everyone at Neo Community. We are looking forward to the finals where the National HAF award winner will be announced.

The Neo Community team will attend the awards ceremony at the Houses of Parliament on 17th June 2024. 

Ema Wilkes, added: 

We would like to thank the amazing team at Edsential and Wirral Council who have allowed us to develop this partnership further and continue to fly the flag for levelling the playing field and working towards fighting inequalities across our communities. We never work in isolation, and we are proud to be part of an incredible community network across Wirral.

To find out more about Neo Community, please visit: www.neocommunity.org.uk.

To check if your child could be eligible for the HAF scheme, please visit: www.edsential.com/HAF. To be kept up to the date with the HAF summer programme visit Edsential’s Facebook or X pages at @EdsentialUK