Summer is all but over. There’s a definite autumnal chill in the air during the mornings and evenings, and children are back in school for the start of the new school year.
This week, I wanted to reflect on the school six-weeks holiday and how we’ve been supporting some of Torbay’s most vulnerable families and children.
For some families, the school holidays can be filled with a sense of dread especially if household finances are already stretched.
Questions such as ‘How am I going to be able to afford to keep them entertained?’ and ‘Will I have enough food in to feed them?’, were no doubt in the minds of many.
Healthy Holidays ran for four of the six weeks, with eligible children and young people enjoying free, fun activities with friends.
A total of 862 places were available over 21 projects at various locations across Torbay.
Each young person not only enjoyed activities such as sport, music, drama, cooking and gardening, but they each got a healthy lunch.
Last week I went along to one of the sessions held at the Acorn Centre in Torquay.
For me, my visit was full of mixed emotions.
Even though each Healthy Holiday session included lunch, I was disturbed at the number of children arriving at the session who were hungry.
At the other end of the scale, I was pleased to hear from Tanny Stobart, director of Play Torbay, and her team on the number of new positive relationships that had formed over the course of the programme.
Teenagers had willingly taken on leadership roles and were actively engaged with the younger children to help encourage and inspire them.
Play workers from both Play Torbay and Glo Torbay have not only ensured children and young people have had an enjoyable summer holiday, but they’ve gone a step further and broken down barriers with parents, developing new, stronger relationships.
It’s these new relationships, with agencies coming together with members of the community, that will continue to make a positive difference as we seek to turn the tide on poverty and ensure all of Torbay’s residents have high aspirations.
Over the summer we’ve also supported Torbay’s foster carer families, and looked after children, and young people experiencing care.
We’ve seen some free bus travel on Stagecoach bus routes, paddle boarding and coasteering with Reach Outdoors, rides on the English Riviera Wheel and food vouchers for our youngsters experiencing care.
Splashdown have also recently come forward to offer 100 free tickets for looked-after children to enjoy the slides and pools in September.
It’s heartening to see so much support from local businesses for Torbay’s families and children.
Dartmouth Steam Railway have already offered tickets to Torbay’s foster carer families for this year's Train of Lights.
But it’s not all fun.
The council have released an additional £90 per head for those who fell through the cracks, such as 16-to-17 year olds, to help with holiday hunger.
Aligned to this, there is a hot debate around Universal Credit and the additional £20 that the Government released during the pandemic, which is due to be phased out from the end of September.
At the time of writing, over 100 groups have pleaded with the Government to abandon a planned cut to Universal Credit and working tax credit.
Axing the £20-a-week uplift, would cause 'immense, immediate and avoidable hardship', according to these groups.
After a difficult year for many families, being able to help children and young people enjoy their summer break in a safe environment, as well as ensuring they don’t go hungry, is going to have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.
Not only that, but we’ve been able to alleviate some of the financial parental stress that the school holidays can bring.
Healthy Holidays will be running again over the Christmas break.
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