The holiday activities and food programme (HAF) which supports children in receipt of free school meals through holiday periods was successfully rolled out across England in 2021, following a successful pilot. In October 2021, the government increased funding by over £200 million per year over the next 3 financial years. The funding is to help local authorities to coordinate and provide free provision during the school holidays, including healthy food and enriching activities for children from reception to Year 11 (inclusive) who receive benefits-related free school meals.
Research has shown that the school holidays can be pressure points for some families. For some children this can lead to a holiday experience gap, with children from low-income households being less likely to access organised out-of-school activities, more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health, as well as being more likely to face social isolation.
The HAF programme is a response to this issue, with evidence showing that free holiday provision can have a positive impact on children and young people.