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Summer childcare shortages unveiled

18th July 2023 by OnSide

Working parents are struggling to pay for summer childcare and risk having to give up their jobs to look after their children during the holidays due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

The Government funded Holidays, Activities and Food scheme (HAF) provides free activities, food and summer childcare to families whose children receive benefit-related free school meals.

Our Network provides more than 10,000 HAF places in the summer holidays for eight to 12 year olds. We’re seeing many working families – who are ineligible for benefit-related free school meals – urgently in need of support as the cost of living crisis has pushed the cost of summer holiday schemes out of reach.

This comes in response to figures released by the children’s charity Coram today as part of its annual Holiday Childcare Survey, which show the cost of summer holiday clubs has risen 3% since last year, and now averages £157 a week.

A separate report by Barnardo’s in June found that 26% of parents said they can’t afford childcare or holiday clubs this summer, and 21% can’t afford time off work to look after their children.

Our Chief Executive Jamie Masraff said:

“The HAF scheme is an excellent initiative that has made it possible for thousands of young people on benefits-related free school meals to access school holiday activities since 2021. But with so many more families now in financial need, it is time to expand the eligibility criteria to include working parents.

“We’re increasingly hearing from working families who don’t qualify but are struggling to afford holiday clubs. Rapid price increases in essentials like fuel, food, housing and energy bills have left a growing number of the families we work with stretched and barely keeping their finances afloat. For too many, there’s simply nothing left to pay for vital summer childcare.

“OnSide Youth Zones offer heavily subsidised holiday clubs at between £12 to £16 a day including a hot meal, but they are increasingly needing to cover the costs for families who need the holiday club but don’t qualify for HAF.

“We’re urging the Government, and policymakers writing manifestos in advance of the next election, to ensure that expanding the HAF scheme to include working families is made a priority. Safe and affordable holiday schemes enable parents to work and prevent children becoming isolated or at risk of harm.

“The attainment gap between disadvantaged young people and their affluent peers can grow in the summer holidays due to a lack of affordable and stimulating activities. Accessing quality youth provision like that offered by youth clubs aids personal and social development, keeps young people safe and happy and helps prevent young people falling behind when they return to school.”

Robin Moss is Chief Executive of Unitas, Barnet Youth Zone. Unitas provides almost 500 HAF places during the summer holidays. Robin said:

“Many of the families we work with are working parents, but they are still really struggling as the amount that food and bills have gone up is nowhere near matched by their wages.

“Expanding the eligibility criteria of the HAF scheme would be a win-win situation. More parents could stay in work, and more young people would be able to come to the Youth Zone, meet new friends, grow in confidence and enjoy a happy, purposeful and structured summer holiday.

“Ideally the HAF scheme would operate for more days and cover more families. This would make a real and meaningful difference not just to families in Barnet, but to tens of thousands of families around the country.”

Niki Cartwright, 43, is mum to twins Jack and Arthur, 10. The boys receive funding from Mahdlo, Oldham Youth Zone to attend holiday club for two days a week during the six-week holidays. Niki said:

“I work 16 hours a week in catering. Everything has gone up in price, from food to the cost of school uniforms and money is really tight. But because I work I don’t qualify for free school meals.

“Without the funding from Mahdlo Youth Zone I would have to give up my job to look after my boys during the summer. Paying for a holiday club would leave me with £9 a day after the costs of childcare – meaning financially it wouldn’t be worth me working at all.

“There are lots of families like mine who would really benefit from extra support in summer, and expanding the HAF scheme would mean a massive weight off all our shoulders.

“At the moment I have to juggle days off and help from family and friends to look after the boys for the remaining three days. I know my children are safe and happy at the Youth Zone, they love the youth workers and get so much out of going – sports, trying new activities and making new friends.”

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