Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column | School holiday activities to keep your kids healthy and active

Speak with any parent and summer is always met with a mixture of emotions.
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Children may celebrate the time off school, but potential worry kicks in as keeping them occupied throughout the holiday comes into focus.

And if money is particularly tight, and your child is supported through free school meals, that nervousness becomes particularly acute as it becomes not just about keeping your child occupied, but about the additional costs too.

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That’s why I wanted to write this column on a scheme that’s taking place this summer, as it has the last few. It includes a myriad of activities all with the aim of keeping our school children engaged, entertained, stimulated and well-nourished during their holidays. From trampolining to paddle boarding, tennis to football, and even mini golf – there has been plenty of exciting options for young people to take part in.

Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

The best part is that for those on free school meals it comes at no cost, thanks to the Government's Holiday Activities and Food programme, and for those not on free school meals the cost is normally relatively low. The Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF), which has been funding these initiatives, serves as a beacon of support for children who need extra assistance during the holiday period and helps parents who are facing challenging times.

HAF goes beyond merely providing recreation and exercise for our youth; it also ensures they receive the nourishment they typically receive during term time. And as a staunch advocate for children's support, be it during the pandemic or looking ahead, I firmly believe in the importance of this programme, irrespective of what my opponents may claim.

Back in 2020, along with my colleagues, we lobbied Government hard to take what had been a pilot in 2018 and 2019, to become permanent. And as a result a multi-year funding announcement was made, setting up HAF until the end of 2024. But I want to see that extended and it’s why I’ve been visiting those taking part in this year’s activities all week. So I can make that case to Government.

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You don’t need to spend long with any of the organisations taking part to see the positive impact HAF is having on our children. Taking them away from their screens, be it television or the Xbox, and placing them in an environment where they can make new friends – from different schools – whilst exploring new activities is brilliant.

Something for everybody has been my big take away. And that's thanks to the incredible efforts of local groups like Burnley Tennis Club, Burnley Rugby Club, BFC in the Community, amongst so many others. Their participation in the HAF programme is what has made it the roaring success it’s been. I want extend my gratitude to all involved.

But it’s not ended yet! These activities are continuing throughout August – and places are still available by visiting www.burnleyhaf.org.uk. I’ve seen all I need to make a solid case to keep this going past next year. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing when I get back to Parliament.