Croydon Council has managed to make a successful bid for government funding, with a £657,000 award announced yesterday towards a scheme to provide free summer holiday activity clubs and healthy meals for children from some of the borough’s poorest families.
Croydon made its successful pitch with national charity Family Action.
The Croydon scheme is the only one of its kind in London, and will be one of nine projects across the country this summer in which children who qualify for free school meals will be offered sport, healthy food classes and welfare support.
Croydon Council estimates up to 9,000 young people and their families could benefit under this scheme, which will be funded by the Department for Education, and which is targeted at out-of-school poverty and hunger.
In school term time, children on free school meals are assured of at least one decent meal each weekday. Come the school holidays, however, and rising levels of poverty often mean that children are going hungry because there is no adequate food for them at home.
Around 7,000 children in Croydon qualify for free school meals, one of the highest proportions in local authorities nationally: 24 per cent of Croydon residents are in low-paid employment, above the average in London.
Schools, youth clubs and community groups are now being invited by the council to bid for a share of the funding, with 100 to be selected. The successful schemes, the council said yesterday, “will be based around key wards across the borough where 7,800 (70 per cent) of Croydon’s 11,483 children on free school meals live”.
The council announcement said, “As well as encouraging young people to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle during the long summer holidays, the programme will also support their families to improve their finances and job prospects through budgeting advice, training and housing information.
“The council and Family Action will also give providers training, activity resources and recipes, a helpline, and peer-to-peer support sessions.”
Under the scheme, clubs will deliver a minimum of 16 four-hour sessions over four weeks.
The plan will also source sustainable surplus food and funding from local organisations and access Family Action’s network of breakfast clubs in schools in Croydon. Funding will range from £260 per session to £400, depending on the group’s size, plus equipment grants of £300.
There does, as with so much in austerity Britain, appear to be something about this project which is seeking volunteers and community groups to plug gaps in social services which have been created by previous funding cuts.
According to Alisa Flemming, the council cabinet member for failing children’s services, “Helping our young people to thrive and reach their full potential is a council priority.”
David Holmes, the CEO of the Family Action charity, described the government’s funding as enabling “a step-change in holiday provision in the borough”.
Holmes said, “The programme will not only provide healthy food and activities to thousands of children over the summer holidays, but also create a blueprint for local holiday activities and food provision for the future.”
It appears to be Family Action which will be selecting the groups for funding and administering the project. Organisations interested in applying to be involved can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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