The summer holidays can be such a fun and well-needed break for many children. However, for some children, there aren’t always inclusive and accessible activities on offer, and the holidays can be lonely. This is particularly the case when children have impairments or additional needs which are not supported in mainstream summer camps and playschemes, and no alternative is available.
This month, my team had the opportunity to visit one of the summer activities delivered in partnership by Portsmouth Council and Enable Ability, as part of their Holiday and Activities Food (HAF) programme. Funded by the Department of Education, the HAF programme has been rolled out across the country to support lower income families during the school holidays. HAF Fun Pompey in Portsmouth is paving the way for the tailored activities it provides to children with ‘Special Educational Needs and Disabilities’ (SEND).
At Staunton Farm, children with a range of needs were supported by trained staff to enjoy a fun day feeding and petting the farm animals. Throughout the summer, other activities such as accessible cycling and swimming, pizza-making, soft play and trips to the local parks are also on offer. Through these activities, children are given opportunities to develop social skills and independence, have healthy meals and information about a nutritious diet (with the help of these puppets!), and make friends.
To make sure the programme and each activity is right for the child, Enable Ability is able to visit the child in their home before the programme begins and carry out a thorough needs and risk assessment. Enable Ability will work with the child and their family to create a detailed care plan, including around what adjustments that child may need to be able to participate and to feel safe and secure, the appropriate child-staff ratio for their level of need, dietary requirements, and information about any medication they may take. Through this they will also learn about the child’s particular interests and strengths.
HAF Fun Pompey is also committed, where appropriate, to supporting children and young people with SEND to participate in their mainstream provision. They have worked with the Council for Disabled Children to collate a Holiday Activities and Food Programme Toolkit to share good practice with other local authorities engaging and supporting children with additional needs.
From speaking to the children at Staunton Farm, it is clear that this programme is much-loved and much-needed. The biggest challenge HAF Fun Pompey faces is the sheer volume of demand for inclusive activities for children and young people. It is essential that both bespoke programmes for children with SEND and inclusive mainstream provision is available and able to meet demand in every local area, so that all children can enjoy the fun summer holiday they deserve.