How to engage children in Holiday Activities and Food (HAF)

How to engage children in Holiday Activities and Food (HAF)

Engaging children ages 11+ and SEND children in HAF.

Working with children with SEND or additional needs

There is flexibility in how the programme can be delivered to children with SEND or additional needs who are in receipt of FSM. Some of the key points for providers to consider when designing and implementing provision for children with SEND or additional needs include:

  • identifying the most vulnerable children, young people and families
  • making decisions and, where appropriate, delegating responsibility for decision making to different levels of the system to enable responsive support
  • speaking to families regularly to understand how their needs may have changed and may have continued to change
  • being flexible in supporting families
  • ensuring staff are trained, supported and provided with appropriate equipment in order to provide flexible and responsive care in line with government guidance
  • maintaining a positive level of trust in staff from a parent perspective
  • ensuring staff receive the right level of training from a provider perspective

Risk assessments are an important part of this provision and should be used as an enabler to provide support rather than a barrier.

A good risk assessment which supports effective risk management and creative thinking will lead to different approaches to face-to-face support rather than support being withdrawn particularly for children, young people and families who are particularly vulnerable or at high risk.

Applications from specialise SEND providers and schools for children with more acute needs are welcome, along with family support groups interested in running activities or day trips. 

Additional funding is available to provide additional support to children with SEND both through HAF and the additional support provision below. We expect all providers to make reasonable adjustments to include children with additional needs and disabilities. 

Provider training will be offered to ensure a quality standard for SEND provision throughout the programme, providers are encouraged to risk assess children with acute additional needs and support families to access suitable provision across the programme.

Applications from specialist SEND providers and schools for children with more acute needs are welcome, as well as family support groups who would like to run activities or day trips. 

Additional funding could be for staff to allow for 1-1 support, funding for activity and venue adaptations, transport, family support etc. We also accept requests for additional funding throughout the programme as individual cases are identified.

Additional support for SEND Holiday Clubs

In addition to the HAF funding, you can apply for additional support provision, please read and complete the below:


  1. Download the criteria of funding PDF
  2. Download the application form (Word)

Working with the secondary school age range

We know from previous years that providing a HAF programme that is appealing and has high engagement levels with the secondary school age range can be challenging. Provision for this age range will often look different to that aimed at the primary age range and local authorities should make specific plans for this.

There should be flexibility in the programme you offer to older children with careful consideration being given to a different model of food and activity provision.

This could include considering the location of provision, such as, pop up parks or urban areas. Some areas have reported a reduction in anti-social behaviour around those areas with a focused HAF provision. Others have reported increases to the levels of assurance among parents and families that their children and young people are safe and secure when attending a HAF programme.

You might also consider the role that older children can have in supporting, designing and leading sessions for their peers or for younger children – to help them to socialise and develop leadership skills which can be crucial for those in year 9 to 11.

Based on previous years of the HAF programme, we know that there are several factors that local authorities should think about when designing a programme for the secondary age range, such as:

  • running focus groups with older children in your area to better understand their needs
  • the costs of running focused provision - the costs of provision for this age range can be higher than for the primary age range
  • the food and activity offer
  • a different operating model, for example, offering afternoon or evening sessions - some areas have reported success running twilight sessions with an evening meal being the focus and others have operated a ‘street food’ style offer
  • the choice of venue is often critical in building an attractive offer for this age range - some areas have reported that school venues can be less popular but pop-up provision in parks and city centres can be highly effective
  • travel costs - local authorities should try and ensure provision is local and accessible and may wish to work with local transport providers to offer free or discounted travel to offer greater freedom and mobility during the holidays

There are many local and national organisations with expertise in delivery to the secondary age range and we recommend that local authorities engage with them. Working through trusted and established organisations is one way of achieving effective reach and delivery.

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