Questions and answers

3 children mixing food in a red bowl and the word Holiday food and fun!

In 2021, the government expanded the holiday activities and food (HAF) programme across the whole of England.

Local authorities in England have funds to coordinate free holiday provision, including healthy food and enriching activities. The programme covers the Easter, summer and winter holidays.

Your questions answered

How to apply to become a provider

Please read the information in this Q&A and then complete the online Expression of Interest form. Please note this application window is not open all year round as new applications are invited in January for all three holiday periods in that year. If you have any further queries or would like to know when applications will next be open please get in touch with the HAF team.

Is there flexibility on dates?

Yes, the dates for provision during the holidays will not be prescribed but will vary between organisations. Please put forward the dates that work best for you. We understand not all provision is available throughout all the holidays or indeed throughout the whole day and/or evening. As a local authority we have a duty to provide the 4 hours a day over 4 weeks in the Summer and 1 week at Easter and winter - covering this will be a collective effort across all our partners.

Food preparation and nutritional education is a potential weakness in the application, is that okay?

Yes, we realise not all partners will be able to facilitate food and/or healthy living initiatives. However, the holiday activities must provide a healthy meal in order to meet the aims and objectives of the HAF programme. Please note on your application if you need additional support with this as we are keen to join partners together. We have had great success so far with matching activity providers with food partners, so this should not stop you from submitting a funding bid.

How will the areas be co-ordinated?

Using free school meal (FSM) data, we have produced data maps to show where the highest areas of need are. 

The HAF team have worked with providers, schools and families to develop provision in areas of high need and more broadly across the county. If multiple expressions of interest are received for one area, we are open to revisiting them to either bring partners together that complement each other or explore whether any offer can be moved. If you have the mobility to spread more widely please indicate this on the application.

How will the number of participants for each partner be decided?

We welcome expressions of interest detailing how many participants you think you could reach, where and how; with the focus on the FSM children. We work with providers and develop provision to reach as many children, young people and families as possible within the available funding for this programme.

Any more guidance on cost?

We do not set out unit costs for provision. Given the range of provision we’ve funded so far, it is not possible to give a specific price per head. For the application please put an estimate of the number of children you can reach and the cost. There will need to be wiggle room on this and we can investigate this further after expressions of interest are received.

What is the age range?

The funding is for FSM eligible children aged 5 to 16.

Do the children have to participate for the whole 4 hours in a day?

As a local authority we have a duty to provide the 4 hours a day over 4 weeks in the Summer and 1 week at Easter and winter. This will be a collective effort across all our partners. So some may wish to offer shorter sessions throughout the day. It is up to us at East Sussex County Council to ensure the programme as a whole covers the 4 hours a day quota.

Regarding the 4 hours a day over 4 weeks in the Summer and 1 week at Easter and winter - does this mean you want the same children to attend for all of this time? Or that we need to have provision running 4 hours/4 days/6 weeks that different children can attend?

The aim of this programme is that participating children would be able to attend every session if they wanted to. However, we know that some will participate every day, and some may attend less frequently. And some eligible children will not attend at all of course, as it is completely optional.

Why don’t free places cover the whole school holidays?

We know that families face the greatest challenges in the longer holidays, particularly during the summer. The programme is designed to work in conjunction with the existing childcare offers across government. This includes the Universal Credit childcare scheme and Tax-Free Childcare. Eligible parents can top up their free hours using these other, existing childcare offers.

What are the expectations around the food offer?

We expect that the food will meet the School food standards - GOV.UK, ensuring all children receive a healthy, balanced meal. We envisage most of the food served would be hot. However, there is flexibility and food should be tailored to the dietary needs of the children and families who attend. The meals should also be appropriate for the nature of the session, for example, offering cold packed lunches for outdoor venues or for day trips.

Most HAF providers will register as food businesses with their local district or borough council.

What are the nutritional education requirements?

Clubs must include an element of nutritional education, aimed at improving the knowledge and awareness of healthy eating for children. These do not need to be formal learning activities and could, for example, include activities such as getting children involved in food preparation and cooking, taste tests etc.

Clubs could also include training and advice sessions for parents, carers or other family members, which provide advice on how to source, prepare and cook nutritious and low-cost food.

How do the families find out about what we are running?

We will be helping to promote the HAF provision as widely as possible with a particular focus on targeting FSM. Providers are asked to list their HAF provision on our booking website. The HAF listings are then collated on our Organisation page. The link to this is sent to all East Sussex schools, our social care colleagues and families who have attended HAF provision before. However, providers will also need to use their networks to share the information, for example by contacting schools or promoting through their social media.

Where can I find out more about the process for potential providers?

Please contact the HAF Team if you would like more information about the process.