Children’s Quarter wants SEND children to be able to take part in inclusive holiday clubs funded by government and organised by local councils. These services are being funded for the most vulnerable young people through government’s Holiday Activities and Food Fund. We say they should include disabled children and that groups that are committed to inclusion should be involved in delivering them, so that holiday help for children can be made ‘fit for all’.
Holiday Activities and Food Fund is money to make sure the most vulnerable children and young people are fed and stay active during school holidays. The government is providing the money to local councils. The aim is to make available food and activities – through holiday clubs – for children and young people (aged 5-16 years) who have free school meals. The government has also said that it wants to see holiday clubs made available to vulnerable and other children and young people who are not entitled to free school meals. Councils can request to use up to 15% of the money to fund places for children and young people who, for example are:
- looked-after / ‘in care’ or who live in areas of high deprivation
- children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP)
- children assessed as otherwise vulnerable.
Make Including SEND Children a Priority
CQ says that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) should be a priority when councils decide how to use HAF funding, because they are more likely to suffer issues with physical health and social exclusion – which the HAF fund aims to tackle. Families of SEND children often face additional costs which are not properly taken into account in working out who gets free school meals. SEND children are disproportionately excluded from school (including through off-rolling) so that, although they may be entitled to free school meals, they are not getting them. Some SEND children have less flexibility in the range of what they can eat and they – too – are less likely to be actually getting free school meals even though they are entitled to them.
Disabled children and young people and their families have already suffered more than most from the disruption to schools caused by the pandemic. Including them in holiday provision ought to be a priority for government and local councils.
Fund (and Manage) Services to be Inclusive
Inclusion isn’t just a matter of agreeing services should be open to SEND children. Holiday activities and food need to be funded and managed flexibly so disabled children and young people benefit on an equal basis. ‘One-size-fits-all’ services and over-prescriptive specifications relating to food and the duration, timing and content of activities can exclude children with special needs. Staff ratios typically need to be much higher to enable inclusion – and this inevitably affects level of funding needed and way services can be funded.
CQ wants to help mainstream providers to understand, and become more able to provide, inclusive services. In practice, however, the surest way of making holiday clubs ‘fit for all’ is to include groups in provision that are committed – and have experience of – inclusive delivery.
The maximum 2021/22 HAF allocations for West Midlands councils are:
- Birmingham £7,360,950
- Coventry £1,347,890
- Dudley £1,143,070
- Sandwell £1,738,140
- Solihull £892,210
- Walsall £1,618,350
- Wolverhampton £1,682,750
Just under 1.5m (16%) children and young people in England are eligible for Free School Meals. In the West Midlands region, the average FSM eligibility is around 19%. In Birmingham, 61,000 children and young people (27% of the total 225,000 school age population) are eligible. The highest proportion of FSM eligibility in the city is in Northfield constituency (33.9%) and the lowest is in Sutton Coldfield (6.8%). The government’s Free School Meal eligibility checker with links to council websites.
Off–rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil.