Ministers ‘drop in’ to Holiday Activities and Food programme

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford and MP Jo Churchill joined Mid Suffolk District councillors yesterday in a visit to The Mix’s summer activities, made possible by Government funding and support from the council.

The Mix youth charity, in Stowmarket, is one of many provisions across the district who have benefitted from a significant investment by the Department for Education in their expanded Holiday Activity and Food programme.

The funding, up to £220million in every council in England, ensures that children can access healthy food and enriching activities over the school holidays, in recognition of the pressure points for some families because of increased costs, such as food and childcare.

It also aims to narrow the holiday experience gap, with children from disadvantaged families less likely to access organised out-of-school activities and more likely to experience social isolation.

Over £86,000 in funding was awarded to Mid Suffolk this summer, enabling the district council to co-ordinate with Suffolk County Council and activity providers to facilitate a range of exciting and educational activities, primarily aimed at children in receipt of free school meals, during the school holidays. This year’s programme builds on the work done by Suffolk County Council as part of the HAF pilots in 2019 and 2020.

Mid Suffolk District Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Gerard Brewster and cabinet member for communities, Cllr Julie Flatman, accompanied Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford and local MP, Jo Churchill to visit one of the drop-in activity sessions at The Mix made possible by this funding.

The session, open to young people aged 11-16, included pool, table tennis, air hockey and other sports activities – offering the opportunity for fitness, fun and friendship.   In addition, recording studio and music sessions were provided from The Mix’s Band Academy to inspire the next generation of musicians, and cater for those who prefer creative activities to sports.

Those in receipt of free school meals were also provided with a healthy lunch from The Mix’s award-winning café, Cabbages and Kings, meeting Mid Suffolk District Council and the Government’s ongoing ambition to combat holiday hunger.

Cllr Julie Flatman, cabinet member for communities, said:

“It’s been wonderful to come along to a summer activity session and see, first-hand, the real difference that these make to our district’s young people.

“As a teacher myself, I appreciate how challenging the school holidays can be for families, with many struggling to find affordable activities to occupy the time, leading to the health and wellbeing of young people sometimes sadly suffering as a result.

“That’s why I’m incredibly grateful to the Department for Education for providing this vital funding. I’d also like to thank our council officers, who have worked tirelessly to organise the activities, as well as The Mix, and our other fantastic providers, who continue to go above and beyond to ensure young people have fun, whilst also learning invaluable new skills.”

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said:

“It’s been fantastic to see children involved with the all different sports, activities and musical opportunities as part of the visit to the The Mix youth charity in Stowmarket today, and to see first-hand how our national Holiday Activities and Food programme is directly benefitting young people in the area.

“Mid Suffolk District Councillors have been working hard with Suffolk County Council and their local providers to provide opportunities for fun and friendship this summer, building on their work as part of the HAF pilot schemes which they have taken part in since 2018.  I know that this support will prove invaluable for these young people and their families.”

David Pepper, CEO of The Mix, said:

“It is wonderful to have the resources to offer our ‘Drop in’ days to young people over this Summer period. With the pressure that many families, children and young people have faced during the pandemic, this initiative is a crucial element in providing tangible support. 

“We are overjoyed to see young people returning to the Mix after such a long period of ‘quiet’.  Our passion is that every one of them who walks through our doors is enabled to flourish in every way.  

“Being able to offer great, free food is a key part of that offer. Cabbages and Kings, our on-site Coffee Shop provide those healthy meals and our youth work team are delivering a wide range of activities, fun and laughter as well as creating a safe, supportive space for all the young people who attend. Thank you to everyone whose hard work has made this possible.”

Other activities taking place in Mid Suffolk during the school summer holidays include sports in Stowupland, outdoor cookery at the Museum of East Anglian Life, rock music sessions at the John Peel Centre and free swims at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre. 

Whilst the activities are primarily aimed at families who currently receive free school meals, some paid for places are also available and further information on this can be found on Suffolk infoLink’s website.  

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