Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) How to access the programme (and make referrals)

Who can access the programme?

Core eligibility

There are free places available on the HAF programme for children and young people aged 4 (reception class age)* to 16, who:

  • Receive benefits-related free school meals
  • Are Ukrainian guests staying in Shropshire

Wider eligibility

Local authorities have discretion to use some of their funding to provide free or subsidised holiday club places for children and young people who are not in receipt of benefits related free school meals. In Shropshire this includes children and young people who live in areas of high deprivation and/or from low-income households who are not in receipt of benefits related free school meals

There are a limited number of free places available for children and young people who meet the wider eligibility criteria of living in areas of high deprivation and/or are from low-income households on the Shropshire HAF programme.

Referrals for additional eligibility

Children and young people who meet the wider eligibility criteria can be referred onto the programme by a professional they're working with, eg school staff, social worker, early help officer, youth worker.

Please complete our referral form of you're referring a child. Referrals unfortunately can’t be made direct by a family/carer.

Please note that these referred places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis by the Shropshire HAF co-ordinators. If a referral has been approved and place/s allocated on the spring/Easter HAF programme, the person requesting the referral will be sent a unique code and details of how to make a booking. 

Shropshire Council makes the final decision on which children and young people should benefit from the flexible funding element of the HAF programme.

HAF is a national programme, funded by the DfE (Department for Education). The aim of HAF is to support children and young people in receipt of benefits related free school meals during the three main school holidays.

Research shows that the school holidays can be difficult for some low-income families. For some children and young people this can lead to a holiday experience gap. These children and young people are less likely to access organised out-of-school activities, more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health and more likely to experience social isolation.

The HAF programme is a response to this issue, with evidence showing that free holiday clubs can have a positive impact on children and young people. Benefits of the HAF programme include:

  • Reduced holiday food insecurity
  • Improved diets on days children attend clubs
  • Provision of childcare to enable parents to enter work or stay in work during the holidays
  • Enhanced learning experiences, preparedness for returning to school and children being supported in not falling behind over the holidays

Rationale behind additional eligibility

The number of children and young people eligible for benefits-related free school meals in Shropshire is rising. There's currently more demand for places on the Shropshire HAF programme from children and young people who meet the core eligibility criteria than ever before.

To meet this demand and provide places for core eligible children and young people, the additional HAF eligibility criteria has been reduced since 2022. We appreciate that this is disappointing. For information on what other support is available please take a look at our 'Extra support' page.

Where there are limited spaces available for referral onto the Shropshire HAF programme for non-FSM children and young people, the priority is to support those living in areas of high deprivation and/or from low-income households who are not in receipt of free school meals.

Data from the Department for Education shows that despite an increase in the numbers of children and young people being eligible for free school meals over the last two years, large numbers are still in need and are missing out on support.

Currently there are very tight eligibility criteria governing the opportunity to benefit from FSMs in England: children must be in families on qualifying benefits and earning less than £7,400 after benefits and tax. This incredibly low income threshold means that there are substantial numbers of children who are living in poverty, and in households that don’t have sufficient income to buy food alongside other essentials, and yet these children don't meet the criteria to receive FSMs. This clearly illustrates that there are large numbers of children in need of FSMs who are missing out, and who the HAF programme in Shropshire aims to support. 

Four- and five-year-olds

Children who are aged 4 who attend a nursery or pre-school are NOT eligible for the HAF programme. Eligible children aged 4+ must be in full-time education and have started school in reception class (or equivalent).

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