Skip to main content

Support for young people and families during the Christmas holidays

Published: 25 November 2022

Westminster Council has announced support for young people and families over the Christmas holidays

In recognition of the winter cost of living crisis, Westminster City Council is providing support during the Christmas school holidays from 19 December to 2 January.

The council will be providing Free School Meal (FSM) vouchers to all eligible children during the upcoming school holiday in the form of supermarket vouchers. In recognition of the rising cost of food, the council will fund an increase in the value of each voucher so it now equates to £17.50 per child per week.  

The council will also be supporting the Winter HAF (Holiday Activity and Food) programme, funded by the DfE. This enables young people aged 4-16 eligible for Free School Meals to take part in free activities run by local organisations across the borough. By working with organisations like the Young Westminster Foundation, activities include sport sport, and creative activities such as music, drama and days trips. Each child who attends an activity will receive a free, healthy meal.

The funding for activities and a free meal offer over the upcoming holiday will enable over 30 local organisations to deliver sessions for children and young people in Westminster including those with special educational needs and disabilities. 

School holidays can be pressure points for some families, with some children from low-income households being more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health, and more likely to experience social isolation.

Research from the Department for Education has shown that:

  • Children participating in HAF were more likely to report having taken part in outdoor sport and exercise (79% compared to 53% in a normal holiday week), and indoor sport and exercise (64% compared to 28%)
  • More than nine clubs in ten (93%) stated that they provided at least one healthy meal every club day
  • There were positive signs that HAF was helping to improve socialisation and confidence, with 77% of children reporting they felt more confident because of attending the holiday club
  • Around a quarter of employed parents/carers whose children attended HAF said that childcare enabled them to keep working the same hours (26%) or to stay in work (25%)

The UK Government does not provide funding to councils for HAF during half-term holidays, however the new council administration believes it is important to support families, particularly during this Cost of Living Crisis, which is why it funded activities and food during the October half term alongside the Westminster Foundation. The council also boosted support during the summer holidays by £240,000.

The council recently announced a further £2million of funding to support families during the cost of living crisis. This brings the total package of measures to support Westminster’s most vulnerable residents to more than £10million.

Councillor Tim Roca, Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure said:

“As energy bills and food prices rise, we know a lot of Westminster families are feeling the pinch this winter. We want to make sure that vulnerable children and families are supported throughout the school holidays, and we’re providing a range of free activities for children on FSM where they will also receive a free meal.”

Discover activities in your area via the Our City website.