The purpose of the report is to:
· Update Cabinet about the help and support provided to families and vulnerable households during the winter period, particularly on how grants received from the government have been used to provide that help and support;
· Inform Cabinet of the government’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAFP), including the funding provided to the council and requirements concerning its use;
· Set out to Cabinet the food offer available to families with children in receipt of free school meals during the upcoming Easter holiday period; and
· Set out to Cabinet the options and recommended approach for developing a Solihull HAFP for summer 2021.
The Cabinet was:
Ø updated on the help and support provided to families and vulnerable households during the winter period, particularly on how grants received from the government had been used to provide that help and support;
Ø informed of the government’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAFP), including the funding provided to the Council and requirements concerning its use;
Ø advised of the food offer available to families with children in receipt of free school meals during the upcoming Easter holiday period; and
Ø advised of the options and recommended approach for developing a Solihull HAFP for summer 2021.
Members were briefed on the support received from the government for vulnerable households and families during the winter period and further into 2021. Support was provided via the COVID Winter Grant Scheme and Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies, of which the Council received a total of £775,531.15.
The report also detailed the support provided through another government scheme - Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAFP). This funding to Local Authorities provided six weeks of activities and food during the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays of 2021, which were free to access for children and young people in receipt of benefits related to free school meals. The Council had been allocated £991,970 to deliver a holiday offer for 2021. This offer could be delivered during any six weeks of the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays with the option for Local Authorities to consider delivering it in its entirety during the six-week summer holiday period.
The report set out the differences between the HAFP scheme and Winter Grant scheme and the change of approach that would be required to help support families and vulnerable households. Two key differences were the need for parents to opt-in to the offer available and the emphasis on providing healthy meals rather than food or the means of purchasing food, as well as the face to face delivery of activities.
Members were advised that local authorities could determine how the scheme was delivered and some delivery options were detailed in the report. The report also set out the rational for not delivering the HAFP during the Easter holidays but delivering it during the summer and Christmas holidays.
Officers informed Members that since the report had been published discussions with the DfE had continued regarding the Easter holiday plan, and Officers were now considering an amendment to include an activity offer as well.
In considering the report Members very much welcomed the proposal and commended Officers on the work that had been done to date. Members also recognised the efforts of Voluntary Organisations and community partners in supporting this work. There was some concern over the opt-in element of the programme and Members sought assurance that vulnerable families would not miss out. Officers confirmed that a communication strategy was being worked up and all the information available to Officers would be utilised to identify vulnerable families.
(i) That the positive progress and impact, as well as learning, from the delivery of help and support to families and vulnerable households during the winter period be noted;
(ii) That the decision made by the Cabinet Member for Stronger and Safer Communities for the food offer for families this Easter be noted; and
(iii) That approval be given to the Council to develop and deliver a HAFP for eligible families in the Borough, based on the following:
· The delivery of the HAFP during the summer and Christmas holidays for 2021;
· Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council as the lead and accountable body;
· A Cross-Directorate and multi-agency programme and delivery structure to make the best use of the Council’s and the borough’s assets and expertise;
· The Cabinet Members for Stronger and Safer Communities and Children, Education and Skills as the joint portfolio holders for the Solihull HAFP;
· The Assistant Director Inclusion and Additional Needs and Assistant Director Communities and Partnerships as Programme Sponsors; and
· The Head of Stronger Communities as the Programme Lead.