Hard-pressed families given help through successful ‘healthy holidays’ scheme

A project aimed at helping hard-pressed families in Barnsley communities during the summer holidays has been deemed a success, with councillors now looking at ways to do similar work in future.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 2:34 pm
Updated Friday, 1st November 2019, 10:55 am
Holiday help: Communities including Hoyland benefited from a council healthy holidays project this summer

The South Healthy Holidays scheme operated across communities in the south of Barnsley, from Birdwell through Hoyland, Wombwell, Darfield and surrounding communities, in recognition that the long school break can bring added pressures for parents who feel the loss of free school meals and the additional burdens of childcare.

It was set up and financed by the South Area Council, a sub-body of Barnsley Council which is made up of councillors representing the district, who have a budget to spend to schemes which bring the most immediate benefits to residents.

Early this year area council members agreed to put £10,000 into supporting healthy holiday activities and that resulted in a range of activities at different venues across the neighbourhoods.

Different projects enjoyed varying levels of success, with a circus skills event at the Rockingham Centre in Hoyland Common less popular than brass band sessions, which resulted in some youngsters staying on permanently to play.

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That was put down to the familiarity of brass at Rockingham, with circus skills being an unknown entity.

Volunteers played a key role in the success of some Wombwell activities, with craft sessions at the library proving hugely popular while cheap to provide because much was provided by volunteers.

Elsecar Cricket Club reported enthusiasm from girls joining sports sessions, a positive move as the club had struggled to attract interest from female players previously and a fishing club in Wombewell also succeeded in attracting varied visitors, with its members getting involved in volunteering for the first time.

Food was provided as part of the project, with 918 healthy lunches provided across the area, with 324 provided in Wombwell, 224 in Darfield and 370 across the Hoyland Milton and Rockingham council areas.

Where food was not all used, steps were taken to ensure it was distributed to families with a need, to help them and prevent waste.

“Spare food was given out to families known to be struggling,” area manager Lisa Lyons told councillors.

“A lot of the programme was based around the five to 12/13 age range. They were activities the (South Area) team could get delivered quickly. We need to broaden it out to teenagers, to make it more appealing to that age group,” she said.

Through the summer 55 volunteers helped to run the sessions, with their time calculated to have a cash value of around £3,350.

Less than half the money set aside for the project was actually spent and councillors will now meet to look at how the rest can be spent.

One of the key elements of the project was to avoid “any negative stigmatisation associated with the provision of free school meals and free food” a report to councillors stated.

That meant getting comprehensive feedback about those in need of help would have involved asking “intrusive” questions, which the project wanted to avoid.