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Schools out for summer – A grass-roots response to families under pressure

Whilst many of us eagerly await our summer break many of the families across Middlesbrough will be counting the days until their children return to school. The number of Middlesbrough families living in poverty is a statistic most of us are far too familiar with and one that increases during the school summer break. Families struggling to manage throughout the year can hit a real crisis point during the six weeks summer break. Middlesbrough has one of the highest statistics of children on free school meals, this means that for many families, food poverty is a major issue throughout August. On top of this, a lack of money really does impact the access families have to out of school activities and outings. In the broader context of austerity, the statutory provision of summer activities I enjoyed in my own youth, have been drastically reduced. This all adds to escalating tensions within families and a pressure point in children’s services.

It is within this context that MVDA is working as part of Middlesbrough’s Early Help Hub to explore and develop a more integrated approach to supporting children and families. We will tell you more about this work as it develops, however an early solution we have provided has come from collaboration with Heather Black of Together Middlesbrough who has led on a project Hope4Summer, a partnership of local churches and community groups that are offering a range of activities from holiday clubs to family fun days, all with the aim of providing free or low cost activities and addressing holiday hunger by including healthy snacks and packed lunches. Hope4Summer is supported and funded by Middlesbrough Council Public Health, Church Urban Fund and Brakes Food Company.

We have sent a Hope4Summer timetable (download a copy below) to professionals across Middlesbrough’s primary schools, Stronger Families and Early Help teams and whilst we know Hope4Summer is a great option for families we also believe it will have an impact upon alleviating some of the pressures experienced by Middlesbrough’s Early Help Hub during the school holidays, by preventing the crisis points many families in poverty can experience. Watch this space for more about our work within Early Help as it develops.

Tracey Brittain is a Strategic Development Officer at MVDA and can be contacted at tracey.brittain@mvdauk.org.uk or tel: 0793 186 2549.

Tracey Brittain

MVDA