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Social Justice

How to find an affordable holiday club for the summer break

Childcare can come at a steep price over the summer holidays, but there are affordable options out there for families who are struggling. The Big Issue’s Summer Survival Guide has got you covered.

As families across the country struggle with the soaring cost of living, the summer holidays will bring a new set of challenges. Six long weeks without school means having to find childcare for your kids, and that often comes at a hefty cost. 

The children’s charity Coram reported last year that the average place at a holiday club costs £145 per week. That’s more than double what parents pay for an after-school club during term time. 

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “The cost of the summer holidays when children are at home from school can be extremely challenging for many parents living on a low income as they face additional food, fuel and costs for activities.

“The long break also really poses a problem for families where both parents want to work as it’s often a struggle to find good quality and affordable childcare. The worsening cost of living crisis is going to make this summer particularly difficult for families struggling financially.”

A spokesperson for the organisation Working Mums added: “Much more needs to be done to address the childcare problems in the UK and to recognise how crucial it is to the functioning of the economy. It is not adequate and so many parents have to rely on a last-minute network of family and friends which is exhausting.”

Richard Conway, the CEO at social networking website Childcare.co.uk, said it is becoming increasingly common for families to hire a nanny or childminder for the summer. Other parents might opt for sending their kids to a holiday camp or playscheme. But these options often come at a steep cost.

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There is help out there for parents looking for affordable childcare options over the summer holidays. Here’s everything you need to know about where to find holiday clubs for your kids this summer. 

What holiday clubs do local councils offer?

Councils across the country offer holiday club programmes and activities for at least a few weeks over the summer holidays. The best way to check out affordable childcare options in your area is to visit your local council’s website. Prices of these holiday clubs typically cost between £10 and £30 per day, although it will depend on how many hours your child attends and the activities on offer. There might be discounts if your child attends for a full week or subsidies for low-income families.

For children who are eligible for free school meals, the government has rolled out its holiday activities and food programme. Councils will provide free holiday club places to children whose families are receiving qualifying benefits. These have to provide a healthy meal and a four-hour day filled with activities. They will typically run for four days a week, for four weeks of the summer holidays. The scheme may be run as a holiday club in its own right, or children may be offered free places in holiday clubs that already exist. It’s up to your local council how they choose to run the programme.

Most councils will offer a range of different options for children’s activities over the summer. There might be shorter activity programmes, if you need to entertain your kids for just a couple of hours, or full days for parents who need childcare cover for the whole working day. Often, holiday clubs will be run at local schools so it’s worth checking with your child’s school if there is anything happening over the summer holidays.

If your child has special education needs, council holiday clubs should have the provisions to give your child one-to-one support and there may be discounted places – but you will need to check with the playscheme organisers to make sure they have the resources to give your child the necessary support.

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What other affordable holiday clubs are out there?

Local YMCAs across the country offer holiday clubs and playschemes to keep your children busy and active over the summer. They most typically cater to children of primary-school age. Activities vary from place to place. At the YMCA club in central London for example, activities include a bouncy castle, obstacle course, circuits, athletics, swimming and football. 

You can get an early bird discount if you book a full week at the YMCA club by July 13, costing £150 instead of the usual £175. The price of the holiday club will depend on your local YMCA and it’s worth checking if they offer discounted rates for low-income families. For example, the YMCA London City and North offers places for £12.10 a day per child at a concession rate, which is a discount of 50 per cent. 

Kings Camps are another option for sporty children. Their main programme is called Multi-active, and it is offered to children aged between five and 14. Prices vary again depending on the venue, but they tend to cost around £200 for five days. You might be able to get a discount if you book in bulk, and Kings Camps do accept childcare vouchers issued by the government to give families extra financial support to cover the costs of childcare. These can be used for full or part payment and combined with any offers and discounts.

Most leisure centres across the country offer holiday clubs, and many will be held at local schools so it’s worth checking in your area for the best options to suit your child. There are many sport and football camps, arts and drama clubs and music groups running over the summer holidays. 

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Can I get extra financial support to cover the cost of holiday clubs?

Families with children under 11 can receive extra financial support with the government’s tax-free childcare scheme. It is available to working parents who are earning under £100,000 and at least £152 per week each. People who are receiving universal credit, tax credit or childcare vouchers are unfortunately not eligible.

For every £8 you spend on childcare, the government will pay you £2. You can receive up to £2,000 per child per year – that’s up to £500 every three months. For parents with a disabled child, you can receive £4,000 per year. It can cover childminders, nurseries, nannies and holiday clubs. Parents and carers can apply through the government’s website.

According to the Money Saving Expert’s guide, low-income families will get more financial support on universal credit. If your annual family income is under £40,000, you are working (both must be working if you are a couple), and you pay for childcare such as holiday clubs, you could claim back up to 85 per cent of your childcare costs through universal credit. Parents can contact their local family information service via their council to find out what is available in their area in terms of holiday clubs and camps.

The service offers free and impartial information about local events and services available to children, young people and families. Other useful resources include Koru Kids and Yoopies to find local childcare services.

Here’s our Summer Survival Guide, which we will update regularly with new articles and tips on making sure your kids have a fun summer without breaking the bank.

Get involved with the conversation on social media and share all your tips and advice for families using the #SummerSurvivalGuide

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