Dozens of play schemes are set to support thousands of young people and their families across Liverpool this festive season.
Liverpool Play Partnership is funding the initiative, which is designed to support and develop community sector organisations to deliver free play activities during every school holiday.
It is led by Merseyside Play Action Council and LCVS, who work in partnership with Liverpool City Council, Public Health and Liverpool CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group). A cocktail of funding from a variety of public, private and charitable organisations is used for the scheme.
Many of the projects also offer breakfasts and lunches under a scheme called ‘Play Healthy’, while a project called ‘Simply Advice’ offers parents and carers assistance with social and welfare issues such as debt and housing through the Citizens Advice Bureau.
An analysis of activities during the summer holidays shows there were 70 play schemes across the city – and 55 of them served up a total of almost 57,000 meals to more than 7,000 young people.
Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Fairness and Equalities, Councillor Frank Hont, said: “”This is a great example of many different organisations coming together and pooling funding in order to support activities that simply would not otherwise happen due to diminishing resources.
“This is a hugely important project which is making a big difference to many families who are struggling due to the austerity measures and welfare reforms, offering not just free activities for their children but also access to other help and support for their families.
“The play schemes are a providing a bond which is connecting our communities together, particularly in areas where people are reliant on each other for support.”
Councillor Jane Corbett, Cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “All children deserve a good childhood and they have protected status under the UN, but all the evidence that we have is that the needs of families are growing. This is reflected in the 25 percent rise in foodbank use between August and October this year and the fact that a third of recipients are children.
“We know of cases where the free meals provided through the Play Partnership are enabling parents to use the money they have saved to spend on essentials such as school clothes. Even a few pounds can be the difference between surviving and going under.”
All of the play schemes receive funding for arts and crafts for activities, while they can also loan materials such as disco equipment and tug of war ropes to help them put on events.
Dr Simon Bowers, Clinical Vice Chair of Liverpool CCG, said: “The Liverpool Play Partnership has created a unique opportunity for families in the city to learn, develop and become more self-sufficient.
“The CCG is committed to developing links with key partners in pursuit of improving health and social care outcomes for children, and this project has proven to be an effective way of engaging with some of the most vulnerable families.
“Access to food and good quality nutritional advice, is key to a child’s development both in terms of physical development and emotional wellbeing, and the CCG is delighted to be working with this project as a way of optimising children’s health.”
A total of 35 play schemes will be in operation across the city during the Christmas holidays.