There are just a few days left of the 2020/21 school year before youngsters start their long summer break – one which they are all ready to enjoy.

Bolton’s Play and Youth Service offers a range of free and low cost events and activities for children and young people across the borough, including those who are in foster care, vulnerable or in receipt of free school meals.

Bolton Council has worked closely with the charity and volunteer sectors to establish a network of free holiday clubs across all parts of the borough, offering physical activities, the chance to learn new skills as well as about food and nutrition.

Foster carers, parents and guardians are invited to take the youngsters in their care along to activities that run throughout the year, with more events planned for the summer.

The community-based sessions are aimed at children and young people aged between four and 17.

Children aged between four and 12 can enjoy play sessions where they can get involved with arts and crafts, role play and games.

Junior youth club is a great way for youngsters aged between nine and 12 to gain experience working with older children, ready for transitioning from primary school to secondary school.

The older youth club is for teenagers aged 13 to 17, which offers a wide choice of activities and projects aimed at helping young people develop into adults.

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Dominic Rice, team leader at Play and Youth Service Bolton, said: “Each session is aimed at supporting children and young people with their physical, emotional and social development.

“They are very much young person-led and the children can come and go as they please, with no requirement to come to every session.”

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The Play and Youth Service has run sessions throughout the past 18 months, in line with local and national restrictions, ensuring vulnerable and cared for children are looked after in small bubbles.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Play and Youth Service ran day trips and residentials for the groups and they’re hoping these can run again once current restrictions ease, later in the year.

This summer, there will be an extended programme of events and holiday clubs as the council has secured additional funding for children in receipt of free school meals.

Dominic added: “The Covid recovery plan is aimed at encouraging children and young people to reconnect socially with their peers and meet new people.

“It’s free, open access and inclusive for everyone.”

Bolton Council’s free holiday activities and food programme

The government-funded holiday activities and food programme (HAF) is aimed at providing healthy food and enriching activities for primary and secondary school children across the borough.

The sessions are part funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and co-ordinated and delivered by Bolton Council.

The handy ‘what’s on’ guide includes all the information you need to find out what activities are available in your postcode, with many borough-wide and others postcode-specific.

One seven-year-old boy with autism in foster care has attended the youth and play holiday schemes for the past two years.

When he first started, the group environment made him feel anxious but after working with his carers and teachers at school, he can now enjoy it with minimal support from adults.

His foster carer said: “These events give our child routine when he’s not in school and has given him somewhere safe to play.

“He never used to play with other children whereas now he does it provides us with the security of knowing he can play and learn in a safe and enriching environment.

“He really looks forward to going and these services have made a massive difference to all our lives.”

All sessions are subject to a first come first served policy.

More information about the scheme is available by visiting www.bolton.gov.uk/HAF