Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell has asked the Education Secretary about the effectiveness of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme in parliament this week.

Caroline regularly visits HAF initiatives in the town and is a supporter of the scheme.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Caroline asked Gillian Keegan what recent assessment her department has made of the effectiveness of HAF.

“I have seen at first hand just how brilliant the Government-backed holiday activities and food programmes are for children and young people and their families in Eastbourne,” the MP explained.

“In one magical piece of feedback, a little girl at the Art House café sidled up to me and said, ‘One day I will own a place just like this,’ and I have seen the same energy across the piece.

“Given that we are hoping that there is a connection between attendance and HAF uptake, what more can we do to provide and promote opportunities for children and young people with SEND, and also for the 11-plus and early teens?”

In reply the secretary of state said: “When it launched, HAF was the first summer camp for hundreds of thousands of children – 70% had never experienced a holiday club before – and this summer, 4,000 children benefited in East Sussex.

“HAF is open to children from ages five to 16. Local authorities should meet the needs of all cohorts, including by offering programmes for older children and those with special educational needs. I urge all honourable members to visit their local HAF over the Christmas recess; they really are heart-warming.”

She added the programme supported 685,000 children nationally last summer.

“We know the positive impacts that these programmes are having on a range of issues, such as by improving attendance…. and there is also strong evidence that they improve health, behaviour and confidence in children,” she added.