Summer holiday food, activities and childcare programme: evaluation report - summer 2022

Evaluation report for the 2022 summer holiday food, activities and childcare programme (summer 2022). The research draws in-depth qualitative findings from a selected group of local authorities and some quantitative findings.

7. Key learning from the 2022 Summer Programme

This chapter summarises key learning from the 2022 Summer Programme. It highlights key themes that have emerged in previous chapters in relation to maximising the benefits of the Programme, as well as drawing on the views of local authorities across Scotland (as shared in the local authority workshop at the end of the fieldwork period) on the funding model and suggested improvements.

Maximising benefits for families

A wide range of activities were delivered through the Summer Programme funding in line with the intended outputs of the logic model. The funding had enabled local authorities and their partner organisations to improve their summer provision for CYP by: enhancing their existing provision; increasing the reach of existing activities to the target groups; adding new activities to their summer provision.

The families who shared their experiences of attending the 2022 Summer Programme as part of this evaluation highlighted various ways in which the Summer Programme was perceived to have benefited and supported them.

Apart from CYP enjoying funded activities and having something to look forward to, perceived benefits for CYP included: developing their knowledge, skills and confidence through trying new things or spending time outside of their usual environment; having the opportunity to socialise with peers and to connect with other adults; building social skills; and having consistent access to food throughout the holidays. These factors contributed to an overall sense that the Summer Programme had boosted CYP's mental and physical wellbeing.

When activities facilitated parents being able to work or have respite time to do other things, this was seen as a significant advantage of the Summer Programme. Parents who attended funded activities along with their children also reported various benefits in doing so, primarily increased mental wellbeing. Wider impacts for families included reduced pressure on household budgets, as well as enabling parents to spend more time with other children in the household while CYP attended the Programme (something that was particularly impactful for families where the child attending activities had ASN).

Key features of the Summer Programme that helped to maximise positive impacts for families included:

  • The range and choice of activities offered. The wide range of activities on offer and giving CYP a choice in what activities they went to was seen to enhance their experience and increase the appeal of the Summer Programme. When CYP had the opportunity to try activities they had not done before, this helped to achieve positive outcomes including building confidence and new skills.
  • The timing of activities was critical in determining how useful the Programme was at enabling parents to work or have respite. Longer activities, particularly playschemes with similar (or longer) timings to a school day, tended to be better for working parents.
  • The flexibility of targeting criteria was viewed positively among providers, particularly in relation to maximising the reach of the funding. While there was an appreciation of having clear criteria, providers stressed the importance of being able to apply their local knowledge and there was an appreciation of being able to use 15% of funding outside the TCPDP groups where they identified a need.
  • Food provision. While families who took part in this evaluation tended to see the food provision as secondary to the activities, partners described situations where food provision had been key to supporting participation among lower income families. A further learning was that, when food was incorporated into activities, for example including CYP in preparing their food or having cooking sessions, this could lead to additional benefits.
  • Partnership working was viewed as a key strength of the Summer Programme. Perceived advantages included boosting the range and number of activities on offer, and enhanced targeting and reach in cases where partners had developed close relationships with CYP and their families and a deeper understanding of their needs.
  • Effective communication with families was important in maximising attendance and reducing stigma. Effective approaches included: communicating via partners with existing relationships with families; issuing reminders; and investing more time in approaching families in difficult circumstances, for example visiting them at home (although time to do this was limited). Providers identified various ways in which they had reduced stigma such as careful use of language on communications; using place-based approaches (rather than targeting individuals); and assuring parents of confidentiality if they received a funded place at a universal programme.
  • Providing transport, where possible, had helped make the Summer Programme more accessible and easier to attend.

Potential barriers

While this evaluation found that the Summer Programme generally met the needs of target families, there were some challenges discussed across both planning and delivery of the Programme, where further action may be needed to further reduce barriers to achieving the desired outcomes for CYP and families. These challenges included:

  • The timing of funding. This was the main challenge discussed by providers, causing various issues. The short lead-in time made it more difficult for providers to plan the programme, to recruit staff, and to engage in partnership working. This had consequences for delivery, primarily in terms of the capacity and reach of the Programme.
  • Staffing the offer. Providers highlighted structural issues around staff with the appropriate skillset typically needing to take their annual leave during the summer, as well as a lack of sessional staff with the appropriate training to support CYP with ASN. While more lead-in time could help to ease these pressures, there was a view that a general lack of staff remains a challenge.
  • Targeting the offer. Practical issues when targeting families were discussed by providers, including difficulties identifying families in the TCPDP groups. Short timescales limited the time available for targeting and could also lead to problems liaising with schools once they had closed for the holidays. For some authorities, there was uncertainty around the targeting criteria, specifically around inviting families that were not on a low-income (but fell into a TCPDP group); what is meant by offering 'childcare'; and the guidance on providing for CYP with ASN.
  • Transport barriers. Activities that were far away or difficult to get to could be a barrier to CYP attending activities at all, or negatively affect parents' ability to work effectively either by requiring travel time or a shift in working arrangements to fit around the provision. The main challenge to providing free transport to all CYP was the expense.
  • Other cross-cutting barriers to attendance for families included activities that were too short for parents to leave their children for a meaningful amount of time; providers not having enough time to provide extra support to engage families in challenging circumstances; instances where activities incurred direct or indirect costs or, alternatively, a perceived lack of commitment among families when activities were free; and a lack of appeal of activities or anxiety among CYP about attending.
  • Provision in rural areas. There was an acknowledgement among providers in rural areas of some inequity of provision due to logistical issues and budgetary constraints.
  • Ensuring appropriate staffing to support CYP with ASN to take part.
    While there were various examples of actions taken by providers to make activities accessible to those with ASN, there were particular staffing pressures due to the extra training required to work with this group. A further challenge was the need for children and young people with ASN to be supported by staff who know them and understand their needs.
  • Catering for refugee families. Local authorities who had experiences of planning provision for refugee families noted difficulties reaching these families and ensuring they felt included at activities. It was recognised that more could be done, for example having interpreters at programmes.
  • Concerns about managing expectations. There were concerns raised among providers that families will expect to receive a similar level of support in future summer holidays as has been available in the 2022 programme and the 2021 Get into Summer Programme. This was linked to uncertainty about future funding and related timescales, discussed in more detail below.

Future funding: what works and what could be improved

Overall, providers were broadly happy with the model for funding for the Summer Programme. There was support for the funding going through local authorities, for the flexible approach to the criteria, and for the inclusion of food provision as part of the offer. The focus on partnerships and opportunities to connect with other local authorities to share best practice was also highlighted as a strength of the funding this year.

When it came to what could be improved, the timescale of the funding was a strong theme. There was a clear appetite for the funding to be awarded much earlier, ideally at least a year in advance, to support the planning process. However, there was general agreement among providers that a different funding model is needed to make any future Summer Programme effective. An annual fund to cover all holiday periods, or a multi-year funding approach were identified as ways to better support delivery organisations with their planning.

While the application process was considered to be straightforward for some, not all delivery partners found it easy to complete. There was a perception that the process can be onerous and is not consistent across different local authorities, which may be off-putting for some organisations. It was suggested that a more user-friendly and supportive application process would help to widen the pool of providers applying for funding.

There was also a suggestion that the monitoring and reporting process could be improved. The time required to complete the monitoring templates was perceived to be significant and not accounted for as part of the funding. It was therefore suggested that a simplified template with guidance on how to complete it would help to save time and clarify to delivery partners what is needed. Furthermore, there were providers who felt uncomfortable collecting the information required to determine whether or not families fell into the TCPDP groups, leading to gaps in monitoring reports as well as affecting their ability to target provision.



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