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.

2. Overview of the Summer Programme and planning the offer

Key points


  • 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 or expanding existing provision;
  • increasing the reach of existing activities to the target groups; and
  • adding new activities to their summer provision.
  • The ways in which programmes were designed in order to reach the target groups ranged from universally available services with some funded places, to activities for specific target groups only, such as programmes for CYP with ASN, vulnerable families, and refugees.
  • In general, healthy free food was provided at Summer Programme activities. Free transport was typically only provided if a need was identified.


  • A number of challenges were identified in relation to programme planning, including:
  • a lack of capacity among existing teams and difficulties recruiting suitably trained, seasonal staff.
  • the timing of the confirmation of the Summer Programme funding and subsequent short lead-in times, resulting in difficulties reaching the target groups, the quality and design of provision, and procuring services and value for money.
  • food provision challenges such as minimising food waste, preparation time and the need for all day food provision.
  • the expense of providing free transport to all CYP.

The overall aim of the Summer Programme 2022 was to ensure that eligible children and families benefited from a range of childcare, activities and food provision that met their needs during the summer holidays, while the intended outputs from the programme logic model highlight more specific aims including:

  • provision of a range of childcare and activity sessions
  • new/innovative holiday activities
  • appropriate food provision
  • accessible transport
  • support for low-income families.

With these outputs in mind, this chapter describes the range and types of activities that Summer Programme funding supported, and the different ways in which they were delivered, before going on to look at how providers planned their programmes and the challenges they experienced in doing so.

Range and delivery of funded activities

Range of activities

Overall, the Summer Programme was successful in providing childcare and a wide range of activities for CYP and families who engaged in the Programme (Table 2.1). These included playschemes, activity clubs, sports camps, youth groups, outings and day trips, and regional hubs or 'roadshows', where activity sessions took place in a different rural community each week. There were also examples of local authorities purchasing or discounting places in registered childcare provision or providing vouchers to CYP to allow them to choose from a range of different activities in their local area.

"We gave vouchers to kids to then access stuff in the holidays that they wouldn't have been able to, because their parents couldn't [afford it]. So then they got a £100 voucher and they could choose what they wanted to do."

(Local authority representative, local authority 2)

Table 2.1: examples of activities delivered
Choice of a range of activities / opportunities to try new things Percentage of local authorities offering this (data covers at least 27 LAs in each instance)
Sports/active: football; basketball; netball; dance; skateboarding; cricket; rugby; park games; horse riding; water sports; skiing; surfing; mountain biking; sports tournaments 96%
Outdoor activities: den building; orienteering; outdoor learning; geocaching; beach picnic; bug hunts; mud kitchens 89%
Arts/STEM: music; media; computing; photography; arts and crafts; drama; media; graffiti workshops 86%
Specific programme for children with an ASN 86%
Play: Lego; storytelling; free play; messy play; scavenger hunts 79%
Trips/holidays: farms; safari parks; laser tag; Edinburgh Dungeons, residentials, family holidays 74%
Transition activities: various activities specifically for those starting primary /secondary school 68%
Community projects and events: painting an underpass; litter picking; recycling; gardening; mural design; street play; gala days; pop up roadshows 64%
Passes for community facilities: leisure facilities; community attractions; travel passes 61%
Intensive family support: 3rd sector organisations working with families (e.g., Women's Aid, Children First), therapeutic programmes 50%
Access to support organisations: facilitated access to support agencies (e.g., welfare rights); introductions / reconnections with agencies / support workers through staff joining trips 43%
Vocational activities: work with local employers; local colleges, team building 41%

Providers took a range of different approaches to the design and delivery of their programmes, including the provision of food and transport, summarised below.

Across the 24 local authorities that provided relevant data, 26% of total spend was spent on food provision.

Across the 18 local authorities that provided relevant data, 10% of total spend was spent on ASN provision.

Enhancing existing activities and facilitating new offers

The delivery of the Summer Programme funding varied across different local authorities in terms of the extent to which they delivered activities in-house or funded external partner organisations to deliver them.

In general, the funding had enabled local authorities and partner organisations to improve their summer provision for CYP. In some cases, additional funding had been provided by local authorities to further expand provision. For example, one local authority made it free for all CYP to attend a programme after the Summer Programme funding had been used to fund places for target families.

"[Partner provider] were running [provision]. Once our local elected members found out that there was going to be free affordable childcare, they then put funding towards it so that the universal service was also free."

(Local authority representative, local authority 7)

Various ways in which local authorities had provided additionality to their summer provision included:

  • enhancing or expanding existing provision: the funding had been used by providers to enhance or expand existing provision (for example, offering a wider range of activities and trips, that would otherwise have been unaffordable), or increasing the length or frequency of existing activities, by offering longer or more sessions.

"[Without the funding] we would have only been able to do a reduced version of [the programme], we couldn't have taken them [on trips]."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 8)

  • increasing the reach of existing activities to the target groups: the funding had also been used by providers to include more CYP from low-income families. For example, by offering free places to these CYP, or hiring more staff which allowed for increased capacity.

"The funding allowed us to employ [more] staff which meant we didn't have to income generate to bring those staff in. That meant we could bring in extra kids […] For example, it allowed our sports camp to allow an extra ten places per day for free for the identified young people."

(Local authority representative, local authority 8)

"So, it wasn't like we set up bespoke services to deliver that, they were already [set up]…and so we provided some additionality or we said can we pay for ten kids to come to the football academy, for example."

(Local authority representative, local authority 2)

  • adding new activities to their summer provision: entirely new programmes had been delivered over the holidays, such as playschemes and sports camps targeting low-income families. This included existing providers who ran sessions during term-time being able to also offer sessions across the summer holidays.

"There was our football camps [and] there was certainly more trips out to places, wildlife parks and things like that too. So, that was all new, [we] wouldn't have been able to fund that before."

(Local authority representative, local authority 2)

Design of programmes

The design of programmes also varied. Some were designed with the main aim of providing childcare, enabling parents to work or train during the summer. These tended to provide longer running, daily sessions - for example, playschemes running all day, from Monday to Friday, for several weeks over the summer. However, there were also examples of providers that were only able to offer full-day sessions for two or three days a week. It is worth noting, however, that there was some uncertainty among local authorities as to what constituted 'childcare'.

"Childcare was in the title but then it was still quite loose within the criteria which was great, because a lot of our stuff you could be like, 'Is that childcare?' But then they [Scottish Government] were very much like, ''No, no, it doesn't have to be regulated childcare, it can be, like a multisport camp counts as childcare or what not', so maybe just a bit of a tweak of the language in there would help us, because you did have a lot of people going like, 'We don't know how to provide childcare, like what does that mean?'"

(Local authority representative, local authority 6)

Other programmes, often those delivered by partner organisations, focused more on other outcomes for CYP and parents and tended to offer shorter, weekly or twice weekly sessions. The length and frequency of these sessions varied - from one or two hours to a full day, and one-off sessions to those that ran across the holiday. Providers emphasised the benefits of the Summer Programme for CYP in the target groups.

"One of things we have said, this is all about childcare for parents to get into employability, but there is also aspects from a poverty perspective, not just financial poverty, but poverty of experience. Children are getting to meet with their friends in a place that is safe, where they are learning other skills, where they are getting social connections that they would maybe not get had they been at home."

(Local authority representative, local authority 8)

There was also variance in the scope of the activities that were delivered. While some sessions were run for CYP only, others offered wider family involvement and support, where parents were invited to attend some, or all, of the sessions. For example, there were providers who delivered support services for vulnerable families during term-time who ran family days and activities during the summer. Providers could also offer support or signpost parents to support services if needed.

"We had [a] family games hub […] It was about the family choosing what activity they wanted to participate in and doing that with their children. So, it could have been like arts and crafts, games and some STEM activities."

(Local authority representative, local authority 3)


As described in Chapter 1, the Scottish Government provided guidance on the target audience for the funding. The ways in which programmes were designed in order to reach these groups ranged from universally available services with some funded places, to activities for specific target groups only. The qualitative nature of the evaluation does not allow for comparisons of the effectiveness of different approaches to be made.

Universal services were open to all CYP, but had funded places made available to low-income families (or other target groups, such as CYP with ASN), in addition to paid places for CYP from the non-target groups. Target families were typically referred to these providers through schools or social work services.

Place-based approaches, where services were based in areas of multiple deprivation, were another means of reaching the intended groups. Although anyone could attend, locations were chosen so that most families were likely to fall into the target groups. As discussed in more detail in Chapter 3, this was considered to be helpful in minimising stigma of attending and was felt to work best when services already operated in the area and had existing relationships with families.

"We are based in a community that experiences multiple deprivation and a lot of social issues, and naturally a lot of the young people that engage with our provision, fit within a lot of the targeted groups."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 6)

However, there was also an example of a local authority who used the flexible element of the funding to target rural areas outwith areas of high deprivation where they knew there was a support need for low-income families.

"We would prioritise [funding] applications that came in that were located within areas with higher levels of need based on the SIMD data. But ... as a local authority we have a lot of rural poverty […] For example, in [local area], we know there is huge need there, so we did support some activities there."

(Local authority representative, local authority 1)

There were also examples of providers who delivered programmes and sessions aimed at particular groups of CYP - these included:

  • activities for children and young people with ASN, for example specialised play and arts and craft activities, sports/physical activities, and day trips
  • sessions aimed at children transitioning from primary to secondary school
  • programmes for children and young people from families with support needs - including families with mental health issues, substance misuse problems, and victims of domestic abuse
  • young carer groups
  • refugee families - for example, activities for Ukrainian or Syrian families.

Food provision

The Summer Programme appeared largely successful in delivering its outcome of providing children with consistent access to nutritious food during the school holidays. Indeed, there was a recognised need for this among local authority and partner providers.

"There [was] a definite wish for us to provide food. I think it makes a massive difference to families - food poverty in the school holidays is very real. [If] there was food left over, we always just gave that away to the families, and people would never refuse it."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 1)

Providers reported that food was generally offered at Summer Programme activities. When lunch was offered, it tended to be a packed lunch, or a hot meal if the venue's facilities allowed. Snacks included fruit, yoghurt and 'treats' like flapjacks or plain biscuits. In general, the Scottish Government's school meal nutritional guidelines were followed and used healthy ingredients as much as possible - typically this meant no fried food, no sugary snacks or drinks, no plain white bread, no chocolate and the use of low fat or low salt ingredients.

Where lunches were not provided, reasons given were: session length and timing; experience from 2021 of lack of demand and resulting high levels of food waste; and, in one case, a planning oversight.

Providers delivered food in different ways, either preparing it on-site or using third party suppliers, for example, the local authority's catering team or local caterers. There were also examples of CYP being involved in food preparation by helping to make their own lunches or by taking part in specific cooking and baking activities.

Transport provision

Provision of accessible transport was a further output of the Summer Programme.

The location of the venues of the different programmes ranged from provision hosted at centrally based locations in a local authority, to those based in targeted areas of high deprivation or in rural areas. However, while free transport was provided to all CYP for outings such as day trips and excursions, free transport provision to regular venues varied and was generally only provided if the need was identified - for example funded taxis for families with social anxiety issues (and not comfortable using public transport), or CYP with ASN from families without their own means of transport.

Further, free transport was also offered in some settings to allow CYP based in rural locations to attend sessions or events that they would have been unable to attend using public transport.

"A lot of [the children] came from some of our rural communities […] So although [the venue] might have been a local place in [the city], children came from some of our rural communities and they were transported in, because we know this was quite a barrier."

(Local authority representative, local authority 1)

Programme planning


Programmes were typically planned using existing knowledge of what works, gained through relationships with local partners and families and experience of delivering similar provision, including the findings of evaluations of previous summer programmes. This experience had been used to make improvements to service delivery, such as streamlining administrative processes, communicating more effectively with families, and identifying staff training needs in advance (such as training to work with CYP with autism and other ASN).

"We built on our learning from previous years and previous evaluations to make sure that we were constantly meeting the needs of the parents […] And we learned things around [CYP's] social and emotional needs, and that those might be more than [our partner organisations] anticipated."

(Local authority representative, local authority 7)

Providing choice

Providing CYP with a choice of activities was an intended outcome of the programme and something providers described incorporating into the planning stages. However, they typically felt limited in the extent to which they could involve CYP in this due to the short lead-in time available and relied instead on their previous experience.

"If there was a longer run-in, we'd just have so much more time to plans things and get out to more kids and offer new activities. We could have enhanced the levels of engagement and got kids involved in the planning."

(Local authority representative, local authority 8)

There were, however, some examples of activities being co-created with CYP - such as through consultation sessions, conversations with CYP and families in advance of the summer holidays, or planning sessions with CYP either towards the start of a programme or an ongoing basis to inform the provision of future activities.

"A really important part of the project was to involve children in the planning. So, I designed the first session in terms of how do we go about helping children make decisions? [And] then the children decided what they would like to do for the second session."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 1)


Summer programmes can, of course, only be delivered with sufficient and suitably trained staff to plan and deliver them.

Within local authorities, programme planning was generally carried out by core staff, given responsibility for the allocation of Summer Programme funding, along with input from other staff from various service areas (including childcare, family support, community learning and development, health and wellbeing, and leisure) who helped design provision. Within partner organisations, managers and team leaders tended to be those responsible for funding applications and planning. The delivery of programmes was largely carried out by a mix of permanent full-time or part-time staff, with seasonal staff and volunteers recruited if necessary.

A number of challenges were identified by providers in regard to staffing, all of which were felt to be exacerbated by the short lead-in time from confirmation of funding and delivery of programmes. Firstly, teams responsible for the planning and oversight of the delivery of the programmes did not always feel they had the capacity to do this. The impact of this on these staff is discussed in Chapter 6.

Secondly, those seeking seasonal staff described difficulties recruiting suitably qualified staff for the summer holidays, within the lead-in time available. In part, this was thought to be due to competition among childcare providers for seasonal staff during the run up to the school holidays, but it was also attributed to wider difficulties recruiting staff to the childcare sector (and care sector in general).

"It's a nightmare. I think this is not just a local problem, it is a national problem to try and recruit staff at the moment. Even for permanent posts, not just sessional posts […] It has definitely been harder this year, more options for people. [They] can go work in Asda and make more money and it is not as intense as this."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 1)

Local authority providers from regions that did not have afterschool club provision noted that, because of this, they had a smaller pool of existing staff to draw upon for summer and so were more reliant on the external recruitment of staff.

The short lead-in times also meant that providers did not have enough time to properly train and embed temporary staff - this was important for staff working with CYP in areas of high deprivation or with ASN, where staff need time to train and then develop trusting relationships with these groups.

"When you work with children from areas like this it can take time for them to warm up to staff."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 5)

In particular, both local authority and partner providers identified a growing need within childcare for training for seasonal staff to work with CYP with ASN.

"A lot of the staff were only employed for four weeks. So, we are saying, 'How do we get experienced staff when we are only employing people for four weeks of the year?' […] I mean [they had] basic training, like child protection training, first aid training, and general awareness training. But there wasn't the kind of training that the staff would need to be able to manage the children [with autism]. That is something that we are looking at for future provision."

(Local authority representative, local authority 7)

Challenges of planning activities within a short timeframe

In line with the findings from 2021, it was clear that the main challenge to planning summer provision was the timing of the confirmation and receipt of the Summer Programme funding. Local authority providers reported receiving confirmation of their funding allocation in April, while partner providers generally said they received confirmation of their funding from local authorities in June, weeks before the start of the summer holidays.

In some cases, partners did not receive confirmation until days before the start of their programme and, at the extreme end, were those who reported having been close to cancelling their programme altogether or who had to use their own (limited) funds to book and plan their summer programme.

"The timescales were very short […] I had to start spending money [to book trips], so we had to dip into our reserves and we don't really have reserves. I ended up getting in touch [with the local authority] and said, 'If you don't give me the money by Friday, we will have to cancel the holiday programme.' They were really receptive to that and apologetic and we got the money very shortly after."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 8)

In addition to staffing challenges, the short lead-in time had a number of other perceived impacts on provision planning, including:

  • reaching the target groups: providers noted that a longer planning period would have afforded them more time to work with schools and local services, to identify and refer more CYP from the target groups. In addition, for programmes that accepted self-referral applications from families, more time would have allowed for screening applicants to ensure that places were going to eligible families.
  • impacts on the quality and design of provision: there was consensus that a longer planning period would have allowed providers to expand and enhance the quality of their provision, for example to start programmes earlier in the summer holidays, to provide a wider range of activities, to involve CYP in the co-creation of activities, or to book and secure trips or activities in advance.

"We are really committed to trying to give these children and their families the best possible experience over the holidays but I don't think we were actually really enabled to do that because of the timescales."

(Local authority representative, local authority 7)

  • funding applications: local authority providers said that, with more time, they might have received submissions from a wider pool of applicants. It was thought that the short timescales meant only those with sufficient staffing and resources in place were able to apply. They would also have had more time to review applications and potentially outsource more provision to external providers, which in turn would have taken some of the burden off local authority services. Further, partner providers felt that if they had more time to plan and consider their applications they could have enhanced their provision or asked for additional funding if required.

"Because of how quick the turnaround was we couldn't really ask for that much [funding], because there was a limit to what we could actually achieve at such short notice. For example, if we were wanting to book tickets to places there would be no guarantee that there would be spaces left."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 1)

  • procuring services and value for money: there was also a sense that programmes could have been run more cost-effectively had there been more notice, giving more time to explore options, for example, venue hire, identifying and booking trips, and transport or food provision.

The ability to effectively deliver provision within the lead-in time was linked to the existing provision and partnerships already in place within a local authority. Those with little existing provision found it more challenging, having to spend more time developing new activities or reaching out to partner organisations.

The change to the funding criteria in 2022 had also had an impact on advance planning. Where providers had expectations that criteria would be in-line with 2021 funding, they had to alter their plans once they had the details for 2022 .

These challenges also meant that there were local authorities who reported an underspend.

Food and transport challenges

While providers felt that it was important to be able to offer free food to low-income families, they identified a number of challenges in planning and delivering this provision. These included:

  • minimising food waste: providers talked about the challenges of balancing the food preferences of CYP with the need to follow Scottish Government school meal nutritional guidelines. Examples were given of CYP who they felt could be described as 'fussy eaters' bringing their own packed lunches and of providers compromising on the guidelines in order to ensure CYP ate, or to encourage return attendance.

"Young people are not going to say, 'We want [food at activities] to be the exact same as school meals.' … they want a bit of respite from that. They want to be able to have a can of juice on a hot, sunny day."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 6)

Variable attendance at programmes could also result in food waste where attendance was lower than expected on a given day.

  • the staff time required to source and prepare food, particularly, when there were a variety of dietary needs to be catered for.
  • among providers of all-day activity sessions the need for free food provision throughout the day: while this was identified as a need, providers noted they had not planned for nor received sufficient funding to allow this. Examples were given of CYP arriving hungry in the mornings, without having had breakfast. Some programmes said they were able to offer CYP fruit or yoghurt. However, in other cases, CYP would buy unhealthy snacks from a tuck shop if no other alternative food was available at that time.

"We really need to look at how do we provide, not just the lunch, but … some kind of breakfast, and it needs to be provided in a way that children can take what they need when they need it, rather than having to pay for sweets at half past nine in the morning."

(Local authority representative, local authority 7)

  • as described above, free transport provision to regular venues was generally only provided if the need was identified. The main challenge to providing free transport to all CYP was the expense. While this had been provided in some local authorities in 2021, reduced funding allocations in 2022 meant this was not possible this year.

"The funding was planned differently this year so some of the supplementary stuff that we managed to put in last year missed out. Plus, there was more money last year."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 8)

  • availability of some transport options was a further challenge: one provider mentioned a lack of coaches in an area that had seen local companies go into liquidation during the Covid-19 pandemic. The timing of the funding announcement made finding available transport challenging and trips had to be planned around coach availability. Another highlighted logistical issues with having enough staff with a licence to drive a minibus.



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