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.

3. Participation and reach

Key points

  • Local authorities worked closely with partner organisations to identify and reach the intended target groups, using a range of approaches. These approaches related to both the type of programme and its specific target audience.
  • A mix of wider advertising and direct invitations was employed to communicate the Programme.
  • Providers had considered how to engage families in a non-stigmatising way and this appeared to have been largely successful.
  • Facilitators to effective and non-stigmatising communication included: having positive, existing relationships with families; the use of place-based approaches; careful use of language; assuring parents of confidentiality.
  • Broadly speaking, providers were pleased with the level of attendance at activities. However, there was variation, from activities being full and operating waiting lists to those being withdrawn due to low attendance.
  • Cross-cutting barriers to participation in Summer Programme activities included: activities being free meaning no consequences for families to sign up and then not attend; families living in challenging circumstances struggling to prioritise activities; associated costs for attending; transport barriers; appeal, choice and description of activities.
  • Cross-cutting enablers included: providing free activities and including food; existing positive relationships with families; issuing reminders and operating waiting lists; and making activities as easy as possible to get to.
  • Provision for CYP with ASN was delivered by both adapting universal provision running targeted provision for CYP with ASN only. Additional challenges were faced delivering these programmes, in particular having suitably qualified staff.

This chapter assesses the reach of the 2022 Summer Programme. In particular, it relates to the participation/reach component of the logic model and considers whether, as intended, the funding reached CYP in all local authorities and was primarily spent on children aged 5-14 from low income families from groups identified in the TCPDP (see Chapter 1). It begins with discussion of the ways in which the Summer Programme was advertised and communicated to the target audience. This is followed by analysis of data from the local authority monitoring data on the level of participation in the Summer Programme, including the limitations of what can be concluded from this data, and providers' views on overall attendance. Finally, evidence from the qualitative research with families, as well as professionals involved in the design and delivery of activities, is used to consider barriers to participation and ways in which these might be overcome.

Advertising and communicating the programmes to the target audience

This section explores how local authorities and delivery partners identified target audiences and then communicated the activities to them in a non-stigmatising way.

Defining the target audience

The target audience for the Summer Programme Funding is detailed in Chapter 1, while ways in which programmes were designed in order to reach these target groups are covered in Chapter 2.

Local authorities described various methods of identifying the target families, which tended to be linked to the programme design and its specific target audience. For example, different approaches to reaching target families were used for programmes that were universally available (but offered some funded or discounted places); those only available to low income families; and those for more specific groups (e.g. children with ASN).

For low income families, the principal approach to identifying eligible families was to focus on income rather than on the basis of their TCPDP priority group characteristics. Ways of doing this included:

  • the use of central management information systems detailing families eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) or school clothing grants;
  • creating income thresholds whereby families whose self-certified income fell below the threshold were eligible.

Providers described difficulties identifying families in the six priority groups directly due to a lack of available data sources. However, there were exceptions to this, with families with children with ASN and some minority ethnic families (refugee families in particular) being reached via partners working with these groups. Notwithstanding whether or not the six priority groups were directly targeted, families reached were largely from these groups, as would be expected given 90% of children living in poverty in Scotland fall into one or more of these groups.

Place-based approaches were a further means of attempting to ensure provision reached those likely to be on low incomes. In these cases, programmes and services were situated in areas of multiple deprivation where families were more likely to be low income. Having an existing presence in the community and established relationships with target families was a further feature of place-based approaches. There were examples of this approach being used to reach communities considered to be isolated due to their rurality. Typically, programmes using place-based approaches offered places to all families in the community.

As described in Chapter 2, specific groups of CYP were also included under the 15% of funding which could be used more flexibly. These included: ASN, refugees, care experienced, transitions, mental health/wellbeing, child protection, ESOL, young carers, substance misuse, and LGBT young people.

Providers also made use of existing knowledge of family circumstances to identify and reach those who may not formally meet the criteria but have a known need.

"She might not have formally ticked all the boxes, but actually it made all the difference to her. So, [partners] had that freedom to allocate some of those places to their own families, if you like, that they knew, but we didn't necessarily, and we wouldn't necessarily know all of that detail."

(Local authority representative, local authority 2)

Advertising the Summer Programme

Methods used to communicate the offer varied in line with the programme design and the target audience i.e., whether it was open to all or for a specific audience only. Where appropriate, multiple approaches were used by individual programmes.

Direct invitations tended to be sent via email or text from organisations with existing databases of their target groups or from schools who used knowledge of their families to invite eligible families.

Wider advertising took the form of promotion via websites, social media, posters and brochures and tended to be employed where programmes were more universally available. While the advertising was typically aimed at parents rather than CYP, there was mention of deliberately placing posters in locations where they would be spotted by CYP, in order that they were not reliant on their parents seeing advertising. The impact of children having access to promotional materials was highlighted by a provider, describing a family who had only attended due to the child seeing promotional materials and requesting to attend.

"[One parent] was very honest and said that it was only because [her son] had seen the list that they came along. But, if we had just gone to her phone, he wouldn't have seen that. […] I think this is a mum that really struggled to go out and finds it difficult mixing with people. But having that motivation of her son wanting to go [made a difference]."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 1)

Parents also reported hearing about the programmes via word of mouth, for example from others who were attending.

Regardless of the way in which they had heard about or been invited to the programme, parents tended to be happy with the method. While there were some suggestions that programmes could be more widely advertised it may be that, in these cases, providers had decided to target invitations directly instead. Providers noted that advertising widely can result in spaces being taken up by parents who are not facing challenging circumstances and tend to be quicker to respond.

Communicating in a non-stigmatising way

Providers had clearly given a great deal of consideration to how best to engage target families in programmes and ensuring they did so in a way that minimised any stigma that might be associated with attending. With a small number of exceptions, parents did not report feeling stigmatised by being invited to attend (this was not discussed explicitly in the parent interviews unless raised by the parent), and appreciated being offered the provision, suggesting that the methods employed by providers had been largely successful.

"It was quite nice when [football coach] told us about them, because […] he knows most of us, our situation at home as well, so like he knew we can't afford the family holidays like camps which he is organising when he is at work. So, he said to me, this is free, you don't have to pay for the camp so maybe [child] can come along and, yes, he was really nice."

(Parent of child aged 10, local authority 2)

One lone parent did feel a degree of stigma, having been offered the provision due to her circumstances. However, on balance, she was pleased to have received it.

"There's always two sides to it [being invited directly], feeling a bit like 'why is this offered to me?' but, on the flip side, it's amazing. For the rest of the holidays, I was getting friends and family to watch her while I'm at work. They had holiday club but it was too expensive […] just being a single parent, it is great the help that you get but especially now everyone's aware that people like single parents get that help, it creates stigma that you need help more than anyone else."

(Parent of child aged 7, local authority 6)

Facilitators to effective and non-stigmatising communication included:

  • having positive, existing relationships with families: families were felt to be more likely to respond in a positive manner to invitations when they came from professionals they were already engaged with. Cross-sector working, particularly with schools and third sector organisations, was key to this;
  • the use of place-based approaches which are open to all within a community. Linked to the above point, these approaches were most effective when organisations had an existing presence in the communities;
  • careful use of language in communicating the offer, ensuring they were not explicitly communicating the reasons families were being invited;
  • making sure efforts to minimise stigma also cover the delivery stage by and assuring parents of confidentiality: where funded places were offered at universal programmes, efforts were made to ensure that neither delivery staff nor other attendees knew who had a funded place. One method was to provide families with vouchers to book onto activities of their choosing.

However, there were factors which made engaging with the right families, and doing so in a non-stigmatising way, challenging. Firstly, and as described in Chapter 2, the short lead-in time limited opportunities to target families via existing relationships. The target criteria were also discussed by providers. Specifically, they noted the decisions they had to make around families who fall into one of the six priority groups but who they know are not low-income.

"One of the criteria was if you had three or more children […] and I thought … 'that is just about every kid in my school'. Actually, it certainly would have been for me, I had more than three children, but I wouldn't have needed it. My view was they needed to hit the benefit criteria and be one of those, rather than one of those [TCPDP priority groups] in its isolation, so that was how I was trying to target it because otherwise we could have been offering it as I say to everybody."

(Local authority representative, local authority 2)

Examples were also provided of instances in which processes had slipped up. In one case, a school had sent the invitation to all families rather than only target ones, resulting in places largely being taken up by families who were not the intended target group. In other cases, parents described not having been aware that they were being offered a funded or subsidised place at a childcare programme until they were at the booking stage. While these parents would have used the provision anyway, there may be other parents who would have signed up for programmes, had they known they were eligible for subsidised places.

Estimating participation in the 2022 Summer Programme

Data submitted from 29 local authorities shows that a minimum of 158,292 children and young people attended activities throughout the 2022 Summer Programme. However, it is important to note that this is a minimum estimate due to missing data from three local authorities and the provision of various 'drop in' activities where attendance data could not be accurately recorded. Although local authorities felt they had been able to reach the target audience sufficiently, it was not possible with the data collected to objectively measure the extent to which the funding was used to support children from low income families.

Providers' views on attendance

Broadly speaking, providers were pleased with the level of attendance at Summer Programme activities. As would be expected, however, there was variation, with some activities being full and operating waiting lists and others being withdrawn due to low attendance. In some cases, attendance was reported to be on a par with 2021 while, in others, it was lower. It was suggested that attendance in 2021 may have been particularly high due to the stage of the Covid-19 pandemic at that time - families were looking to start doing things again but may have been less likely to go on holiday than they would in a normal year.

Providers acknowledged that they did not always know the reasons for low attendance, particularly in cases where attendance on the day was substantially lower than registered numbers. The discussion on barriers that follows is therefore speculative to a degree. Furthermore, it is important to note that only those families who took part in Summer Programme activities were included in the research.

Barriers and enablers to participation

The remainder of this chapter focuses on cross-cutting factors seen (by providers, CYP and parents) as limiting and enabling participation. This is followed by a discussion of the specific barriers and enablers for children with ASN and those with English as a second language, particularly refugee families.

Cross-cutting barriers to attendance

Rather than describing specific groups who were less likely to take part in Summer Programme activities, providers generally described various factors which they felt limited - or had the potential to limit - participation. These could apply across target groups and were often specific to an individual's/individual family's circumstances.

Cost-related barriers

While activities being free generally acted as an enabler, it could limit attendance, as families had nothing to lose by signing up but not attending. Providers reported a sense of frustration when attendance was lower than expected. This was not to say they felt there should be a charge (as that would create different barriers) but it did mean that spaces on fully-booked programmes were wasted. Efforts made to minimise the impact of this are discussed below under 'enablers'.

As noted in Chapter 4, parents described some costs associated with attending activities. In cases where families struggled to afford this, it could cause embarrassment for both parents and CYP themselves.

"I felt embarrassed and [son] was embarrassed because one day I couldn't even give him money for the tuck shop so he didn't get anything and he was left out."

(Parent of a child aged 6, local authority 7)

Family circumstances

Providers commented on difficult family situations (for example parental substance misuse) of target CYP which meant that parents were not always able to get them to activities. Parents themselves also described their own mental health as a barrier. When these parents had to take their child in to the building to register them this could be more challenging than school drop-off where they did not have to go in.

"If the children are living a wee bit further away and their parents are substance users, which quite a lot of them are, the [parents] don't want to leave the house, so there's nobody to take the kids [to the club]."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 1)

Providers also noted that CYP could feel anxious about attending programmes, particularly where there were no existing relationships with providers, and that this could affect attendance. Ways in which providers supported such families are discussed below.

Transport and rural barriers

Accessing programmes could be challenging, particularly in rural areas. Parents who took part in the evaluation had often driven to activities but commented on how difficult it would have been to get to them otherwise. It is likely, therefore, that there were families who were not able to attend due to transport barriers. Indeed, one parent reported that her child was only able to attend when they could get a lift from another parent. Transport issues were particularly acute for CYP with ASN who may be unable to use public transport.

"Well, if I didn't have the car then we wouldn't have been able to take part in the activities… the kids don't do public transport, so if they had put a bus on or a taxi on it would have been a lot easier for getting back and forward."

(Parent of young person aged 14, local authority 5)

Providers acknowledged some inequity of provision, paritulcarly in rural areas, which was the result of logistical issues and budgetary constraints.

"There was certainly some areas that had very little […] There would have been lots of places in the outer reaches in the very rural areas that they would have had to travel. We did try […] but they might have had one or two days in the whole holidays […] there certainly wasn't equity or anything near equity."

(Local authority representative, local authority 2)

Planning and activity related barriers

The appeal and choice of activities could also act as barriers. While CYP were typically able to choose which activities to sign up for, there were reported instances of them being allocated activities by their school. These activities may not have appealed to CYP or worked logistically for families, and providers noted attendance appeared lower as a result. Providers also reported that activities which were a bit less intuitive (for example a 'youth café') were not always well attended and suggested that materials may need to provide more information. Similarly, while, on the whole, CYP reported having enjoyed the activities they attended, there were those who were put off returning having not enjoyed their experience.

"I was meant to go for two days for the football one… and because I didn't like the guy [coach] I was just like, 'I would rather spend time with my grandma and grandad [who were visiting]' […] If it was the same people again, I wouldn't go back, because I just don't think they are very nice."

(Child aged 11, local authority 4)

As previously noted, the short lead-in time caused a number of planning challenges for providers. In terms of how this impacted on families' ability to attend, the short notice meant that they may have had other plans in place for the summer, particularly if they needed childcare in order to work. Furthermore, while families generally knew at the outset of the activity programme which days across the summer they had places, frustrations were noted by parents where a different approach was taken and they found out week to week, making it difficult to plan.

For working parents it was important that the timings of programmes fitted around working patterns. For parents working 9am-5pm, there was often a need for 8am-6pm provision, which wasn't always available.

Enablers to attendance

Several features of provision emerged as being effective in facilitating attendance.

It was clear that the fact activities were offered free of charge played a key role in families being able to afford to attend. As discussed above, even small associated costs could be barriers to attendance. The fact that food was provided further reduced costs during the holiday and was welcomed by both providers and families.

The existing relationships between families and providers was felt to have improved attendance in various ways. These included: more effective targeting of families in greatest need; being better able to communicate the provision in an effective and non-stigmatising way; and greater knowledge of support required to enable attendance (for example knowing which parents will find it difficult to get their children to activities). One provider described the contrasting experiences of attendance at their programmes compared to others. She felt that the fact that the staff were local to the area was a further facilitator to engagement.

"Our clubs are largely run by local people […] and I think that that makes an enormous difference that these people are known and trusted and they share experience. In the other projects that young people are talking about, they don't know the adults, they parachute in, they deliver something to them and they go back home to their lovely, privileged place where they live. What is different about what our clubs do I think is that they are real people, that makes a massive difference in engagement, they're not 'being done to."

(Partner organisation representative, local authority 2)

Spending time following up with families, for example issuing reminders and operating waiting lists, was something providers felt worked well. Parents also reported being appreciative of receiving reminders. Providers acknowledged that families in difficult circumstances could require a high level of 'hand holding' to attend. While some providers were able to invest time in engaging these families, for example knocking on doors to take CYP themselves, others did not feel they had the time. There were logistical challenges for some providers who wanted to issue reminders but did not having access to contact details held by the schools.

"I think the text [reminder] was quite good […] [for example] this week, we are going to do this, you need to wear these clothes, and we're going here and stuff, so making sure they had the right things on for the activities as well, that helped."

(Parent of children aged 4 and 11, local authority 1)

Making activities as local and as easy as possible to get to, for example providing transport, was also seen as facilitating attendance. Families in rural and island areas were pleased to have provision available more locally than they had previously, particularly given the current high fuel costs.

"Well, I think the fact that there was activities available was just superb, because it is expensive to go to the mainland for us. It is difficult to get there because of the transport, because of the increasing tourism, and then it is difficult to get ferries booked and to be able to return on them, so, yes, I think it was a really brilliant opportunity for kids on the island."

(Parent of child aged 11, local authority 4)

The timing and variety of activities also boosted attendance. Parents appreciated the flexible nature of the offer that allowed them to fit programmes around their schedules and only sign up for the sessions required rather than full weeks. Families commented positively on the wide range of activities on offer, meaning that there was something that appealed to their child.

Case study 3.1: The value of using place-based approaches and building relationships with families

One local authority community learning and development team explained how they had drawn on their existing relationships with families they worked with throughout the year to deliver a successful summer programme.

A series of activities and trips were developed based on consultations with families prior to the summer. They used a place-based approach, whereby all families in the areas were eligible to participate, although activities were first communicated directly to the families they were already engaged with.

The whole family approach was chosen as the providers knew that many of the parents they worked with were not working and would also benefit from joining. The trips were free and included transport and lunch. Providing lunch for the whole family was seen as important in terms of minimising stigma.

Overcoming attendance barriers

The programme was very popular with families and trips operated waiting lists. The providers noted that, although the trips were always fully subscribed, there were families who did not turn up on the day. This was a source of frustration as they knew families on the waiting lists would benefit from the trips.

"I have to say it was the minority, but the mindset of 'it is free, we have not paid for it, so we don't need to actually get up and go'. The easy thing is to put a nominal fee of £2 or £5 on the trip but, actually, if you've got three or four members of the family due to attend that trip, suddenly they don't sign up. But we did on trip days find drop out, and I think, just in speaking to them after, there was just the apathy of, 'oh well, we didn't lose anything from it'.

To address this, they issued reminders, created reserve lists, and, in cases where they knew families were in challenging circumstances, go as far as to knock on their doors and offer to take the young person to the activity.

"Just even engaging with those young people from really, really, vulnerable poor families, it might not be the parent's priority to get up and make sure the kids get on that trip. We have got staff phoning going and chapping doors."

Despite being used to working with this group, they were surprised at the amount of 'hand holding' that was required and the amount of staff time this took up.

Wider support for families

The trips had indirectly incorporated family support by having employability officers attend and speak to parents in an informal way. The engagement between the provider and families during trips was a further benefit and was felt to be invaluable in planning their programme for the year ahead.

"The Summer Programme kind of almost informs our work for the next year, it is a huge consultation exercise for us, we are able to invite families on to a trip and then talk to them about what else would really benefit them throughout the rest of the year. So, in terms of consultation it doesn't really get much better, you know, we fill out a form online, [but it's much better] talking to them on the bus."

Families who participated reported very positive experiences of the programmes and did not report feeling stigmatised for having attended.

"Every family I've spoken to absolutely loved it. The workers go above and beyond […] it's something we would love to be involved in again."

Facilitating participation among families with ASN

Providers gave examples of the actions they had taken to try to ensure Summer Programme activities were accessible to those CYP with ASN. This included both the adaptation of universal activities to be more inclusive (e.g. additional staffing to support their needs) and running targeted, tailored activities specifically for children with ASN, often through provider organisations already working with families. Transport to activities was sometimes offered. Providers reported ASN programmes being well attended and parents said that they were pleased to have something available to them when this is not always the case.

As noted in Chapter 2, staffing pressures were felt more keenly in relation to supporting children with ASN. This was primarily due to the high level of support and training required to work with this group, making it difficult to recruit new staff at short notice. Therefore, staffing ASN provision relied on those working with this group during termtime (for example Pupil Support Assistants) being willing and able to work in the holidays, which was not always the case. In some cases, providers reported having to rely on parents staying at activities in order to run them, which meant they did not receive the benefit of respite.

A related challenge was the need for children with ASN to be supported by staff who know them and understand their needs. This was generally facilitated by staffing programmes with those who were involved in their care or by funding organisations already delivering programmes with this group. This was confirmed by families interviewed for this project, who had participated in activities offered through their schools or existing support groups and were very positive about this, noting that it had helped to put them at ease. When the programme was delivered in an environment CYP were already familiar with, this was an added benefit.

"[For] somebody who does have anxiety, I think the fact that it was in the school grounds …was really helpful rather than going, I don't know, into a leisure centre or something that he didn't know."

(Parent of child aged 11, local authority 4)

Straightforward registration processes were also praised by parents. This may be a further benefit of programmes being delivered by providers who are already engaged with families, and who already have information on families' needs.

"It was really simple, which in the world of disability it is really refreshing […] because often you have to do lots of form filling and jump through hoops sometimes to get the support that you need for your child with the disability."

(Parent of child aged 6 with ASN, local authority 1)

Facilitating participation among refugee families

Local authorities also described their experiences of including provision for refugee families, who were likely to face language barriers. They noted difficulties reaching these families as well as ensuring they felt included at activities. It was recognised that more could be done, such as having interpreters at programmes.

"We kind of tried to integrate them into the trips and things that were already there. We did a couple of standalone activities…but they were offered the full programme. Some came along to different days or activities but, again, that very often came down to staffing and whether or not we could have interpreters there, whether or not there were particular staff available to support them."

(Local authority representative, local authority 3)



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