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Families given opportunity to enjoy free water sports

With more hot weather forecast for the summer, children from low-income families will get the chance to enjoy water sports as part of Staffordshire’s Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme.

The county council run scheme is available to over 23,000 eligible children aged between five and sixteen who receive benefits related free school meals.

The programme includes access to physical, fun activities, nutritional advice, and a healthy hot meal where possible. Funding is provided by the Department for Education.

Joining the scheme in time for the summer holiday is Pier 52, based in Chasewater Country Park, Lichfield. The club is offering children the chance to try stand up paddleboarding and kayaking lessons. All equipment is included and a wetsuit if needed. The lessons are suitable for all children and young people aged between eight and sixteen and include a hot lunch.

Dean Russell, Director of Pier 52, said: “We’re really pleased to be part of the scheme and look forward to welcoming children who might not normally get the opportunity to try water sports, as the equipment can be quite expensive.

“We are running the free classes in the morning for 4 days, every week over the summer holidays. The lessons are great to help build confidence and the paddleboarding is great for balance. We can also cater for wheelchair users, giving them a new experience in the kayaks.”

Lewis, 16, who regularly attends Pier 52, said: “The instructors are out on the water for the lessons and all the kids wear life vests, so they don’t need to be able to swim that well. I love being out on the water as it really clears my mind.”

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “We’re always looking for new activities for the programme to make sure children get the chance to try lots of different activities.

We’re extremely pleased with how the scheme has developed since it launched in 2021 and the addition of the water sports for this summer is great. Since then, more than 138,000 free places have been made available, with a further 49,300 places available this summer. This continues to be a really important programme for Staffordshire families, especially with the continuing cost of living pressures.”

Another new club joining the HAF summer activities is Farlea Childcare, offering junk modelling, forest school activities, role-play, sports, and cookery. The activities are also all available to children with disabilities and additional needs.

HAF activities will run from Monday 31st July to Friday 1st September.

All eligible children will have received a registration code from their school. Parents and carers should go to at 4pm on Monday 3rd July to register for a timetable of activities in their local area.


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