The invaluable support housing associations offer communities over the summer holidays
Housing associations provide so much more than housing for the people that live in their homes - they are committed to bringing communities together, offering invaluable support services and working with partners to help communities thrive.
But with rising prices having a particularly devastating effect for some low income families, housing associations recognise that this summer holiday could be difficult for many people.
In a bid to help, housing associations across Wales are stepping up to ensure children can enjoy a range of activities this summer without families having to worry about finances.
One such housing association is Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association, which is running its sixth annual Fit and Fed initiative this summer holiday.
Fit and Fed Merthyr Tydfil is a school holiday enrichment project for the children and young people of Merthyr Tydfil, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.
From August 1st to September 2nd people across Merthyr Tydfil can take part in fitness and wellbeing activities, walking groups, health workshops, and so much more thanks to the housing association’s scheme.
The scheme has expanded to 15 sites across the borough, including Bedlinog, Treharris, Aberfan/Merthyr Vale, Troedyrhiw, and Twynrhodyn, with several organisations supporting and between 30 and 60 people volunteering their time this year.
Not only has the initiative proved important in supporting children to socialise and stay active over the holidays, it’s also vital in terms of providing nutritional support. Last year 4,397 meals were served up during the month-long scheme, more than double the 2,230 meals provided between 2018/19 in its first year.
Overall 2,300 people accessed Fit and Fed 4,397 times in 2018/19 alone - a significant jump from 748 children and young people who came along in its first financial year.
Bethan Barlett, senior youth worker at Georgetown Boys and Girls Club, one of the Merthyr Tydfil sites Fit and Fed operates from, said: “The year has been amazing with young people accessing so many opportunities because of Fit and Fed.
“You could see the development of the young people in confidence, communication, and teamwork. The young people worked hard and gained various qualifications or parts of qualifications.
“Our projects changed according to the needs of young people and the opportunities available to the club. We managed to do so much with the funding, from sailing days to sailing residentials, trips to theatres, arts and crafts, football, basketball, cooking, dodgeball, drama, music, walking, Duke of Edinburgh, beach days and so much more.
“Overall, the project has been extremely impactful on the young people and the centre. Many of the young people are struggling financially and for those young people having food regularly as part of Fit and Fed has allowed the parents to have a little less to worry about.
“The young people have learned various new skills as well as feeling a sense of belonging. We are looking forward to seeing how next year will develop.”
Other Welsh housing associations also encourage continued learning throughout the summer holidays, to ensure vital skills such as literacy and numeracy are supported.
Valleys to Coast housing association is supporting the Summer Reading Challenge throughout Bridgend. The initiative, which was launched by Bridgend’s Awen Cultural Trust and run by the Reading Agency and public libraries, encourages children to read at least six books over the summer holidays to help support literacy levels.
The housing association is supporting this initiative by giving children who register for any of Awen’s libraries 25% off local activities including swimming, soft play, sports and more.
Libraries in Bridgend are also running a series of science and innovation-themed events over the summer holidays for children aged six to 14. The events, funded by the Welsh Government’s Summer of Fun programme and supported by Bridgend County Borough Council, include Mad Science workshops, dance workshops and drag queen story hours. Find out more here.
Wales and West Housing has provided funding to the Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) to enable children seeking sanctuary to have a safe place to play throughout the summer holidays.
The housing association provided £7,800 in sponsorship to the charity, which will help the WRC to support families at its three weekly drop-in play sessions at Trinity Church Centre in Splott, Cardiff, giving children access to toys and bilingual storybooks.
Up to 20 families, from countries including Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Albania and Ukraine, meet with their young children at the sessions where the children play and parents can get support from the staff and volunteers.
Wales and West Housing’s support will also enable WRC to take the children into Cardiff to allow them to become familiar with the city and to feel part of their surroundings.