THOUSANDS of local families will benefit from free activities and healthy meals this summer as Wigan Borough’s award-winning HAF programme returns for the school holidays.

More than 14,000 places have already been booked on upcoming Holiday Activities and Food camps - but there are still plenty of spots available for eligible children.

The scheme, which is funded by the Department for Education, is open to young people aged 5-16 who are entitled to benefits-related free school meals.

Families receive e-vouchers they can use to book up to 16 days’ worth of sessions during the six-week summer break - with activities ranging from sports, dance and drama to arts and crafts, media and robotics.

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Leigh Journal: Leigh Youth Hub is one of the venues offering free summer activitiesLeigh Youth Hub is one of the venues offering free summer activities (Image: Wigan Council)

Councillor Jenny Bullen, Wigan Council’s portfolio holder for children and families, said: “The HAF programme makes such a huge positive difference to families all across Wigan Borough, helping kids to eat well, have fun and make new friends while taking some of the pressure off parents and guardians.

“There are so many exciting activities to get involved with and it’s always so wonderful to see our young people enjoying themselves in a fun and safe environment with the help of our incredible delivery partners.

“We know times are particularly tough for a lot of families right now so we’re really pleased our HAF summer camps will make things a little easier for those who need the most support.”

The HAF summer camps run from Monday, July 24 to the end of the school holidays at around 70 locations across Wigan Borough.

They are delivered by the council’s Be Well leisure and wellbeing service in partnership with more than 50 providers - including Wigan Athletic, Wigan Warriors, Wigan Youth Zone, Leigh Youth Hub and WN7 Outreach.

Leigh Journal: Howe Bridge Leisure Centre won the National Recognition Award at the HAF Awards in Westminster earlier this yearHowe Bridge Leisure Centre won the National Recognition Award at the HAF Awards in Westminster earlier this year (Image: Wigan Council)

Back in May, Howe Bridge Leisure Centre in Atherton was among the big winners at the inaugural HAF Awards at the House of Commons - claiming the prestigious National Recognition Award and being named one of two North West Regional Champions for its varied and inclusive provision.

This summer kids will also be able to get a taste for the outdoors at Scotman’s Flash, Haigh Woodland Park, and Low Bank Ground in the Lake District.

Councillor Chris Ready, portfolio holder for communities and neighbourhoods, said: “We’re proud to be playing a leading role in delivering this fantastic programme for local families. A massive thank you to all our magnificent partners who are on board - it’s a real team effort that makes such a difference across our communities.

“I would urge any families who have received vouchers but haven’t used them yet to please make sure to do so and take advantage of this incredible opportunity.”

A total of 7,602 young people from Wigan Borough took part in HAF clubs in 2022 including 972 SEND children. Alongside engaging activities, more than 47,000 nutritional meals were provided.

Families with HAF vouchers for 2023 can book their activities online at Anyone who believes they are eligible but hasn’t received their voucher should contact their child’s school.

A number of providers also have paid-for spaces for those families who don’t receive benefits-related free school meals.

For more information visit the council's website here.