Holiday Club Programmes in Northern Ireland: The Voices of Children and Young People

Jackie Shinwell, Ellen Finlay, Caitlin Allen, Greta Defeyter

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Abstract

In Northern Ireland, nearly 30% of children are thought to be at risk of going hungry in the summer holidays when they are unable to access free school meals. Community groups, voluntary groups, local authorities, and faith groups have responded to this concern by developing and delivering holiday programmes that enable children from low-income families to take part in activities and access food. The current study used purposive sampling to investigate children’s and young people’s views of holiday provision, from across three holiday clubs, in Northern Ireland. Both primary school children (n = 34; aged 4–11) and secondary school children (n = 31; aged 12–17) showed high levels of awareness of poverty and food insecurity and associated pressures and stresses on households. Importantly, children and young people did not feel stigmatised about attending holiday provision, suggesting a positive and inclusive culture towards holiday club attendance. Children reported that they enjoyed the range of activities provided at holiday clubs and reported that attendance improved their self-confidence, especially for some older children, who acted as peer mentors to younger attendees, helped them to develop new skills, and provided them with opportunities to socialise with peers in a safe environment, out with their normal social groupings in school. Older children showed a high level of shrewdness and knowledge of sectarian divides in communities but spoke positively about how different religious or cultural backgrounds did not matter in terms of meeting and making new friends in holiday club settings. In terms of food provision, the findings of this study suggest that further work needs to be done to support children to access and eat healthy, nutritious food.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1337
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021

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