Oxford City Council supports summer holiday activities despite coronavirus challenges

Published: Monday, 10th August 2020

Oxford City Council has provided £30,000 to fund summer holiday activities for young people most affected by the pandemic and the lack of school and education opportunities this year.

Every year the council funds summer activities to support young people through the holidays, particularly those who face disadvantage. The holiday activities provide non-formal education opportunities, with certified recognition, and help build confidence and skills outside the classroom.

Funding grants were due to be announced at the end of March, but lockdown has meant a complete redesign of summer holiday activities to make sure they fit with public health guidelines.

Now the City Council has allocated £30,000 of funding to support youth work in Blackbird Leys, Greater Leys, Cutteslowe, East Oxford, Cowley, Leys CDI, Northway and Rose Hill.

This year, for the first time, the activities will be predominantly for young people who have been referred for support by their school or other agencies. This is to ensure the support reaches those most in need and to help to close the academic attainment gap for young people who experience more barriers to education.

The council’s Youth Ambition team will still be available to offer informal support to young people through the council’s locality response hubs.

Barton Community Association was given funding earlier this year for youth activities. It is using this to run a summer school for those who have missed out most on regular schooling, as well as a play scheme for young people.

On 7 July the Children’s Commissioner published Teenagers falling through the gaps, which emphasised the importance of summer schemes for young people who were already facing challenges at home or in school before the crisis. The data for this publication shows that around 4% of young people in Oxfordshire face multiple challenges that put them in this category.

Some of the groups who are particularly in need of support include:

  • young carers – especially those living with people who have contracted coronavirus
  • young people with disabilities and additional needs
  • young people involved in the criminal justice system
  • young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
  • young people who are facing domestic abuse
  • young people who have missed out on education
  • young people who face social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing issues

The council has been supporting young people in other ways throughout this crisis. Since April it has been providing food parcels to help households in financial difficulties, and has worked with Oxfordshire County Council to make sure young people entitled to free school meals don’t miss out. Staff from the council’s Youth Ambition team have been embedded into the council’s emergency support, helping to connect young people in need with the right help.

“I’m delighted we’re able to support summer holiday activities despite the restrictions of this crisis. We have amazing youth groups in Oxford, and I’m grateful to them for the way they have responded to the challenge of providing activities with a whole new way of working. The range of activities they have put together will provide engaging and inspiring projects for young people in this city who have missed out the most through lockdown.

“We know that around 4% of 13-17 year olds in the county are at risk of ‘falling through the gaps’, and with school education so disrupted this year the attainment gap between these young people and those doing well has widened dramatically. While we can’t deliver summer holiday activities on the scale we usually do, it’s vital that we do what we can to support these young people.

“In the face of huge funding shortfalls many councils have had to cancel spending on summer activities, but in Oxford we’ve worked hard with partners to make sure we can still provide some support. I hope that next year, when we come to plan our summer activities, all young people will have had the investment and support from the government they need to redress the attainment gap that has worsened under lockdown.”

Councillor Marie Tidball, cabinet member for supporting local communities