DEVON County Council (DCC) have congratulated one of its Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme providers for winning ‘Best HAF Provider’ at the national Out of School Club Awards.

Exeter’s Football Fun Factory topped the league to scoop the prestigious award, which recognises organisations that are doing things differently and having a positive impact on the lives of children and their families, at the Club Central Conference in Birmingham last month.

Jon and Becky Radford were nominated for their hard work, dedication and commitment to giving children an opportunity to eat healthily, be active, learn new skills and enjoy fun activities in a safe and social environment through the holidays.

Head Coach, Jon Radford, said: 'It’s a proud moment for us.

'I’m also delighted to confirm we received a Highly Commended for Most Inclusive Club, recognising how our programmes are accessible to all children. And we received a special mention for our work with girls football.'

The club is one of the many activity providers working with DCC on Devon’s government-funded Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, which offers free physical activities and healthy, nutritional hot meals during school holidays to children of low-income families.

Each holiday the council team up with more than 60 different activity providers across Devon to offer a great range of indoor and outdoor activities to children aged five to 16 years old, who receive benefit-related free school meals.

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, DCC's Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services, said: 'Holiday times can be particularly difficult for some families because of increased food and other high costs.

'Children in families with lower incomes are less likely to access organised out-of-school activities where there’s a cost.

'They’re more at risk of experiencing social isolation, and they’re less likely to be getting outside, in the fresh air, exercising or improving their physical and mental health.

'The purpose of our funded Holiday Activities and Food programme is to address this, and to provide activities and hot meals that children can enjoy.'

The upcoming Christmas holidays will mark three years since the scheme launched, and during that time thousands of eligible children have taken part in hundreds of clubs across Devon.

Devon County Council work hard with its providers to ensure that the activities on offer are fully inclusive and accessible, so the council are pleased that figures for the recent summer holiday programme show that one in five places were taken by a child or young person with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Councillor Lois Samuel, DCC's Cabinet member for SEND improvement, said: 'We know that all parents can find it difficult during the school holidays to keep children active and engaged, and I’m pleased that so many of our providers ensure that their activities are inclusive and accessible to children and young people with SEND.

'Not only are these activities great for the health and wellbeing of those young people, but they also provide a valuable break to parents.'