Thousands more disadvantaged children will benefit from free meals and activities during the school holidays, under a £9 million Government programme announced.

Organisations from across the country have been invited to bid for a share of the multi-million-pound Government investment to deliver holiday clubs for pupils eligible for free school meals during the 2019 summer break.

The scheme follows a successful £2 million programme in the summer of 2018, which saw charities and community groups provide meals and activities such as football, play sessions and cooking classes for more than 18,000 children across the country.

To build on that in 2019, the Department for Education has now confirmed it will more than quadruple funding and strengthen the programme to encourage co-ordination in local communities so that even more disadvantaged children can benefit.

Evidence suggests that attending holiday clubs can have a positive impact on children’s attainment, health and wellbeing. This is especially true of clubs that provide enrichment activities as well as meals – and that involve children and parents in preparing healthy food.

The role of local co-ordinators will include ensuring there are enough high-quality clubs in their area, working with providers to improve what is on offer, and raising awareness of what is available for the families who need it most.

As with the 2018 scheme, this programme will provide us with valuable information about what works in supporting this emerging sector.

Among the charities granted funding in 2018 were StreetGames, which brings sport to disadvantaged children, and OnSide Youth Zones, which runs a network of clubs for young people to socialise, take part in enriching activities and learn new skills.

The announcement is part of the Government’s efforts to ensure all children get the best possible start in life and live happy, active lives. This includes introducing the first ever strategy to tackle childhood obesity, doubling the PE and Sport Premium for primary schools to £320 million and, ahead of the launch of an ambitious School Sport Action Plan in 2019, recently holding a roundtable with leading professional sporting bodies including the Premier League and England Hockey.

The bidding process is open now and will close on 7 February 2019. Organisations can bid for funding by visiting Contracts Finder.