Commenting on the proposal, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:
“Survey upon survey has demonstrated the significant impact the pandemic has had on the lives of children and young people across Wales. We feel strongly that they should sit squarely in the centre of the Government’s recovery plan and that the focus of that recovery should not just be on their education but other key aspects of their lives, which have been affected in various ways.
“As a proud country with rich sporting and cultural heritage, we are in a prime position to provide a comprehensive offer to our children. We are encouraging national organisations to work together to provide a universal offer to access high quality play, sport and other Welsh and English-medium opportunities in a safe way over the next few months. I am convinced that such an offer would have a significant positive impact on children and young people’s lives.”
In a proposal shared with Government, the three organisations are calling for a ‘Haf o Hwyl / Summer of Fun’ including:
- A minimum universal offer of at least one week of free provision to access high quality play, sport and other bilingual enrichment opportunities, including the arts, mainly based outdoors;
- An enhanced offer for those likely to need more support and who have disproportionately been affected by the pandemic, including disabled children and those from low-income families;
- An opportunity for those in Welsh-medium education who have lost some confidence in their language skills to engage in fun activities through the medium of Welsh, and for all children to have extra opportunities to socialise – the element they have reported as the thing they’ve missed most in the pandemic
- A national effort with a wide range of organisations pledging their support, capitalising on the national and local social ties and partnerships that have been enhanced as we have fought the pandemic together.
The three organisations are already in discussions with the Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association. They will also be hosting a round-table in mid-April for umbrella organisations who are interested in supporting and contributing to the national initiative.
Sarah Powell, CEO of Sport Wales, added:
“We are hearing more and more about the effects that the coronavirus pandemic will have on our children. We know that physical activity can play a huge role in supporting the physical and mental well-being of our youngsters, providing a fun and social setting, where they can mix with friends and form new relationships.
“It's been incredibly hard for parents to try and keep children active during the winter lockdowns, we hope that this initiative will make things a lot easier through the summer. As a sector, there is already a huge amount of effort going into a safe summer offer for children across Wales. This initiative will ensure that every child has the opportunity to access something locally to them.”
Siân Lewis, Chief Executive of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, said:
“Every child, regardless of their background or financial situation, deserves the opportunity to experience the thrill and freedom of recreational activities in the company of friends, and to start rebuilding their confidence.
“I am pleased that the Urdd is part of the ‘Summer of Fun’ proposal. This would be an innovative way to ensure that a generation of youngsters are given access to the activities and experiences that have been denied to them this past year.”