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Tips to beat the summer struggle

08 August 2023

Our social prescribing services work with families to help them navigate the support that’s available in and around their communities. For our Make Happy Memories Summer Campaign we’ve been discussing the added pressures that families might deal with in summer… a topic that our social prescribing services are all too familiar with.  Here we discuss why. 

When we conducted our summer poll, we found that almost half of parents/carers feel more stressed and anxious about the school summer holidays this year than excited. Miranda, from our social prescribing service, tells us this is quite common.

“Working with families every day you tend to see the patterns emerge, I can think of four people I’ve spoken to this week that have told me summer’s a nightmare.  It’s a struggle when your children are with you all day every day.’’

The summer struggle 

There are plenty of reasons why families struggle during the summer, including cost, taking the time off work, finding family support for childcare or simply finding something to do.

This year, thanks to the spiralling cost of living, it’s only gotten worse. 

Miranda says ‘’I know colleagues who work in local support services who are using food banks and food vouchers themselves and I know that the worry about getting by can carry over from summer into the back to school period.’’ 

Our summer poll also revealed that (70%) of parents/carers are worried about food costs for the summer holidays, and we know food isn’t the only cost people are worried about.  

Miranda adds ‘’People also tell us they can’t afford to take their children to activities and we get a lot of calls from people worrying about the cost of school uniforms and school shoes.’’

“We get a lot of calls from people worrying about the cost of school uniforms and school shoes.’’

We’ve also found from speaking to parents that the cost of petrol and transport puts them off heading out of the house, and that local provision is often lacking in terms of things to do, especially when you have children who are different ages at home. 

Miranda often hears “The age difference between different siblings can make it tricky to find activities that work for everyone… that 17-year-old often doesn’t want to go to the park with their family anymore!”  

Digital exclusion  

Miranda told us that the way society’s embraced technology is also making it worse for families on the wrong side of the technology gap, with families who aren’t online finding activities are booked up before they’ve even heard of them. 

In our poll just over a quarter (26%) of parents/carers told us they will go without activities such as cinema or bowling this summer, which can be problematic when many areas in the UK don’t have youth club provision, or where provision isn’t suitable. 

For example, Miranda says that in her borough of Hackney there are specific challenges relating to crime and gangs.  

She added: “I’ve had parents tell me that ‘I can’t send my child to youth club. He might get into trouble’”

“I can’t send my child to youth club. He might get into trouble”

There’s no one size fits all answer to any of these concerns, but we asked Miranda to come up with a few tips for summer based on things that come up time and again for families she works with, that might be useful for everyone. 

Don’t be afraid to ask 

It sounds basic but if you ask your children what things they would like to do it’s a lot easier than trying to convince them to do something they’re not sure about. You’d be surprised what children say – I’ve heard children tell their parents they really want to go boating! They might just discover a lifelong passion. 

School uniforms 

Local councils often provide grant schemes to help families with the cost of buying school uniforms, so it’s worth looking at your local council website. You also often find small charities which collect used school uniforms and upcycle them so others can use them. These can often be found in your area by using social media. Finally, schools themselves sometimes have second-hand uniform sales, so it’s worth enquiring there too.  

Holiday activities and food 

Family Action run holiday activities and food programmes for children who receive benefits-related free school meals from the government, but we’re by no means the only organisation doing so. To see if a programme is happening in your area simply search online for “holiday activities and food” and the name of your county or region. 

School holiday clubs 

For some families summer struggles are less about cost and more about childcare or finding things to do. In this case you should speak to your school, as many schools run sports or holiday clubs during the summer break. These can often run for most of the holidays but are also useful for parents who just need a day to catch their breath! 

Enquire about sibling discounts 

A lot of activities, and particularly holiday clubs and sports sessions, will give you a discount if more than one child is attending, so don’t be afraid to ask! 

Food clubs and food banks 

If your shopping costs spiral during the summer our FOOD clubs are a great way to get a variety of nutritious food for a small cost of around £3.50 a week. We’re aware, however, that this might be beyond some families means, so if that’s the case you shouldn’t hesitate to see if there’s a food bank in your area who can provide food for free – the Trussell Trust have a good food bank finder. 

Summer is a time when many people find their finances, time and mental health under additional strain – something we address through our  Make Happy Memories summer campaign. If any of the issues raised in this story are affecting your family, you can contact our free and confidential helpline FamilyLine.