A FOREST charity which supports voluntary groups in delivering vital services for the community has been recognised for its role in helping families with the cost of living during the school holidays.

Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF) was commended for provding “free, fun activities” for children during the school holidays through Gloucestershire County Council’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, in the council’s first ever HAF Awards in August.

Voted for by families across each district in Gloucestershire, FVAF was named ‘Family Favourite HAF Provider’ for the Forest of Dean at the inaugural awards ceremony at Kings School in Gloucester on Thursday, August 24.

The government-funded HAF programme runs for six weeks during the spring, summer, and winter school holidays to help keep children eligible for benefits-related free school meals “happy, healthy, and entertained” with free activities, which are led by a number of different providers.

The council says the awards are to recognise and celebrate the achievements of “all the fantastic local partners who help make HAF possible.”

The FVAF team learned of the award following the Forest’s HAF End of Summer Celebration at Bells Field in Coleford, which was organised by the Forest Youth Association.

A Facebook post from FVAF after the event said: “What a fantastic day we had at yesterday’s HAF End of Summer Celebration! Massive well done to the Forest of Dean Youth Association for organising an epic party to see the school summer holidays out in style!

“The icing AND cherry on top of the cake was the team taking home the award for the FoD ‘Family Favourite HAF Provider’ from Gloucestershire County Council - all thanks to the brilliant local people who voted – Thank You!”

The awards in August were hosted by Cllr Stephen Davies, cabinet member for children’s safeguarding and early years, and Ann James, Executive Director of Children’s Services, who said: “It was incredible to read some of the comments from parents and carers about how much our HAF providers give to their children and families, which more than any other measure demonstrated to me the full impact the HAF programme is having.

“I would like to say thank you to every family who took the time to nominate their favourite. It was a pleasure to present these richly deserved awards.”

Cllr Stephen Davies commented: “All our HAF providers have done an incredible job helping us to develop and deliver such a successful programme which benefits children and young people in communities across Gloucestershire.

“The awards are a fantastic opportunity to say thank you for the incredible work they all do and to recognise those organisations who demonstrated a significant impact.”