Thousands of disadvantaged families in Blackburn with Darwen will get free meals and activities throughout the summer as part of a £9m scheme set out by the Government.

First launched in 2018, the Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) is designed to support thousands of families across the North West, including Blackburn with Darwen, where around 20,000 children live in food poverty.

Spring North, a charity that supports disadvantage families, will set up a range of activities for kids over six weeks, as well as advising parents on managing debt and healthy eating.

CEO of Spring North, Angela Allen, said: “Blackburn with Darwen has more than 20,000 children living in food poverty so these HAF clubs will provide a vital lifeline for families in the area.

“In addition to providing a hot meal and snacks, the clubs will facilitate a way for young people across the communities to reconnect in a safe environment and enjoy a range of activities that are fun and help to build their skills including teamwork, cooperation and communication.

“We will also be working with a number of parents to support them with life skills activities including cooking clubs, wellbeing support and debt, welfare and employment advice.

“We are looking forward to working with our partners and delivering our Get Stuck In clubs during August, providing essential support for our families across Blackburn with Darwen.”

Each organisation will deliver at least four weeks of free activities and healthy food during July and August.

Activities at Spring North will include a variety of online and directly delivered physical activities such as dance, yoga and adventure play to make the most of outdoor spaces.

The charity said, however, that the events are being planned under a coronavirus traffic light system to keep activities within the rules around social distancing and groups.

Yesterday, the Government announced a reduction of the two-metre rule, meaning that charities such as Spring North can go ahead with more face-to-face events.

Last week, it also announced the Covid Summer Food Fund after rejecting the idea multiple times, following a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals throughout the summer holidays.