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Tuesday, 27 August 2013 00:00

The holiday haves and have-nots

by Bernadette Horton

The school summer break can be a real stretch for most families

The government is fond of the "big society."

But while Cameron and Clegg enjoy multiple holidays at home and abroad, they are not bothered about those children in low-income families who will be experiencing boredom and a lack of money for six weeks and, in some cases, a visit to the foodbank as provisions run out.

Many parents do not have the money to constantly fund six weeks of fun days out, especially once you add on the cost of buying the new school uniforms in August for the coming year. The larger the family, the worse it is.

Children in families on low pay or on benefit need youth centres, playschemes and more input, not less.

Investment in our kids is a benefit to the whole of society.

I know paying parents a living wage would be best of all so that they could afford the odd summer outing or two, but heavy investment in youth centres and leisure centres is also needed.

Our local swimming pool, for example, charges £3.50 per child for a morning or afternoon swimming session of 2.5 hours.

Times that by a few children, money for lockers and a drink afterwards, and maybe bus fares for teenagers, and there goes £20 at least.

For parents who are able to juggle the childcare rota with relatives over six weeks, it is perhaps easier to keep a tab on younger children. But what about the kids aged over 12?

Lack of money to spend on summer outings leads to hanging around and boredom for many teenagers.

Coupled with the heat, rivers and canals are attractive places to cool down.

I know at that age we went off in a group to either the river or canal for the day and had a paddle if it got too hot. Ringing in our ears were the dos and don'ts surrounding what we could get up to near water, and what was downright dangerous.

Quarries are particularly dangerous places, as the water is deep and freezing cold. Already this summer there have been more than 10 preventable deaths of children reported in newspapers, as they did not understand the danger of currents. Many more have gone unreported.

The government has already announced plans to allow schools to cut down the summer holiday. This is not the answer, however. Why not use schools to co-ordinate summer activities?

Youth centres are being closed yet would be invaluable at this time of year, as would dedicated playworkers.

Many councils run summer activities. But most of these are aimed at five to 11-year-olds and after this age kids are "too cool" to participate anyway.

Teenagers need dedicated facilities for their age group only. They do not want to be in facilities where there are five-year-olds.

Too many kids are being robbed of one of the most precious things of all - special family time to look back on when they are older, instead of miserably long days being stuck at home.

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Casual Cameron: 4 hols

  • The Camerons flew off to Ibiza in May for a few days' break, staying in a luxurious seven-bedroom £11,000 a week house.
  • Then they shipped off for to Portugal's sunny Algarve for two weeks in July.
  • Earlier this month, despite complaining of a bad back, Cameron headed off to the Scottish island of Jura for a few days on a 20,000-acre estate owned by his wife Samantha's stepfather Viscount Astor.
  • And most recently Cameron packed his bags for his traditional break in Cornwall, where he was spotted looking like a poached tomato on the beach and lounging around supping a local beer in the pub.

Carefree Clegg: 3 hols

  • n Clegg meanwhile spent a week on a luxury skiing holiday in the exclusive Swiss resort of Davos in April, hanging out in the 20-room chalet owned by his wealthy parents.
  • In July he jetted off to the small small Spanish town of Olmedo and had another holiday booked for a week in France.

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The great day trip rip-off

Any family lucky enough to have had a week or two's holiday this year, or families taking days out in Britain, will be looking around for the best deals.

Everyone knows there are budget trips to the local park with a picnic or an afternoon down by the river.

But what I wanted to find out was how much it costs to visit local "attractions" - the places where kids say all their friends have gone to, so why can't they?

I was very surprised and shocked by some of the "deals" on offer.

So after viewing these top days out, it is obvious that many parents either working on low incomes or receiving benefits could not afford even a single day out to an attraction at these prices.

Many of you reading this will no doubt be saying: "Well, there are parks, museums, river walks and local hills to climb."

I agree. Cheap days out are there to be had if you think carefully and budget for a homemade picnic.

But kids are kids.

They hear their friends in the classroom boasting of holidays abroad or a trip to a theme park, which may be way beyond their parents' budget.

It is a travesty that children with parents on low incomes will miss out on a summer holiday day trip because these attractions are so vastly overpriced for what they are.

Snowdonia: £200

I live in north Wales, so what better place to start with than the Snowdonia train in Llanberis?

For the prices I am taking two examples - my family of two adults and two teenagers, and my friend's family of two adults and three kids aged under 12.

The heritage steam train is the train all the kids want to go on to the summit of Snowdon.

For my family, my teenagers are classed as adults, so we will have to pay 4 x £35 = £150.

For my friend's family the cost is £145.

Once you add on the cost of petrol to get to Llanberis, a lunch out of, say, burger and chips and the odd ice-cream, you would be looking in the region of £200-plus for this day out.

Alton Towers: £200

All the kids love Alton Towers. The best deals are to be had by booking online in advance, with 40 per cent off the price of admission on the gate.

My family are again treated as four adults so the admission price is £112 if booked online for a random midweek day in August.

My friend would be set back £118.75.

Again, add on the cost of petrol and a simple lunch and, depending on how far you are travelling, this again is a £200-plus day out.

Blackpool: £300

How about a day out in Blackpool and a trip to the pleasure beach?

If you intend to spend quite a long time at the beach and with the prices on offer, you probably would, there are options.

If, like my teenagers, who want to go on everything and be all inclusive, the price for two adults and two children is £146.

My friend's family of five is £182.50. There are other options of a £6 pass to visit the pleasure beach and enter the Chinese maze, but kids usually want to go on all the rides, don't they?

A "Big Value" pass at £50 each allows one person to visit on the day of their choosing and return again for another visit within 14 days.

But if you have travelled as a family, you will probably need the wristband option.

Again, add on a lunch, an ice-cream and petrol and you can easily bump this up to £250 in my case and probably £300 for my friend.

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