THE school holidays can be a stressful time for families struggling financially and for the thousands of children living in poverty across Swindon.

And finding things to keep youngsters occupied can prove challenging for parents with busy lives. Low-income families struggle to afford activities such as going to the cinema, bowling or ice-skating without making stretching themselves financially.

It was revealed by End Child Poverty last month that more than 14,000 children are impoverished in Swindon, with Penhill being the worst area in the borough.

Caroline Sturrock, the family support worker for Swindon Borough Council, told the Adver: “We work with vulnerable families so we know how difficult things can be. For some of the families we work with, money is a real issue.

“The summer holidays are a difficult time for those families, there’s the pressure on those parents to provide activities and entertainment for the children and if you haven’t got the money to do that, so that can be a really difficult time.

“They can’t afford to go to the cinema or ice skating, a lot of those things are out of their budget, so it is nice to give them something where everybody can participate.”

The council has set up a stay and play service, offering a wide range of free activities for children. It is also an opportunity for parents to spend time with their children and ask for advice.

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Family support worker Janna Ball said: “It’s for families who just need that little bit of extra support. It’s really nice to have people come. There are so many activities that parents we know can’t afford.

“All the sessions have got lots of different activities going on, so there’s something for every child and there’s no age range either.

“It also gives an opportunity for parents to talk to professionals if they are having a difficult time. We can take their details and can get back in touch with them to provide further support and advice through family service itself, so that’s something we are really trying to build in Swindon.”

Part of the town centre was transformed into a urban beach by inSwindon BID this month to give families the chance to enjoy something different while staying in Swindon.

Such initiatives are helping Sarah Kinsella, 36, from the town centre, save money.

The mum-of-two said: “I have a toddler who needs something to do and it is great to get out of the house

“Having free events in Swindon is saving me money, because we pay for a nursery most of the week and so having free activities is of a great help.

“We are always trying to do any of the free events that is happening in the library or sometimes down to the Brunel Centre as well.”

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But Sarah regrets the lack of family centre in Swindon. According to Swindon Borough Council, there are only three available across the town, Butterflies in Hugo Drive, West Swindon, the Family Centre in Gainsborough Way, and Ladybird, in Rivers Road.

Sarah said: “We are going to those events so my three-and-a-half year old daughter can mix with other children and the bonus of them being free is really important because since she has been born most the children centres have been closed.

“There are only a few in Swindon and I think it is really important to bring this up in a time when families are struggling.”

Wendy Kirton, 45, mum of boys aged seven and 12, would like to see more entertainment in Swindon.

She said: “I think what the town has already been very good. But it would be good to have more entertainment like balloon modelling, or magic tricks or shows where people can join in.

“And probably more free events in the library, especially when it is raining. It is nice to come indoors.

“When I am at home, I have always got stuff to do in the house, but it is nice to break your week and just come and socialise with other families.”

She added: “We just do days out when we can afford it. We are always looking for free events, because we can’t fill up the holiday time with paying for the cinema or lunch every day, so it is good to have free events and also some are more educational for children.”

The next stay and play event will be held on Friday at the Brunel Shopping Centre between 11.30am and and 1.30pm.

The central library regularly offers free events such as workshops, crafts and many more.

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