HWRC Community News


In this section, we’ll share the latest news from the bookinglab HWRC community.

The goal here is to inform you of any product updates or community-led initiatives & help you connect with councils tackling common challenges.

The top five news stories from March include:

  1. WSCC's Banned List Functionality
  2. KCC's DVLA Integration
  3. A three-month review of our DIY Waste Module
  4. Our first regional webinar for HWRC managers in Northern Ireland
  5. We’ve launched a pilot offering of our industry-leading HWRC Booking Service

West Sussex County Council to rollout banned list functionality:

WSCC are the latest council in our community to add blocklist functionality to its HWRC Booking Service. Importantly, this will help the council identify, record & stop misusers from making a booking at the first point of contact.

Key benefits of this functionality include:

  1. Stopping service misuse
  2. Reducing costs
  3. Improving the staff experience

Kent County Council integrate its HWRC Booking Service with DVLA lookup:

KCC will integrate its award-nominated HWRC booking service with the DVLA database. The main goal here is to improve the user experience. Once live, service users can simply input their vehicle registration number & details like the vehicle make, colour, etc., will be automatically populated — saving residents time & streamlining the booking process.

Reflecting on the first three months of our DIY Waste Module:

At the end of Feb, we were joined by recycling & waste management professionals from across the UK to discuss how councils had managed the first two months of the new DIY Waste legislation and:

  1. Highlight early usage trends
  2. Discuss their implications &
  3. Explore potential solutions to common problems

As part of this, attendees:

Some key takeaways included:

You can watch the recording here.

In the month following the webinar, we've found that data has become even more of a focus with our community using our system's enhanced reporting capabilities to:

Post this session, we've also worked with our community to eliminate much of the confusion around the new legislation with:

Based on feedback from the community, we also added the following items to our product roadmap:

Note: we'll run another regroup session in a few months to review DIY waste trends with a more complete dataset — so keep your eyes peeled for an invite.

Our first regional webinar for HWRC managers in Northern Ireland:

On the 7th of March, we were joined by recycling & waste management professionals from across NI to discuss how technology can be used at HWRCs to:

  1. Reduce operating costs
  2. Increase site efficiency &
  3. Improve recycling rates

As part of this, we shared how Western Riverside Waste Authority has used booking technology to:

You can watch the recording here.

Our 6-month pilot offer:

As part of our HWRC webinar series, we're offering councils & waste partnerships the chance to trial our industry-leading HWRC Booking Service at a heavily discounted rate.

The trial period will last six months & in that time, you'll be able to: 

Importantly, this will give you the opportunity to: 

There is no obligation to commit to a longer-term contract at the end of these six months, so if you find bookings aren't for you, that's completely fine. 

To learn more about this offer, book a call with one of the team or email info@bookinglab.co.uk.

HWRC Industry News


Here, we'll share the latest updates from across the sector.

Landfill tax to rise to £126.15 from 2026/26:

As confirmed in the chancellor's spring budget, the standard rate of landfill tax will rise to £126.15 in 2025/26, while the lower rate will increase to £4.05 per tonne. 

This 21% increase has been introduced "to better reflect actual RPI and ensure the tax continues to incentivise investment in more sustainable waste management infrastructure".

The move is expected to raise an additional £50 million for the Treasury over the next three years before falling to an additional £45 million in 2028/29.

You can read more about this here.

Devon County Council and Suez launch electrical reuse initiative:

Suez and Devon County Council (DCC) have announced an electrical reuse hub that tests, cleans, and prices donated electrical items to be sold at HWRCs across Devon.

As part of the initiative, recycling centre staff have been reaching out to residents & encouraging them to bring in electrical items that could be saved from going to waste. These items are then separated by staff, picked up from the recycling centre and taken to the newly created electrical testing hub. A trained staff member will then sort through the goods, clean the items and conduct a safety and function test. After this, they'll be priced based on their condition & returned to be sold at HWRCs across the county.

You can learn more about the initiative here.

New legislation proposed to stop unregistered waste collectors:

Conservative MP Paul Bristow has proposed legislation that would stop unregistered waste collectors advertising their services online.

Bristow states that “through this Bill we will close the loopholes that allow fly-tippers to advertise their criminality online, and we will force local authorities to fine perpetrators on both public and private land,” he said.

You can read the full article here.

E-waste set to rise to 82m tonnes by 2030, according to a recent UN report:

The United Nations (UN) has released its Global E-waste Monitor (GEM), detailing that the generation of electronic waste is rising 5x faster than that of recycled waste.

The report notes higher consumption, limited repair options, shorter product life cycles, growing electronification, design issues, and inadequate e-waste management infrastructure as key challenges.

However, according to the UN, if countries could bring the e-waste collection and recycling rates up to 60% by 2030, the benefits would exceed costs by more than 30 billion pounds.

You can read the full article here.

SEPA tackles waste criminality using social media:

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has launched a pilot digital regulation program to tackle environmental criminality online.

According to SEPA, the digital regulation pilot has already identified that "between 50- 60%" of businesses advertising on social media could be operating without holding a waste carrier licence.

Jennifer Shearer, Head of Enforcement at SEPA, said: "Since the pandemic, we have seen a growing trend of waste collection and junk removal adverts moving online to social media platforms. These businesses can look very professional and legitimate, with engaging adverts and reviews of great services, but what we are finding is they are often illegal.

She goes on to say that these traders are "capitalising on householders looking for a quick, same-day service & that they are "operating unlawfully, without the correct licences, and are often illegally disposing of the waste in Scotland's environment."

You can read more about the scheme here.

Case Study: Kent County Council's HWRC Booking System

Learn how Kent County Council's HWRC Booking System has reduced costs, increased site efficiency, and improved recycling rates.

In this video, Hannah Allard, Insight & Development Manager at Kent County Council, shares how KCC has:

  1. Generated savings of £150,000 a year 
  2. Increased monthly recycling rates by 5%
  3. Achieved a 96% visitor satisfaction rate
  4. Improved the staff experience 
  5. Reduced its environmental impact

For more information on Kent's award-nominated HWRC Booking Service, click here to read the report compiled by the council's waste management team to assess the impact of bookings.

Learn more about our industry-leading HWRC Booking Service.

In 2023, we worked with pioneering waste teams at Kent County Council, Western Riverside Waste Authority, Hampshire County Council, East London Waste Authority, West Sussex County Council & more to facilitate over 20 million tip bookings.

To learn how they're using our HWRC Booking Service to reduce costs, increase site efficiency, and stop service misuse — click here or book a demo.

Overcoming the challenges of the 2023 HAF Programme

The HAF Programme

Before diving into the challenges associated with programme delivery, it's only fitting to highlight a few of the fantastic things HAF has achieved — from reaching 730,000 children in 2021 to providing 5.4 million HAF days in 2023.

To put these achievements into context, before 2021, 70% (511,000) of those children had yet to attend a free holiday club, highlighting the scale of the work being done to increase the programme's reach.

This is no mean feat — especially given that children who attended HAF were 26% more likely to participate in outdoor exercise & 77% said they felt more confident because of attending.

With all of this in mind, we want to give a massive shout-out to the fantastic people involved with HAF.

Now, onto the research …  

HAF Programme research

According to the DfE, in 2021 (the latest available dataset), the programme reached 29% of children eligible for free school meals.

This highlights that there is still work we can do to improve the effectiveness & reach of the programme.

That being said, through feedback from our HAF community & by collating findings from 4 independent research studies involving over 120 councils, we've identified 3 common challenges that, if addressed, will help future-proof the provision, increase the reach of the programme & improve its delivery.   

With this in mind, the purpose of this blog is 3-fold:

  1. First, we'll share findings from 4 research projects & collate a list of common challenges
  2. Second, we'll share how councils are overcoming these challenges  
  3. Lastly, we'll give you exclusive access to a pilot offering of our HAF Booking Service to help you address some of challenges outlined in this blog

HAF Programme challenges 

In this report for the DfE, researchers from Ecorys conducted interviews with 10 local authorities & collated 116 responses to a survey sent to each of the 151 authorities involved in the programme.

They highlighted the following challenges:

Likewise, when analysing programme delivery at a local level, The National Institute For Health Research found that:

Meanwhile, Newham Council found these to be the five most significant challenges faced by HAF Programmes:

  1. Admin burdens  
  2. Finding effective ways to publicise the programme
  3. A high number of no-shows, leading to wasted capacity
  4. Not enough time to procure providers & mobilise programmes
  5. Sessions not being long enough for families to go to work

And finally, in 2023, researchers from Northumbria University conducted a series of interviews with HAF coordinators from 3 local authorities 

Based on the information collected, they detailed the following challenges: 

The above findings have clear overlaps & centre around similar challenges. Therefore, to keep things focussed, we've categorised them into three key areas for improvement:

  1. Improving awareness of the HAF provision (including additional support)
  2. Improving service access & the user experience
  3. Improving administration, reporting & stakeholder management

Now that we’ve outlined some of the challenges of the programme let's look at how you can overcome them.

Recommendations (from research) on how to overcome these HAF challenges

Improving awareness of the HAF provision (including additional support) to increase reach:

This report suggests that to improve awareness of the HAF provision & better signpost additional support, new in-person & online tactics need to be deployed.

Firstly, LAs are encouraged to provide drop-in days where parents can meet with staff & external agencies to get additional advice & support.

Importantly, this encourages a move away from the pick-up/drop-off model & helps build trusted relationships.

On digital channels, LAs are advised to:

Ecorys offers the following recommendations for increasing engagement with the programme:

  1. Make the programme more accessible & inclusive for children with SEND, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in the activities offered.
  2. Broaden the range of activities to cater to a wider range of interests & ages.
  3. Strengthen partnerships & collaborations with schools, community organisations & other stakeholders to enhance programme delivery & reach more eligible families.
  4. Increase marketing & communications efforts around the primary & secondary benefits of the programme to inform, educate & encourage participation.
  5. Improve data collection, sharing & analysis among LAs, providers & stakeholders to better understand the programme's reach & see where councils can do more to target eligible children & vulnerable groups.

Likewise, Newham council say that to increase the reach of the HAF scheme, councils could:

  1. Adopt a new approach to commissioning that would increase mobilisation periods for providers, allowing for a broader range of activities, trips & workshops.
  2. Extend session durations to support working families & reduce the need for paid childcare.
  3. Improve booking processes to facilitate easier management of bookings & cancellations to improve access & reduce no-shows.
  4. Conduct more targeted marketing aimed at families eligible for FSM to maximise uptake in the target population.

Meanwhile, researchers from Northumbria University propose that the DfE consider loosening the eligibility criteria to reduce stigmatisation & facilitate attendance.

Improving service access & the user experience:

As well as improving the reach of the programme, research suggests that focus should be placed on delivering better access to activities & improving the end-user experience. 

In the most part, the research is united on how we can achieve this.

As alluded to above, the gold-standard HAF delivery model includes the creation of an accessible, centralised access point for all HAF-related information, registration, booking & signposting to additional help.

This involves the creation of a joined-up, end-to-end experience that includes:

For example, Ecorys suggests that some LAs felt that booking far in advance required planning that did not suit more chaotic households.

To overcome this, we’ve worked with our community to develop functionality that allows staff to release slots gradually throughout the week. This enables families to access spaces closer to the time of the session.  

Ecorys also highlights that families with a low level of English may need help accessing the service.

Again, one way our community has overcome this barrier is to build Google Translate & other accessibility-focused tools into the HAF booking journey.

Up until now, our focus has been solely on digital channels. However, it’s important to note that a recurring theme within the research is that to reach the most disadvantaged families, who tend to have low digital literacy & limited access to Wi-Fi, a multi-channel access offer is vital.

Hence, our community uses their HAF Booking Service to block out slots for families who might need help navigating the online booking system. They also offer in-person or over-the-phone bookings to maximise access opportunities.

Improving administration, reporting & stakeholder management:

To deliver on what we've alluded to above, the collection, analysis & dissemination of data between stakeholders is critical.

According to the DfE, the collection of data like:

Can be supplemented with additional information to identify who the HAF programme is reaching & monitor the long-term impacts on children who attend the programme.

Not only is this critical for ensuring the programme is set up to benefit eligible families, but it also informs long-term planning & provides evidence for the programme's expansion.

That being said, this enhanced reporting process needs to be made simple so as not to add to the already high workload of those involved with the programme.

To this end, researchers also recommend implementing systems & processes to help automate & streamline time-consuming admin processes like:

HAF research side note

This blog briefly outlines a few ways your authority can overcome some of the most well-documented HAF challenges.

However, The NIHR School for Public Health Research is gathering information to develop a best practice framework for delivering the Holiday Activities and Food Programme. 

So, if you're interested in learning more or getting involved in the study, we recommend checking out their work.

How our community uses booking technology to overcome HAF challenges 


We’ve alluded to how the HAF community uses our HAF Booking System to address certain challenges. However, in this section, we'll explore this in a little more detail.

For context, we've worked with pioneering organisations like West Sussex County Council (WSCC), Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC), Worcestershire County Council  (WCC) & others to co-create a market-leading HAF Booking Service that:

Let us explain …

Improving HAF administration, reporting & stakeholder management:

WSCC, DMBC & WCC use the product to manage eligibility workflows, credit allocations & booking limits with:

They also use it to streamline other manual processes. For example, they:

To that effect, they also use the system to simplify information management, ensure compliance with GDPR & improve reporting. They do this by:

To simplify stakeholder management, our community uses a dedicated portal within their system to allow providers to create & manage activities in a standardised format.

Here, providers can:

Note: Unlike council staff, providers only have permission to view their activities. This provides our community all the benefits of consolidating bookings on a single platform while protecting non-essential data.

Improving the user experience & increasing awareness of the HAF programme:

WSCC, DMBC & WCC use the system to enable end-to-end self-service.

Importantly, this means families have a centralised access point for all HAF information, registration & booking. Here, they can: 

As mentioned above, some of our community have also implemented system rules around gradual slot releases & reserved allocations for offline channels to improve the user experience for different types of families.    

Councils also use the system's (automated) two-way communication tools to promote the provision & keep families informed of any booking or session updates. Typically, they do this through push SMS/Email notifications from within the platform.

Again, this was a quick overview of how our other councils use our HAF Booking Service to improve programme delivery.

To see more on how West Sussex County Council, Worcestershire County Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council & others use these features to improve the delivery of their programmes, click here.

Introducing our HAF Booking Service offer


With DfE funding for HAF running up until 2025, we're offering you a pilot of our HAF Booking Service for the summer & winter holidays.

Our goal here is to: 

  1. Help you address the challenges alluded to above
  2. Collect the data you need to inform long-term decision-making & justify budget allocations

As part of this reduced-price pilot, your stakeholders will have access to all of the platform's features, including a:

To see the the platform in action, click here.