The Landmark Trust is giving away £30,000 worth of UK holidays to people who can't afford a break after it was revealed that as many as one in three British families are unable afford a holiday.
The Trust, which rescues and restores historic buildings and offers them as holiday rental properties, has just announced a scheme called "50 For Free" which will offer holidays in some of its best-known properties to low-income families, carers, volunteers, charitable workers and educational groups.
Properties include an artillery fort, a pineapple-shaped folly (pictured above) and a lighthouse keeper's cottage on the island of Lundy, Devon.
The Trust says it hopes its scheme will give families a chance to relax and bond. The holidays are being offered thanks to a donation from the trust's chairman, Neil Mendoza, and his wife Amelia.
Mr Mendoza said: " I was keen to support 50 For Free for two simple reasons: It's a brilliant and imaginative idea, and it's just what Landmark should be doing.
He added that he hoped they would be "inundated with applications."
Anna Keay, director of the Landmark Trust, said: " We believe that staying in a beautiful and important historic building with friends and family can be an inspiring, uplifting and transforming experience, and we want to make that available to as many people as possible. We are absolutely delighted that this scheme has been made possible now by a generous personal donation."
Welcoming the scheme, John McDonald, Director of the Family Holiday Association, said: "It's a horrifying fact that, in a society as wealthy as ours, families in the UK can't afford a simple break away from home. "
While European countries social tourism is supported by public policy and funding, state-sponsored schemes have never existed in the UK.
The Guardian reports that all-party parliamentary group on social tourism was told in 2011 that families experienced improvements in physical and mental health after having a break.
"Positive experiences such as holidays had a profound effect on children's behaviour and educational attainment, with the potential to reduce the need for public sector intervention in later life," the committee's report noted.
Earlier this year, research into the benefits of holidays provided to struggling families commissioned by the Family Holiday Association found that 84 per cent of respondents – whose problems included mental health issues, debt and unemployment – reported improved family relationships after a break.
Holidays will take place 10-17 March, 2014. Charities, educational bodies and non-profit groups should apply before 4 January on behalf of groups or individuals who would benefit. For more information, visit landmarktrust.org.uk/50forFree