Hand in Hand
A story by Girvan Youth Trust
Hand in Hand provided a peer buddy initiative providing social & recreational opportunities for 43 young people with learning disabilities & 8 peer buddies.
We did this by running a fun and diverse developmental programme of activities. The project also offered respite to the families and carers of the young people.
What Hand in Hand did
Hand in Hand delivered a weekly Social Club, Afterschool Projects, One to one opportunities, a parent Network group and a new Employability Project called 'Project SEARCH'. We also provided 11 trips as well as an adventure residential throughout the year. The clubs and one to one sessions took place in the Z1 Youth Bar on a weekly basis.
Young people from the age of 11 to 22 with Learning Disabilities and youth peer buddies participated in the short breaks. These are young people who have been attending Hand in Hand for sometime as well as new members who we engaged with through Girvan Primary School and Girvan Academy. We also received referrals from Social Work, Childrens 1st and Parents.
The Project worked directly with parents through our Parent Network Group which met every 4 weeks. Through feed back gained from Parents many used this respite period to spend quality time with siblings, to enjoy free time with their partners or to get things done around the home.
Since receiving this grant Hand in Hand has built closer links with our local Primary School allowing us to work with a younger age group than we have done in previous years. This partnership work has allowed us to create a new After School Project working with a group of 8 vulnerable young people who are moving on to Secondary School in August 2018. Through Girvan Youth Trust the volunteers for Hand in Hand have been able to access a lot of training opportunities, this includes, Child Protection, First Aid, Youth Achievement Awards and also Saltire Volunteering Awards.
Our Project addressed 6 of the 7 Better Break priority areas. The only one we do not address is working with very young children between 0 - 5 years old. Our one to one support work has been particularly successful with a number of young people developing confidence and an increase in self esteem. This is evident in that 2 of those young people are now participating in our new Project SEARCH initiative. Supporting young people with Learning Disabilities in to Employment. The Project went to and exceeded our initial plan with the introduction of new opportunities for young people with Learning Disabilities.
What Girvan Youth Trust has learned
Targeting families most in need of support, by creating more links through other agencies like Childrens 1st, Primary Schools and Social Work Services for example we are able to identify and target more families who are most in need of our services. Reaching out and engaging with new families. it is important that we are building positive relationships with families/carers creating a trusting relationship from the beginning. We feel this is better achieved by initially visiting them in their own homes/settings.
Developing new short breaks activities, we have learned that building a bigger network of contacts and links has allowed us to meet new young people which has led us to look at creating new projects within Hand in Hand.
How Girvan Youth Trust has benefitted from the funding
The funding has definitely helped Hand in Hand create new partnerships and links. The shortbreaks we provide are created for the young people we work with and for their needs this is recognised throughout our local community which has strengthened Girvan Youth Trusts reputation. We are in the process of expanding our services and again this is feasible through the funding support provided by the Better Breaks Fund. When applying to other funders it is beneficial to us to be able to let them know organisations already supporting our project.
Young people will have consistently attended the activities that Hand in Hand provide throughout the year. The young people will have ownership of the project by making decisions about the activities they will be taking part in.
Between 15 and 20 young people have attended 11 trips and a group of 20 took part in an Adventure Residential within the past 12 months. The same no of young people also consistently attended our Sunday evening Social Club. In the club setting consultations took place so that the young people could decide on trips they wanted to do, thus giving them ownership of the project. A new after school group was created for Primary 7 age young people as it was identified there was a gap in opportunities for this group.
One young person who regularly attends the Hand in Hand project is D.T and D.T has been involved with the Hand in Hand project for 6 years now. D is on the Autistic Spectrum and when he started attending the project, he was a shy, quiet individual who didn’t enjoy getting involved in consultations. At the beginning of this year, the Hand in Hand project held a consultation with the young people to create a programme of trips and outings for the year. During this consultation, D highly expressed an interest in attending The Riddle Rooms. This was an activity that involved completing puzzles and working as a team in the darkness to complete challenging and escape the locked rooms within the 60 minutes. This trip gave D the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to lead a group and interact with others. After attending the Riddle Rooms, D expressed that the activity really developed his skills and he now feels more involved in the project and more confident as a result.
The young people and carers will have grown in to more confident and independent individuals.
Over the past 12 months we have worked with 8 young people with Learning Disabilities on a one to one basis. In total over 350 sessions have taken place. These were young people who were isolated, lacked confidence and self esteem to participate in group activities. They also lacked social skills and the opportunity to develop new skills. These are young people who have since grown in many different ways, thus improving their well-being. Trusting relationships have also been built with the families and carers of these young people.
At the beginning of 2018, we started working with an 11 year old boy who was very socially isolated and excluded from his peer group within the school setting. A.M was bullied at primary school and didn’t have friends, finding it very difficult to socialise with people his own age. Social work referred A to us as they thought it would be beneficial for him to get involved with other young people and build social relationships. At the start, mum was very distressed, so we started making contact. Through the one to one work and A’s participation in group activities, mum feels A is 100% more confident. Mum speaks about how A used to stay in his bedroom all day and now he has the confidence to start going out. She thinks Girvan Youth Trust is a safe, nurturing place for him to go and he always returns home happy and wanting to tell her exciting stories of what has happened at Girvan Youth Trust that day. He has started talking to mum about social interactions with other young people. Mum’s health isn’t good but now that A is happier, her health has improved as a result as she feels less worried and distressed. Mum feels supported by Hand in Hand staff and feels she can communicate openly any problems/issues affecting A and herself.
Parents and Carers will have increased well-being.
Through our one to one and group work parents have highlighted that the Hand in Hand Project offer a support system for them, a support that otherwise would not be there. This support system allows them to feel comfortable and relaxed knowing that their child is in a safe place.
The Hand in Hand Project has had a positive impact on the lives of the young people and families we support. One example of how the project has created positive changes in our young people is L.H. Like many young people who attend our project, L was very quiet and didn’t have much confidence at the beginning. Hand in Hand has provided L with a nurturing environment for a number of years. Within this environment L has been able to build and develop his confidence to help deliver a programme of activities for younger children. L.H regularly attends the Hand in Hand Sunday night group and has been part of loads of amazing opportunities as a result. L also volunteers within our office and with our summer programme, assisting staff in delivering activities to younger children. His parents attend our recently established Parent Network Group and have highlighted the difference the project has made to L and the family. L now has a friendship group who share the same interests as himself and the family have expressed that their overall wellbeing has increased with the opportunities that Hand in Hand provide.
Carers will have built up and sustained supportive relationships with each other through the Parent Network Group.
With the introduction of the Parent Network Group for families of young people on the Autistic Spectrum we have been able to provide a supportive environment for a targeted group of parents to come together to talk about their own experiences and to exchange ideas and provide peer support.
Within the past year, The Hand in Hand project has established a Parent Network Group that works in partnership with Girvan Academy with the main aim to support parents with young people on the Autistic Spectrum. Parents can offer each other advice, signpost each other to services, support groups and discuss issues they face and how to overcome them. This project has proven beneficial as parents have fed back that this opportunity is the only chance they get to talk to other people in similar situations. Based on the success of the Networking Group Hand in Hand is now looking to establish a larger Parent Forum which will meet on a weekly basis within the Z1 Youth Bar.