Fun with Friends and Activity Breaks Service
A story by Barnardos Inverclyde Family Support Team
Inverclyde Family Support Team delivered Fun with Friends and Activity Breaks for children and young people with disabilities.
Fun with Friends provided teenagers with weekly (term time) groups, plus 4 catch up session throughout the year. Activity Breaks Service provided 6 school holiday sessions to children 4-12 years old.
These services provided parents/carers and siblings the opportunity for them to have a regular break from their caring responsibilities.
What Fun with Friends and Activity Breaks Service did
Throughout the year 4 staff and 10 volunteers supported 48 sessions. Staff ratios were higher on some occasions due to medical and support needs. Children/young people had Care Plans completed by staff ensuring that we met all support needs including sensory or physical needs and taking into account personal interests/social skills.
Where children were unable to manage a group session for example due to sensory issues, then they were provided with 1:1 or 2:1 staffing and supported in a calmer/quieter session. Activities for the sessions included, drama workshops, karaoke night with “selfie photo booth” sports/games sessions. art workshops. “Freezing” party/songs, health and well-being evening, free play, ” time out” in sensory room. Cake decorating, arts & crafts evening, movie evenings. Christmas/Halloween Parties, disco party, murder mystery evening and a PJ/ Onesie party.
Parents/carers told us that the break made a difference and let them do practical things including attending appointments, shopping, leisure activities such as eating out, walking, reading, going to gym. The majority of carers also said they spent time with siblings/other family members. One mum said it was great as “she visited her cousin who lives in a flat “and can’t do this as her teenage daughter is a wheelchair user and cannot access the flat.
Robert started school in August 2016 with a mixed school placement attending a main stream school for the majority of time with one-to-one support, and an additional support needs school for physiotherapy/PE, music and the Hydro Pool. Over the last year Robert has experienced the separation of his parents. In addition to this he has been through major surgery in March 2016 with a further operation due later this year.
Before starting primary school Robert attended a nursery which was open 50 weeks a year and in his three nursery years he received support during holiday periods, however since starting school this level of support was no longer available. In addition to this the one activity that Robert attends throughout the year, a disability swimming club, closes for the summer holidays’. Robert has no other community clubs or groups that he attends.
Activity Break Sessions - Robert was initially offered 2 sessions and settled well into the group with the other children, he was comfortable accepting help and support from staff, and was able to make his needs, likes and interests known. This enabled Robert to take part in an art session, and a drama workshop with the other children. After these 2 sessions ended Robert’s mum fed back to staff that he had told her “I love Barnardo’s” and “when can I go back?”
Following the end of Robert’s two sessions his Mum called the service to let us know that she was “struggling” through the school holiday period as she was not used to having a 7-week holiday break as he had previously at nursery. Robert’s mum went on to tell staff that she had enrolled her son into some main stream community sessions throughout the summer holidays, however after one session the service provider could not provide Robert with the one-to-one support he required to attend and as such he was no longer able to attend. Robert’s mum stated she felt at a loss, and that her son was really isolated from other children and the wider community. She was also emotionally and physically exhausted and experiencing a high level of stress.
In response to both Robert and his mum’s needs we recognised the high level of carer responsibility and Robert’s social needs over summer holidays’. We then offered another 2 sessions in addition to the 2 originally offered. In total, Robert received 12 hours of Activity Breaks Service.
Robert attended all of these sessions and from his verbal cues and body language it was evident that he clearly enjoyed the 4 sessions. He had a one-to-one staff ratio at all times and this provided Robert with the opportunity to join in playing a range of games, arts and crafts activities and support to engage with peers his age in playing board games etc. Robert communicated to staff that he was really happy to meet Elsa and Olaf at Barnardo’s. Throughout the time that Robert attended the Activity Breaks Sessions he was provided with consistent staff members and this supported him to develop positive peer relationships, have fun, play and join in the activities.
Following the end of Robert’s Activity Break Sessions his mum told us that the 4 sessions over the summer really supported her in her caring responsibilities, and had supported her to feel “less stressed” and she could “relax knowing Robert had required staff ratio” and “the support he needed in a clearly nurturing environment.”
Through further discussion with Robert’s mum it was also agreed that staff signposted the family to two other resources that would be able to provide additional supports.
The first of these was Active Schools weekly sports sessions for children with additional support needs. These sessions take place weekly in the local community during school term time, and provide a long term positive community resource for the family. Secondly Robert’s mum was signposted to the Bobath Centre in Glasgow for services for children with Cerebral Palsy as they deliver activity sessions during the October school holiday break. In addition to this staff also advised Robert’s mum to contact her social worker with regards to potentially accessing our “Your Time” services which are funded via Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership.
Activity Break Sessions, following assessment Elizabeth was offered 3 sessions and had 100% attendance rate at these. She settled very well into the group with her peers, and was comfortable with the staff and volunteers sharing her interests, likes and dislikes. Elizabeth fully participated in all activities provided including a “freezing party”, an art, and a drama workshop. Throughout these sessions Elizabeth demonstrated turn taking in games, talked to peers with support about going to schools/holidays, and joined in having a fun time. Elizabeth told us that she particularly enjoyed “meeting Elsa and Olaf at party”.
During feedback sessions Elizabeth’s mum told us that she enjoyed the fact Elizabeth had fun at Barnardo’s and that she was “always happy and excited about her day” when she returned home from the sessions. As a carer Mum advised that the Activity Break Sessions also gave her an opportunity to “calm my mind” and felt it was positive support in building time away from her (mum) that would contribute to supporting Elizabeth in her transition into primary school. Elizabeth also told her mum “I made friends “and asked “when can I go back” .
Following the end of the sessions Elizabeth was signposted to Active School’s Sports Session for children with disabilities that take place within the community during school term time as a long term positive community resource potentially for the family. Although at the time of working with Elizabeth and her family she did not have an allocated social worker staff provided referral information about accessing our “Your Time” through the Additional Support Needs social work team.
At the time of the initial referral, James was attending school but was not integrated into the classroom setting as a result of challenging behaviours that he was displaying. As a result James had no friends either at school or in the community. These factors were significantly impacting upon James and he was becoming increasingly isolated.
Initially James attended the project base for 2:1 individual befriending to allow staff to assess his needs. This then progressed to James having a 1:1 befriender who worked with him over a period of 6 months before supporting him to join a sports group for children and young people with additional support needs. James generally coped well within this group and he appeared to enjoy the activity aspect of the group. Although James did not socialise well within the group, in general things were improving and simultaneously at school he was managing better.
After almost two years of working with James as described above staff felt that he had made significant progress. At the same time it was recognised that a number of the young people in James’ school were part of the Fun with Friends (FF’s)Teenage group and after consultation with James and his carer it was agreed that he would attend the Fun for Friend’s Group on a trial period and he was supported and prepared for this transition. Initially James was quiet in the group and was reluctant to join in activities. However, this quickly changed and with the support of Barnardo’s staff he began socialising with his peer group from school and forming and maintaining new relationships within the group.
James has enjoyed a variety of activities which have been provided by through the Fun for Friend’s group including, movie nights, sports sessions, a murder mystery evening and games nights. James has gradually become more confident within the group and this is evident in his presentation at the group. He initiates and joins in conversations with his peers and staff. He also enjoys “banter” which is something he found very difficult to understand previously.
James’ has made significant progress since starting at Barnardo’s from starting off with 2:1 individual befriending, to being part of two age and stage appropriate social groups is a massive achievement for James. The Fun for Friend’s teenage group has given James the opportunity to socialise with his peers and experience new activities in an age and stage appropriate social setting.
James carer feedback that this service has provided her with respite and “much needed time to herself to relax” and the” biggest advantage is James have been given an opportunity to have a peer group where he can make friends and form relationships, he really looks forward to attending the group”.
Fun with Friends Group Sessions, on the first week that Amanda joined the group she appeared to be quite nervous and shy and was uncharacteristically quiet compared to how her mum had described her. However with reassurance and 1:1 support by both staff and some of the other young people in attendance she began to join in with games and conversations with her peers, staff and volunteers within the group.
Within the group there was a mix of young people for Amanda to interact with which comprised of friends/peers from school, and some new young people she had not previously met. This environment and group dynamic provided Amanda with a phased approach to developing relationships and engaging with her peer group. Initially she was quite withdrawn however slowly Amanda began to form tentative but positive peer and adult relationships. Over the first few sessions Amanda was supported to either approach other young people, or when other young people approach her. However, with 1:1 support things began to change for Amanda and she was encouraged to gradually introduce herself to the other young people and independently ask to be included within activities and games.
Over time Amanda begun to show increasing confidence within the group and has continued to show positive progress with support and encouragement. Amanda still requires a 1:1 ratio from time to time mostly for emotional support and encouragement within certain activities, however for the majority of sessions she interacts independently with her peers and staff. Recently a new group member started and instead of a staff member doing a tour of the premises Amanda carried this out. Amanda confidently showed the new group member around all the different areas of the building, with staff supervision, and provided a brief description of what the group does on a weekly basis. Amanda also introduced the young person to other staff within the main office.
Prior to joining the group Amanda would not have had the confidence to take on a task and role as she did in supporting another young person to join the group. Attending the Fun for Friend’s group has provided a regular opportunity to interact with other young people of her age and supported her through fun activities to develop life skills and a range of new experiences that Amanda was not able to access in her day-to-day life. Amanda has stated that she enjoys the group and has meet new friends and learnt new skills.
Fortunately she was asked to join the Teentastic Group on a Thursday evening. She was very apprehensive and did not want to go, she infact said “I will try it once but see the things you get me into” before going off on the first night. She then went to the group and on picking her up I was surprised how happy she was. She said she had a great time and loved it. She couldn’t wait for the following week to go again. Since joining she has been so happy about going and asking almost every day when Thursday will be to go to her group. She joins in and has made some new friends. She is also very fond of the leaders and volunteers and often talks about what they done and how much fun they have had.
Last week we were invited to a get together as the group was about to finish due to funding. Myself and my husband were astonished at how well our daughter coped with this and how she was away with all the staff and other group members laughing, dancing, singing etc. You would not believe it is the same person that we signed up for the group. She feels she can be herself and is so happy and confident with all the other group members and volunteers and leaders. She actually cried at the end of the night at the thought of the group stopping, it’s a fabulous crowd of people and staff work hard to ensure all the young people are included, happy and we therefore are so thankful for this and hope she can come back again if funding is granted.
What Barnardos Inverclyde Family Support Team has learnedUnexpected benefits - 1 child who was ending their allocated package of befriending services was offered an additional 15 hours through the Activity Breaks providing much needed additional supports during Summer holidays. Two young people after attending the Activity Breaks Service were referred successfully to the social work Additional Support Needs Team for Barnardos “Your Time” Service. Four families accessed free tickets from Barnardos for a day out at Edinburgh Zoo.
Two Children were invited to Barnardos “Build a Bear” Christmas party in 2016, 1 family was referred to our Big Lottery Early Years Family Support Service for one-to-one emotional supports, parents /carers had opportunity to access the weekly parent/carer drop-in group at the service. Two siblings, of young people attending our Fun for Friend’s group, have accessed our sibling support group.
At Christmas 11 Teenagers were given a Teddy Bear and selection box that was donated to Barnardo’s, Three children, and their families, that access our Fun with Friends Activity Break Service were given Christmas gifts donated by West College of Scotland’s Health and Beauty Department. At the “freezing Party” during the summer sessions, and the teenager end party at the Tontine Hotel, there was clear enjoyment and community connections/family friendships made at these events where parents-carers and siblings had a fun time together at the celebrations.
Five teenagers have now made friendships and social opportunities, with family support, outwith the Thursday evening sessions. One mum/carer agreed to a referral being made to a local counselling service in relation to mental health Support.
As part of our staff development we invited the Inverclyde Children’s Rights Officer to attend our staff meeting to share information. During the meeting the work of Fun with Friends Activity Break Services was discussed and it was recognised that this service funded through Shared Care Scotland has allowed the service to demonstrate that we are meeting a number of aspects of the UNCRC in particular Articles 31 and 15.
Difference the fund has made to Barnardos in Inverclyde, this funding has supported families to access Barnardos service via a self-referral process. This has meant there is not a requirement to have a social worker which in some cases may have been a barrier to some families. This ability to self-referral has meant we have widened the community opportunities. One young teen that had moved to Inverclyde from England, entered the group within 3 weeks of her mum contacting our service. This young person has been supported to build relationships within the area that would not have been possible without Barnardos and Shared Cared Scotland.
One of the challenges has been to identify further sources of sustainability for potential funding for the project to continue from April 2017. Within Inverclyde there is a high level of poverty and the majority of parents could not commit to a weekly sustainable financial input into the group that would make it self-sustainable. A challenge of the teenage group was that 3-young people had to leave the group as they turned 19 years of age. Staff worked towards positive endings with the young people but there was no other service to signpost them to that provided a similar evening social opportunity for them as young adults.