A story by PLUS Forth Valley
We provided regular short breaks to young adults with a range of additional support needs, promoting peer support and learning to develop independence and natural socialisation skills. This gave some parents and carer’s time to themselves.
What PLUS Social did
On receipt of funding PLUS arranged a consultation session inviting former service users, guardians and adults from our established adults service, ‘The Bank’ Project. We made contact with all PLUS adults who were not in receipt of social work support and in consultation with them, developed communication to broaden the membership, for example, Facebook, and existing social media, word of mouth. Discussions and suggestions from those in attendance led to the development of the PLUS Social project.
With regular volunteer support from a long standing volunteer within our adults services, and the support of the project coordinator a small group of adults who identified themselves as interested initially set up a weekly coffee morning, which was well attended throughout the first six months of the project. Members of PLUS Social used these coffee mornings to catch up, socialise, and also to set up and arrange other groups and activities which then also ran regularly, but for smaller groups interested in these activities.
Using a 'capacity approach', the young adults were able to identify the strengths and interests they had and would like to grow for their own benefit and for the benefit of others in the group. As well as providing young adults an opportunity to come together, members of PLUS Social also had access to 1:1 support with a staff member who worked to meet individual targets and outcomes. Breaks took place both in the PLUS premises and also out and about in the local community. On a few occasions the young adults also arranged trips to other cities in Scotland.
The PLUS Social project provided regular short breaks for carers to have time to themselves, knowing that the young adults they support are safe and well supported. It also provided a point of contact for the carers to find support from the Project Coordinator and other PLUS staff. Before each young adult joined PLUS social, carers were given the choice of meeting with the project coordinator to discuss any concerns or suggestions they may have had.
KM is a keen climber and has been working towards becoming a qualified climbing instructor. She regularly climbs at a facility close to PLUS. As her relationships with her peers developed KM and a few other members of PLUS, with support from PLUS staff, arranged to go climbing after a Coffee Morning. The Young Adults KM supported had never climbed before and really enjoyed getting to do this.
This led to KM liaising with the instructors at the facility to arrange a small climbing group, which she led, with the support of a staff member to help the young adults who were not on the wall. This group ran well. However, as KM’s home situation became more stressful, it impacted on her emotional well-being. The relationship between KM and her mother broke down, and KM met with the project coordinator to ask for help. With the support and guidance of the project coordinator and PLUS, KM decided to temporarily move in with her father, before relocating to Dundee.
Although this meant that she could no longer join in the social events, KM was able to continue with the now strong friendships she had developed, and with the support form PLUS, KM and peers arranged a trip to Dundee to meet up with her, prior to the project ending. She stays in touch with a number of people.
As well as regular volunteer support with day-to-day admin tasks, HM established and organised an adult led media group with the support of the project coordinator, and sessional staff. He arranged interviews with members of the core team, and some of the sessional team. HM interviewed, recorded and then edited the podcasts with minimal support.
The Media Group will continue to run now that the project has ended, and HM continues to lead and organise this group. HM’s mum wrote a letter to PLUS to inform us that she felt HM had found a place within PLUS, and felt that he was much more engaged in planning and organising how he chose to spend his time. She commented that H's engagement with PLUS had made a huge difference to her and her family
HM himself feels that being involved with PLUS Social gave him the opportunity to use the skills he had, and gain confidence using them. He now contributes meaningfully to PLUS as an office volunteer and has a small but strong network of friends.
Initially when NM joined PLUS Social, she tended to stick to events that had already been planned; she indicated that she preferred just following what others wanted to do. Throughout the year, NM felt more and more confident with her role at PLUS, and although it meant becoming more independent with travelling she decided to increase her volunteering role by working a second day each week.
As the project went on NM wanted to go a little further afield than events which were on offer, and so with the support of a staff member arranged a girl’s day out to Glasgow, arranging everything from travel times to booking a staff member at the times requires. This is something NM is very proud of, and she indicated at her final evaluation meeting that she felt more confident doing things herself. NM now also volunteers at some PLUS events as well as in the Admin team, and continues to enjoy her role at PLUS.
What PLUS Forth Valley has learnedFunding for PLUS Social was initially sought to create a service for the young adults who had to step away from PLUS when funding for a prior project ended. Through consultation and feedback from these young adults, we sought funding for the PLUS Social project. However we found that some of these young adults no longer felt that PLUS was the right fit for them, especially as the new project was geared towards development of independence. Two felt they had already achieved this.
More personalised, PLUS Social has given PLUS as a whole an insight into the collective desires for young adults time with PLUS. Many of our young adults indicated that they were not looking for a service to replace the thing they were doing externally to PLUS, they wanted something different, but something they themselves could take ownership of. Some adults were more ready than others to take ownership of activities and groups within PLUS Social, however some young adults only desired to return to PLUS events as they had known growing up. However, with support even the young adults who were reluctant to engage with development activities, did go on to find meaningful experiences outside of PLUS.
An unexpected challenge we found which came from the project, was the high level of emotional support needed by the young adults. PLUS Social members all agreed that working towards independence was the key outcome for their time within PLUS Social. However having limited access to support externally, a number struggled to find work or meaningful experience away from their home, in part because of other issues, for example, one young person was going through the process of gender realignment, resulting in many of the young adults feeling socially isolated for multiple reasons. This impacted significantly on emotional well-being.
The young adults regularly needed to be supported directly by the project coordinator and others in PLUS to support them through their time with PLUS, and to help them engage with their peers.