Shetland Better Breaks Partnership Group
A story by Voluntary Action Shetland
We provided a befriending service to support children and young people aged between 7 to 18 years who have Additional Support Needs to access mainstream provision on a weekly/fortnightly basis whilst giving the main carer a regular break.
We provided a group to support young sibling carers where they have an opportunity to be away from their caring roles. This has the additional benefit of providing respite time for parents as the group was run alongside the Disability Shetland Club.
What Shetland Better Breaks Partnership Group did
The Shetland Befriending Scheme has provided befriending 1:1 support to 11 disabled young people between the ages of 7-18 years of age on a weekly/fortnightly basis for a few hours at a time whilst their main carer had a break to do something for themselves or have quality time with their other children. The carers were able to go shopping, tackle jobs in the family home that was always on the “to do” list, or just relax with a coffee and book.
The service completed 2 x 6 week volunteer recruitment drives in August/September 2015 & January/February 2016 for new volunteers resulting in 20 initial enquiries about volunteering with 14 applications coming in & 11 people being recruited and completing the volunteer initial training programme. Out of those 11 new volunteers, 2 came to the Children’s Additional Support Needs section to be matched.
Of the 11 matches that have taken place 6 matches have concluded & the current 5 live matches are being supported regularly with 6 weekly supervision sessions with the volunteer & 3 monthly review meetings with the young person & their parents/guardians.
The project provided the following group activities for the volunteers and young people to attend: Craft drop in session, ceramic painting, archery, pantomime, trampolining, Easter Egg Hunt.
VAS Carers Centre has run 7 two-hourly sessions of a Sibling Support group from July – March 2016 on a Sat morn. Over this period, the group has built up membership to 8 young people. These young people were identified through discussion with parents, word of mouth, & referrals from schools. Some have also come through our close work with the Befriending team. During the Oct holidays a day trip was organised for 3 different young people to come to Lerwick to watch a film at the cinema and have time out for themselves. This was again offered in the Easter holidays where two young people enjoyed their break. There have also been trips to the Shetland museum & Scalloway castle, as well as some Sat mornings spent inside doing craft activities, ceramic painting & playing games.
There has been the additional benefit of giving monthly respite to parents, as the group is run at the same as Sat Disability Club.
Tracey accesses weekly support with a Young Carer Worker. This gives her a chance to do things that she wants to do, and allows time for her to speak about how things are going at home. Through informal discussion, Tracey said that she would like more information about the conditions which her siblings have. She said that this would help her understand the way they are, and why they do the things they do. After permission was sought from the parents, the young carers worker was able to contact the lead professional of the GIRFEC who was able to work in partnership to provide an age appropriate resource that Tracey could work through over a couple of weeks. Although upsetting and very hard work for Tracey, she shared with the worker that it had really helped her to think about the conditions and why things have happened the way they have.
Tracey also accesses the Sibling Group once a month. This is a great opportunity for her to meet with other young people who are in a similar situation to herself and she said that she had thought before that she was the only one! Tracey enjoys the group, and is always coming up with ideas for activities, or places to visit. She enjoys visiting different places, and suggested going to the museum and the local castle amongst many other things.
The group are always provided with snack, and Tracey asked if there could be healthy snack as well as biscuits. This has been put in place, with Tracey giving suggestions to the workers for the next session of carrot sticks, oranges, apples, grapes etc. Tracey has built good friendships with the other young people in the group, and it is good to see that she doesn’t try to look after or ‘care’ for any of them. The time at Sibling Group is very much for Tracey to enjoy herself and take time out of her caring role.
Tracey will be transitioning to the local high school this summer and this is a worry for her, particularly that teachers are aware that she is a young carer so sometimes won’t get her homework etc done on time or to the best of her ability. During informal discussion within the group, it became apparent that another young person is also going to be doing the same transition. Both Tracey and the other young person have said it is nice to know someone else who is in a similar situation, and someone they already have a connection with.
The workers are able to reassure both young people that everything has been put in place for them at the high school, and they will have key Pupil Support teachers to talk to whenever they need to. This seems to have put their minds at rest.
Stuart was referred to the befriending scheme before his little sister was born, and it was apparent that she would need a lot of special care, extended stays in hospital and input from lots of different professionals. The family are very close and supportive but it was clear that Stuart would need to access more outreach and overnight stays with the local council respite provision once his sister was born. Stuart was a very high priority to get matched up with the befriending scheme.
Zoe was matched with Stuart as she had previously worked with him at school as an auxiliary when he was much younger. This meant that Zoe was used to communicating with Stuart, using a mix of Makaton and speech, which could have been a big barrier for a volunteer. Zoe meets with Stuart for a couple of hours every fortnight, and has a car to use for meetings.
Zoe chose the first meeting activity, a trip to the Cafe for some ice cream however since then Stuart has grown in confidence and has started to choose activities to do himself. An example of this is when Stuart chose to go to the Chinese restaurant for food as it was Chinese New Year and he had been told all about it at school! Zoe encourages this by being open and flexible, and often the pair just decide on the day. Stuart seems to be enjoying the opportunity to try new things and go new places so the pair haven’t repeated an activity so far! Zoe is working on encouraging Stuart to interact with the shop workers, servers etc wherever they go. This has had varying success so far but very much depends on how Stuart is feeling that day.
As Stuart was identified as a young carer for his sister, he has been able to access support from the Voluntary Actions Shetland Young Carers Group. Mum and dad were keen for Stuart to meet other young people like himself, who had siblings with additional support needs, and for him to do more mainstream group activities. Stuart has been able to access the Young Carers Sibling Group which runs once a month. He interacts very well with the other young people who are in the group, and has built a good friendship with one boy who lives near him.
Stuart enjoys the freedom of the group, being given the opportunity to act like a child rather than a carer. He has become more confident in the group and has suggested many activities for the group to do. Mum and dad are delighted that Stuart has been able to access befriending and the Sibling Group. They are very aware that Stuart needs time out from his caring role and have asked recently if there is any way that someone from either group can take Stuart swimming as this is a favourite of his, that mum and dad now don’t have time to do with him. Stuart hasn’t asked for this to be an activity with befriending so far. The young carers group are looking at the possibility of offering 1:1 support to Stuart to enable him to go swimming once a week.
Mum and dad have said that the input from both befriending and young carers is invaluable for them as well as Stuart. For them, it means that they have time to focus solely on Stuart’s little sister, and sometimes his older sister too. They also have peace of mind knowing that Stuart is out having fun and look forward to hearing what he has been doing when he comes home. They can’t give him as much time as they would like at the moment, and they are very grateful that other people can.
Lee was referred to the befriending scheme by school and had to wait for a suitable volunteer who would be able to manage his needs in the right way. Ruth came to volunteer for the scheme, and it became clear she was a perfect match for Lee as she was a physiotherapist and sometimes had input with him. This was a relief to mum as it meant she could be sure that Lee would get the correct level of support throughout the meetings.
Lee and Ruth try to meet twice a month for a couple of hours, but sometimes this doesn’t work in with local respite provision, and Lee seeing his dad. However, mum and Lee are happy for the meetings to happen whenever they can and Ruth is able to be very flexible in her availability. Ruth gives Lee a choice of a couple of activities, making sure they are things he would enjoy, and are accessible for him. Lee then chooses from this more limited choice. Lee often chooses to go to the local cinema to see films at the Additional Support Needs screening. He particularly enjoys going to the cafe afterwards! Another favourite is going to Open Mic nights where Lee can enjoy the music being played and sung.
Ruth tries to make sure that they do a variety of different activities and they always take lots of photos on Lee’s Ipad so that he can tell mum and school staff what he has been up to. Ruth encourages Lee to interact with staff wherever they go. Sometimes Ruth has picked Lee up from the respite provision if there is a particular event on at that time e.g. the Classic Car Show or Food and Craft Fair. Lee also had the opportunity to buy a present for a family member at the craft fair, using money from mum.
Mum feels the support given by the scheme is invaluable, especially when she broke her leg and wasn’t able to do anything with Lee! Ruth was able to extend her meeting times with Lee over this time to give mum more of a break. Mum feels that Lee is increasing in his independence by being out and about in the community with someone out with their family, and he is coping much better in public places. Mum is very happy to see Lee having his own social life and his own interests.
What Voluntary Action Shetland has learnedWe have seen an increased challenge this year in recruiting volunteers to work as volunteer befrienders with young people with Additional Support Needs. Even though we have adapted our initial training programme to increase awareness and reduce the anxiety about working with Additional Support Needs, new volunteers who have not had any previous experience in this area have tended to work with young people who are main stream with other issues.
By having the befriending project and the carer’s project in the same building, we have been able to work well together and refer to each project as required, as young people have become aware to each service. This has allowed a strong partnership working practise to develop in order to meet the needs of the young people and families requesting the support.
We have learnt that working with the young people in deciding what activities they are going to take part in makes the activity far more successful. This approach has particularly helped the older ones to “buy in” to the group and feel that they have a stake within it.