Short Breaks for Children and Young People with Additional Support Needs and their Families and Carers
A story by Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Carers Centre
We provided group outings for children and young people with additional support needs and their families across Falkirk and Clackmannanshire during the school summer holidays, Christmas holidays and Spring holiday time.
What Short Breaks for Children and Young People with Additional Support Needs and their Families and Carers did
Over the past year we have facilitated outings for 5 groups of children and young people with additional support needs and their families across Falkirk and Clackmannanshire. Following consultation with families we offered a variety of supported outings to Dream Night at Edinburgh Zoo, 3 different opportunities for families to attend a Christmas Pantomime and a trip to Almond Valley Heritage Park.
Families had the opportunity to enjoy a break together and gain peer support. The outings provided families with new experiences, and enabled them to attend/visit somewhere they may normally shy away from due to the additional needs of their child. The outings increased the confidence, self esteem and well being of families that participated. The outings created friendships for parents that were previously isolated and enabled long lasting relationships, many families arranged to meet after the outings and go along to the same activity again or try a new one.
The outings were publicised in our newsletter which is disseminated to local carers, Social Work Services, GP surgeries, and other agencies that we work in partnership with across the year. The outings were promoted at the parent carer groups, carers forum and via individual 1:1 support. Social Media and the Carers Centre website also promoted the outing details to a wider audience of carers, those currently accessing support and new carers. The centre regularly posts on Facebook/Twitter.
Since attending the Better Breaks outings, Carer A has improved health and well being as she has started to develop a peer network, and has made one or two friends who are in a similar position to her. Carer A also accessed the parent carer Facebook page which means that even when she is feeling low and doesn't want to engage in person she can feel connected to other carers.
Carer A said attending a Better Breaks outing provided her with the confidence she needed to consider taking her children out without the additional support of her Mum, and even trying to arrange to meet another parent she met whilst at Edinburgh Zoo. 'It helped me feel less isolated and go somewhere I might not have attended otherwise'. 'Yes it gave me a boost and got me out the house'.
Carer B found out about the Better Breaks outing through another parent whilst taking her child to school. Carer B got in touch with the Carer Support Worker via Facebook and they arranged to meet to discuss their caring situation. Carer B has 3 children, one who has multiple and complex needs. They are socially isolated and are not able to access much support.
By attending the Better Breaks outings Carer B was able to receive a lot of peer support in a short amount of time, build a network and find out about other caring situations and the support other families receive. Carer B has only been able to attend one outing but continues to access support via social media, which they state is very important to them.
'Being with other families with children with additional needs made the experience more relaxing'. 'Bumped into people we knew but were unaware they were even carers !'
Carer C said that being with other families in similar situations “was lovely to spend time in public without the pressures or judgement from others which made it less stressful”. They appreciated having the support of centre staff and other carers which they felt helped with caring strategies they can use in the future. "It was a superb day helped by the glorious weather but was mostly down to the wonderful staff from the Carers Centre, it was so well organised even down to them having sunscreen which I had not thought about!! The girls really thought of everything I could not fault this trip"
Carer C stated that they now realise trips out with their child can be fun with the right structures of support in place. They feel they are spending more time together as a family and often talk about the Dream night at the zoo event. By having positive experiences as a family carers feel better able to cope with their caring role long term, and have a life outside of caring. Through peer support, they are able to discuss their own situation and feel less isolated.
'It is always good to see other families and talk things through'. 'Had a good gossip with someone with more experience of what we deal with'.
What Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Carers Centre has learnedFollowing feedback from families regarding timings of outings, the centre facilitated smaller groups to attend the pantomime in December. 3 different dates were organised, one during the day, one in the evening and one date was to a pantomime specifically for children with additional needs. This flexible approach to the outings was very well received by families and increased the numbers and engagement with the centre.
We have learned that even in smaller groups parent carers still gain peer support, and perhaps more so because the numbers are smaller, they feel more able to discuss their caring role and ask other parents for support. Families have requested that more flexible, smaller groups take place in the future.
Successfully achieving Better Breaks funding continues to provide the Carers Centre with a wealth of opportunity for parent carers and their children/young people. It enables families to have new experiences and meet new people in addition to providing them with the confidence to try new activities as a family. One benefit of the outings has always been the continued peer support after the event, families make friendships and meet up outwith the support provided by the centre.
One of the challenges continues to be the demand for support and places on the outings, but the centre tries to ensure as many new carers as possible have the opportunity to attend an outing. Social media has been key in ensuring carers have the right information about the Better Breaks outings, Facebook and Twitter helps to attract new parent carers.