Thrive Young Carers
A story by Barnardos Inverclyde Thrive Services
We provided two social groups for young carers (8-14yrs & 15-18yrs) living in Inverclyde. The groups provided young carer’s with regular respite time away from their caring responsibilities, opportunities to take part in various activities, and to develop peer relationships with other young carer’s within their local community.
What Thrive Young Carers did
Through a successful co-working partnership with Inverclyde Health & Social Care Partnership (HSCP) we worked closely alongside their Young Carers Worker. This partnership worked in generating suitable referrals, provided the staff with knowledge of the needs of young carers, and supported the staff in group delivery and attending the young carer's festival.
Further to this our working partnership with the Young Carer's Worker ensured that the service was working in compliance with Inverclyde's Carer & Young Carer Strategy 2017-2022 developed in recognition of the role and contribution carers make. In addition to the referrals received through the Young Carer's Worker we also received referrals from local high schools, other external agencies and Barnardos Nurture Services.
The service provided 40 weeks of young carer's groups, (group 1 was 8-14 years & group 2 was 15-18) years delivered on alternate weeks. Due to the demand on space within our own premises the group sessions were held at Barnardos Nurture Service premises, immediately adjacent to our own premises. A range of activities and outings was chosen by the young people themselves including: pantomime/theatre trips, Young Carers Festival, arts and crafts, drama workshops, fast food Parties, cooking classes/ banquets, funworld, laser tag, camping, Complimentary Therapies Workshop, social group, gaming night.
There was also a sports night, pool, murder mystery night, music workshop, discos, fireworks display, Petting Zoo, tree climbing workshops, political speed dating, a talent show, cinema and an Alcohol and Drugs Awareness Workshop.
Many of the above acitivities/trips were facilitated by West College Scotland, Beacon Arts, Drug and Alcohol team and other local agencies/resources who through our extensive partnerships provided free professional services. This meant that the young carer's could access a wider range of activities that they would not be able to access ordinarily due to financial challenges and social isolation as a result of their caring role.
Initially Jim told us during the care planning process that he experiences depression and that this was sometimes exacerbated by his caring role and the family dynamic at home. Jim didn’t go out very much and experience social isolation. Jim was eager to meet others young people, particularly those in the same position as him, and to alleviate stress by taking part in therapeutic and artistic activities as part of social group. Initially when Jim began the group he presented with low mood and was regularly tired and exhausted
During the time that Jim has attended the group he has shown great improvement in his confidence levels and ability to relate to those around him. Jim was initially quiet but now takes on a leadership role within the group welcoming new members & supporting others with art ideas, cooking skills and advocating for other young carers who are not as confident in putting their views forward. Jim is now forthcoming with ideas to plan future activities that not only interest him, but cater to the rest of the group members he has formed friendships with.
Through engaging with the staff and joining in on activities such as icebreakers, games and some drama workshops over time Jim began to relax in the environment around him. He also had a real interest in dramatic arts and he began to offer his own ideas of games to play as the group has progressed. Through taking part Jim’s mood began to improve and while we started to see his good sense of humour and positive disposition despite the challenges that he faces on a daily basis.
Coming to group and working alongside other young carers, Jim has identified that forming friendships and providing positive mentorship is something he is naturally good at. Through Jim's personal journey with the group he has decided that he would like to volunteer for Thrive Services and he has met with our volunteer co-ordinator to take advantage of the training and development opportunities that comes from our volunteering programme.
These next steps in Jim's life will open up and enhance his future employability and provide him with transferable skills for the workplace. Jim also wants to work towards his Duke of Edinburgh award and this voluntary work will contribute to this. Jim has also applied to study drama at college and has told us that the experiences he has gained through the young carer's group helped him make this decision and contributed to his confidence in applying.
During the Young Carers Festival Jim also took on a mentoring role supporting the younger members attending. He also put himself forward in representing our group during a young carers alliance conference. This involved him in meeting and greeting dignitaries and professionals who have the power to make positive changes in relation to young carers lives in Scotland. Jim was able to offer his opinions and the views of his peers openly and eloquently to the many organisations in attendance.
Jim speaks passionately and openly about young carers and their rights and needs and is enthusiastic about bringing about positive change using his own experiences and knowledge. The group has provided him with a platform for expression and a much needed outlet for his ideas to improve not only his own life but the lives of young carers today. The group has shown Jim that he is not alone and that he faces some of the the same challenges as other carers his age.
Jim has now formed a young carer’s sub group with other young carers from the group who have developed a workshop that focuses in on the lives and challenges faced by young carers. This presentation is now being delivered by Jim and his peers to raise awareness in high schools to highlight young caring roles and to educate others about the daily struggles in an effort to improve the lives of others in similar situations to themselves.
When we initially met with Charlie and his parents to discuss the young carer’s service Charlie presented as tired, and quiet in nature. Mum and dad expressed that relationships at home were strained due to Charlie feeling the stress of his caring role and being a teenager who was unable to socialise with his peers was also causing friction. Mum noted that she and Charlie fought a lot as Charlie would become frustrated at not having many opportunities to socialise or get out of the house to meet his peers.
Mum advised that Charlie had been taking part in risk taking behaviours involving experimentation with alcohol and substance misuse. Charlie advised that he made these choices due to the stress he was under however he had received support from a drugs counsellor for this. Charlie’s parents felt that with the right support and opportunities in a group setting that Charlie would be better able to manage his emotions and stress levels. Charlie advised that he found his caring role physically exerting and “stressful” he told us he worries about his mum a lot and that the amount of time spent with each other often leads to conflict in their relationship.
During the care planning process Charlie told us that he hoped the group would “make him feel less stressed and tired than he was before” His Mum just wanted Charlie to "feel less anxious, happy ….. have a better social life and possibly make new friends” Although Charlie was 15 years he began attending the JNR group (8-13 yrs) as it was identified by Charlie himself, his parents and the Young Carers Worker who provides 1:1 support to Charlie, that this would be appropriate to his age and stage of development and social confidence level at this time.
Initially Charlie was quiet at the first few sessions, however through regular attendance at the group he tentatively began to build relationships, and a friendship developed between Charlie and another young person at the group. Charlie began to contribute to the group stating his views and providing feedback on new activities he wanted to take part in. Within a matter of weeks staff began to recognise a clear change in Charlie as he was very chatty with his peers and his confidence was growing. He was also a very active participant in the group and appeared positive and motivated. Feedback from Charlie at this time indicated that he “wished the group was on longer, or every night as it’s the only time I get out of the house!”
As Charlie’s social skills and interactions with peers and staff improved he confidently suggested to a staff member that he may be ready to move up to the teen group. He told the staff member that he "felt comfortable and ready for it". Charlie now attends the teen group and is coping well in this new environment with a new set of young people. Charlie is a regular attender at the group and participates in discussions and implementing plans for future groups alongside his peers. Charlie has provided many activity ideas, not just for the teen group, but also offers insight into what he feels the JNR group may enjoy using his prior knowledge of the young people he met there. This showed that Charlie was taking on a lead role and supporting his younger peers while doing so.
Charlie’s mum provided us with some feedback telling us that “…during Charlie’s time away it provides respite for myself and my husband as due to Charlie’s age we often clash. I would say that Charlie is a typical teenager that argues with me, but it’s intensified due to the caring role Charlie has. The young carers group has enabled us as a family to decrease our stress levels as Charlie becomes happier knowing that he is going to the group, and comes home really happy when he has been out with his peers who have similar responsibilities to his.
Charlie has had less clashes with myself as he seems happier knowing he is going to do something fun and doesn’t have to worry about anything for a couple of hours a week. Due to this Charlie’s behaviours seem to have changed as Charlie seems to come home relaxed and in turn this ensures that the entire family is relaxed. The group has impacted Charlie positively so much so that I wish it was on every day. ”
Kim presented as young for her age, and she found it particularly challenging to socially interact effectively with peers of her own age. At the first few group sessions Kim presented as quiet and nervous. Although regularly attending her participation during activities was low level, and she would often use her phone to engage others around her by showing pictures or videos that were out of context to the activity or would make jokes that didn’t fit the situation.
The relaxed but supportive group setting supported Kim to start to "be herself" and her fun and friendly personality began to shine through. She started to voice her opinions and make choices about what she wanted to participate in, and showed a real interested in taking part in relationship based drama workshops. The ice breakers and one-to-one work focusing on social communication supported Kim in developing her confidence in starting conversations with her peers, without the use of a smart phone. Kim also began to show empathy to those around her and when new members joined the group she began to act as a mentor, welcoming them to the group and taking an interest in their lives by asking questions.
As the summer approached and Kim's confidence grew she made the choice to attend the Young Carer’s Festival. Although this opportunity provided Kim with a short break away from home and her caring responsibilities, it was a big step for her to take. However the Young Carer's Festival was a really positive experience for Kim as she took part in a range of activities, and showed her skills and proficiency in setting up the tents and working as part of the team. Kim’s sense of self-worth were supported throughout the 20 weeks and highlighted her unique worth and Kim could see that she had much to offer to the group, and that she was valued greatly as part of the team.
Feedback from Kim indicated “I feel like I can tell the group workers anything, and talk about what is worrying me and speak about my life, like if my mum is having a bad day or isn’t well. They (the staff) will give me advice and support about anything, it has really helped me not be as stressed. If I didn’t have group it would feel to me like I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to about my family problems, and I also made a best friend through group who supports me a lot because she has a little brother who is a lot like mine so we are able to talk about it and she understands. I always feel included” Kim has now left the group and attends other local groups independently as she is more confident in making friends and travelling on her own.
What Barnardos Inverclyde Thrive Services has learnedUnexpected benefits, this fund has enabled us to provide support for over 30 young carers across the Inverclyde area that were not able to access any other groups of this nature. Through the young carer's accessing the group Thrive Services have been able to provide other family members with additional supports funded through our other aspects of service provision such as siblings accessing our sibling support groups.
This meant that not only were the young carer's receiving support, but that their siblings were also provided with a much needed service that met their needs to alleviate the stress and strain that comes from having a caring role. Our whole systems approach ensures that we have an in depth knowledge and understanding of the impact of disability, ill health and life limiting or progressive conditions on the lives of young carer' and their families.
Having the funding for the young carer's groups has provided us, as a service, with an opportunity to develop new local partnerships. This has been particularly beneficial as we were able to provide a much wider range of activities and events through our partners delivering a variety of inputs to the young carer's all at no additional costs. Working in this way has been an effective use of resources, responsible stewardship with our activities budget for the young carers, and this has meant that we have provided a high level of additional value to the young carers attending the service.
How We Have Made our Service More Personalised, we took into account the wants and needs of our young carers, and using a person centered approach, we are able to tailor the groups to the young people themselves and use the funds to organise events and activities that specifically catered to their interests. A range of tools and approaches was used to ensue that each young person was supported to put forward their ideas in a way that ensured they are heard.
The young carers provided some ideas and plans for future sessions together using a flipchart and “Facebook thumbs” which was imagery and a medium they are familiar with, and could identify with easily. They each put “like” thumbs beside the activity suggestions to vote for future group plans. This was one tool that enabled them to shape their group ensuring their choices and views were respected.
Diversity, within the service we celebrate and promote diversity and equality and this permeates through our policies, procedures, values and practice. We encourage and support the children, young people and their families who use the service to be proud of who they are. Our services are tailored to the individual needs of the service user and we continuously look to broaden children and young people’s opportunities in an inclusive manner.