2022 Summer Respite Holiday
A story by Saint Andrew's/Michael's Charity (SAMs Charity)
SAMs Charity ran a Summer Respite Holiday, which helped children/young people with disabilities/multiple ASN and their Parents/Carers better cope with both existing and new challenges created by the pandemic, reduced their isolation, and improved their wellbeing, resilience, and quality of life.
What 2022 Summer Respite Holiday did
We ran an exciting 5 day Summer Respite Holiday at the Drimsynie Caravan Park, which helped children/young people with disabilities/multiple ASN and their Parents/Carers better cope with existing and new challenges created by the pandemic, reduced their isolation, and improved their wellbeing, resilience, and quality of life. Overall, the project supported 28 children/YP aged 3-18 with disabilities and/or multiple ASN, 5 siblings and 22 Parents/Carers.
We provided wide range of activities each day for the children/YP supported incl., outdoor games, indoor activities and arts/crafts, sand art, messy play, swimming with water walkers, kayaking, a boat trip, nature crafts, trampolines, etc. These activities were planned in partnership with the children/families supported prior to the event to best meet their interests/needs. We also set-up safe Soft Play and Sensory Spaces using specially adapted equipment and resources brought with us, enabling our volunteers to provide 1-to-1 sensory support for those with more profound disabilities/complex needs.
Whilst children/YP took part in day-time activities, Parents/Carers accessed 6-8 hours of much-needed respite each day, helping them better cope with the constant cycle of medication, time, financial costs, isolation, stress, and physical/emotional toll of providing 24/7 intensive care for their children. During this time Parents/Carers enjoyed time with their partners/peers, day trips/outings, etc. To further help Parents de-stress, we supported them to each access 3 different Spa Treatments incl., massages, reflexology, etc.
A family dance disco was provided each evening and we also ran a Pizza and Movie Night and a ‘Got Talent’ Night during which families could simply have fun and enjoy each other’s company – improving family relationships and creating new/stronger support networks to reduce their on-going isolation and improve mental health and resilience. We also provided some games in each caravan that further enabled families to have fun and enjoy each other away from the stress and everyday challenges faced at home, further strengthening family relationships.
What Saint Andrew's/Michael's Charity (SAMs Charity) has learned
As noted in our 2021 End of Grant Report, we required to make several changes to the delivery of our 2021 Summer Respite Holiday as a result of the on-going pandemic, including running the respite holiday at our Plan B location in Drimsynie Caravan Park at which our 2 new Specially-Adapted Caravans are located, having each family stay in their own individual caravan to further support their overall health/safety, and providing activities in rotation to small group of 5 children. Although running the holiday at this new location had its own challenges, the overall project experienced many unexpected successes and was overwhelmingly loved by the families supported, so much so that we decided to host all foreseeable future Summer Respite Holidays at this location.
In this connection, our 2022 Summer Respite Holiday was held at Drimsynie Caravan Park. Running the service at this venue has significantly cut down on travel requirements and costs, both as this location is much closer to Glasgow and as we can provide more activities on-site, particularly benefitting some of the children that otherwise struggle to travel by car because of their disabilities/ASN. We continued to provide individual caravans for each family which is a big change from the venue previously used in which families stayed in group setting. This personalised accommodation situation really helped provide the best of both worlds as families were able to benefit from group activities whilst enjoying their own personal family space at night. To support this, we provided games in each caravan that the families could enjoy together, further supporting improved family relationships. Having a holiday at this location also enabled us to provide more outdoor and on-site activities rather than requiring the groups to travel to different places each day for outings. This made things much more convenient as nearly no travel was required to provide our children and family activities during the week.
However, although there is ample outdoor spaces in which the kids can play and take part in fun activities whilst their Parents/Carers access respite, there is really only one big indoor space in which we can run activities. Although this worked brilliantly for the family-wide activities provided during the evenings, not having multiple large indoor spaces could make it difficult to provide activities for different groups when there is inclement weather. Luckily this was only an issue for a 3 hour-period during one afternoon but it could potentially present a future problem could we experience a longer period of poor weather during a future respite holiday.
It's worth noting that the coronavirus continued to have a slight presence during the event as 1 family was unable to attend due to testing positive immediately prior to the event. We also continued to follow more increased cleaning/health practices as some of the children/YP supported have additional vulnerabilities that put them at increased risk. Although this could have posed an issue for some of the outdoor activities, we were able to use mobile resources, e.g., mobile hand-washing stations and pocket hand sanitising gel for each child, parent, and volunteer to overcome this. We also continued to provide some activities to smaller groups of children/YP, which actually also enabled us to better meet the many, unique, and changing interests of the children/YP supported during the holiday as we were able to provide multiple activities at one time. Finally, it’s worth noting that this is the largest Summer Respite Holiday we’ve provided since 2019 as a result of the pandemic, with no holiday provided in 2020 and an amended provision run in 2021 in which we provided 2 back-to-back 4 day-long holidays in order to support a smaller number of families per event. This meant that the 2022 Summer Respite Holiday was the largest event run/supported by some of our volunteer Helpers, putting slightly more pressure on our more experienced volunteers that have been with us for many years; however, it all worked out very well and the holiday itself was a huge success!
We simply would not have been able to provide this project without the continued support of the Better Breaks Fund which also helped us secure additional grants from other trusts and foundations: enhancing the overall support provided for vulnerable families impacted by childhood disabilities.
How Saint Andrew's/Michael's Charity (SAMs Charity) has benefitted from the funding
As a small volunteer-led charity, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of The Better Breaks Fund and would not be able otherwise provide this widely successful and unique project. Your support has specifically enabled us to provide more places for vulnerable families as well as a wider range of free activities and support opportunities for both children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and their Parents/Carers. It’s also given us the flexibility to quickly adapt to the interest/needs of those supported and run alternative opportunities as needed. Given the financial disadvantages and other challenges experienced by the families we engage with, having access to a wide range of mainstream activities can be truly life-changing and has a significantly positive impact on their overall wellbeing and family relationships. This has had a significant impact on the charity’s overall aim of full inclusion for all children and well-tailored respite support to help their Parents/Carers continue coping with/carrying out their caring responsibilities. Whilst the overall Respite Holiday we provide is a significant expense, we feel that it represents great value for money in terms of the overall, lasting impact it has on the families supported and the immeasurable benefits they experience. Funding to run our annual Respite Holiday also gives our volunteers the opportunity to gain more experiences working with vulnerable children and families in different, unfamiliar settings: helping better prepare them for their own world of work, learning, and personal commitments especially for our younger volunteers who are still at college/university. In this way, the Project also provides immeasurable benefits for them as active citizens, making a significant contribution to the local community. In connection, individuals supporting SAMs Charity have progressed from simple volunteers to becoming qualified, full-time Carers in the Care Sector following their positive experience supporting/working with the children/young people we engage with. Thank you once again for this very kind support of work. In addition to helping cover the project’s overall costs, your support also helps us secure additional grants from other trusts and foundations, therefore further enhancing the overall support we could provide this and each year.
30 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll have engaged in interactive games, inclusive sports, 1-to-1 sensory, and day trips previously inaccessible. As a result, children/YP will feel less isolated and more positive/resilient
28 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and 5 able-bodied children were supported to access a fun Summer Respite Holiday during which they engaged in many activities including outdoor games, indoor activities/crafts, sensory play, swimming, a boat trip, kayaking, etc. By engaging in these activities, exploring/taking on new challenges independently, and receiving positive confirmations from peers/volunteers, children with disabilities/multiple ASN gained/improved their independence, developed practical skills via play incl., social/communication, teamwork, and fair play; and gained confidence/ positive self-esteem. Most importantly, the holiday enabled children that experience significant isolation/exclusion that was made worse by the pandemic and related lockdowns to be themselves and build strong peer networks: helping them feel less isolated and more resilient.
“We have been with SAMs for a year now and the kids love it so we were thrilled to take part in the group holiday which truly was everything we could have hoped for and more! The kids have done so many ‘firsts’ during the trip and have had non-stop smiles. It’s so hard for them to connect with people so it’s just been so amazing to see them come out of their shells more, gain confidence, and make close friendships. I can’t thank the volunteers enough for everything they’ve done for us. It’s been truly incredible.” “The week has just been so fantastic! I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for A. She’s had so much fun taking part in all the different activities and the volunteers were great at providing alternative activities when she got a bit overwhelmed. She especially loved all of the water activities and the sand art. I can’t thank you enough for bringing so much positivity and happiness to R and I.”
25 Parents/Carers will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll receive much-needed respite, spend time with their partner/peers, and build new friendships via engaging in previously inaccessible parent-only activities, helping them feel less isolated and more positive.
22 x Parents/Carers of children with disabilities/multiple ASN benefitted from our Summer Respite Holiday. SAMs provided children-only activities/outings each day, giving Parents/Carers approx., 6-8 hours of respite per day to de-stress, relax, spent time with parents/peers and access spa treatments covered by SAMs. These opportunities were incredibly important, especially after such a difficult year full of isolation and increased challenges and helped Parents/Carers feel less stressed/hopeless, stronger and more able to cope with their caring responsibilities and build stronger support networks with peers. Helping Parents/Carers de-stress and feel more supported, in turn, helped to further improve family relationships and wellbeing.
Parent M is a single mother with 3 children, 2 of which have disabilities/multiple ASN, so it’s very rare that she has any time to herself. The respite holiday provided a unique opportunity for her to relax, socialise with other parents/carers and de-stress. Parent M especially benefitted from taking part in multiple pamper spa treatments that we provided as part of the trip, which she admitted was something she had never actually been able to afford but which helped her to genuinely de-stress, and from socialising with the other parents via which she was able to share her experiences and gain valuable peer support. This included discussing some quick and easy meditation and mindfulness strategies with some of the other mums which she was committed to at least trying at home to help support her own mental health and wellbeing. Overall, Parent M reported feeling less stressed, more relaxed and more positive overall as a result of our respite holiday. Parent M advised: “I cannot thank you enough for this amazing opportunity you’ve given me and [the kids]. I’m normally so stressed out and constantly worried about, well, everything, so it’s been so wonderful to just be able to relax whilst the kids were off having lots of fun in their own activities. I’ve become much closer with some of the other mums and am looking forward to arranging some play dates with them for the kids. This truly has been an unforgettable experience - Thank you so much for everything!!” Parent O – “The volunteer Helpers have been amazing and really went above and beyond to make every moment of the trip special. Knowing my daughter was being looked after so well really helped me to truly take advantage of the ‘me time’ and I genuinely feel so much lighter and more positive. I can’t thank you enough for this incredible opportunity and all the support you’ve given us!”
25 Parents/Carers will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll receive much-needed respite, spend time with their partner/peers, and engage in previously inaccessible parent-only activities: helping Parents/Carers feel less stressed and better able to manage/cope with their caring role.
22 x Parents/Carers of children with disabilities/multiple ASN benefitted form our Summer Respite Holiday. SAMs provided children-only activities/outings each day, giving Parents/Carers approx., 6-8 hours of respite per day to de-stress, relax, spent time with parents/peers and access spa treatments covered by SAMs. These opportunities were incredibly important, especially after such a difficult year full of isolation and increased challenges and helped Parents/Carers feel less stressed/hopeless, stronger and more able to cope with their caring responsibilities, and build stronger support networks with peers. Helping Parents/Carers de-stress and feel more supported, in turn, helped to further improve family relationships and wellbeing.
Parents S have 1 child with complex disabilities/multiple ASN (B) and 1 able-bodied child (C) and self-referred to our services towards the end of 2021. Although the parents were confident in SAMs ability to provide an unforgettable event, they were anxious about how B would react to being in a new environment and if she would be able to settle during the nights as they’d never been on a family break before. Although there was some initial uncertainty whilst gaining the lay of the land on the first day, both children were soon fully engaging in the wide range of new activities provided via which they built confidence, new social, communication and teamwork skills, and overall independence. Both children particularly loved swimming with water walkers. Knowing that their children were in a safe, supportive space and well looked after enabled both parents to truly relax and maximise their respite time. Like many parents, especially those that have children with special needs, Parents S don’t have very many opportunities to be alone together so they were thrilled to have so much time to themselves during which they went on a full-day hike together on day 1, enjoyed the pamper spa treatments provided, and also engaged in 2 day trips with a group of other parents. Having never accessed group outings with other parents/carers, they really enjoyed having an opportunity to build stronger connections with other parents that fully understood their day-to-day stresses, pressures, and responsibilities and the effects that these have on both partner/parent relationships and the wider family unit. During our post-trip evaluations, the parents reported that they’d met up with 3 of the other families following the respite holiday, helping them feel better supported within the community and more positive and confident in continuing their caring role outwith the project. The mother also reported feeling more ‘restored and refreshed’ when returning to normal, day-to-day life after the trip. “Although I’d met some of the other parents beforehand, the holiday has provided a unique opportunity for us to truly bond. It has been incredibly helpful for me as a parent to find out information and learn from others that have been down the same road although a wee bit ahead of me – their knowledge and support has been just amazing.” “It’s so hard, sometimes, as a parent of a child with additional needs so it’s been brilliant to not only have an opportunity to see our children have fun, make new friends, and grow but to also bond, laugh, and even cry with other parents that have experienced similar challenges. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support you’ve given us;”
30 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and 25 Parents/Carers will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll engage in positive activities out with their community, develop new friends/support networks and skills, and feel more supported: improving their resilience and wellbeing.
Our Respite Holiday enabled 28 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and 22 Parents/Carers to engage in fun, inclusive activities that are typically inaccessible due to their support needs and financial disadvantage, especially after this difficult year, offering unique chances for families to relax, have fun, and enjoy each other away from the day-to-day stress/pressure/responsibilities at home: helping families feel happier, more positive about their future, and build improved family relationships. 5 able-boded siblings also took part, offering unique chances for able-bodied and disabled children to engage in fun, integrated activities: strengthening bonds between siblings and improving their attitude towards each disabled child, e.g., reducing jealousy/frustration possible felt due to all attention being on the disabled sibling(s). This helped improved inter-family relationships and enhance the support structure for each disabled child: helping them thrive in the long-term
“SAMs has provided a genuine lifeline for me and my family. I feel more connected, supported, and confident and now have somewhere to turn to for advice, a shoulder to cry on, or even an ear to vent. I really feel like I’ve made life-long friends with the other Parents and can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us. The holiday has been truly amazing. R has not had a single meltdown all week and has loved all of the different activities we provided. She’s never been a particularly ‘outdoorsy’ kid so it’s been brilliant seeing how well she’s taken to all of the activities, including kayaking which she absolutely loved! We truly feel like we’ve found ‘our people’ with SAMs! Thank you for everything!” “We’ve never had a trip like this and are so grateful for this opportunity! I’ve really enjoyed getting to spend time with all of the other families we’ve made friends with and it’s been great to see all of the kids having fun! The volunteer Helpers have been amazing and really went above and beyond to make every moment of the trip special. Knowing my daughter was being looked after so well really helped me to truly take advantage of the ‘me time’ and I genuinely feel so much lighter and positive. I can’t thank you enough for this incredible opportunity and all the support you’ve given us!” “Thank you for such an amazing holiday. CH has had a really great time with all of the activities and myself and AL loved spending some alone time together when the kids were out for the day. A big thank you to the volunteers – they couldn’t have done enough for us!”