Aberlour Options Adventures
A story by Aberlour Child Care Trust
The Options Adventures service delivered both residential and day adventures in Scotland and the North of England. Adventure trips were tailored specifically to accommodate young people affected by disability and complex health needs.
The service gives parents/carers respite from their caring role
What Aberlour Options Adventures did
Since April 2019 there have been 6 residential Adventures and 8 day Adventures. Residential Adventures, which are 2 nights have taken place as follows-
Badaguish, near Aviemore from 31st May to 2nd June 2019, Barcaple, near Dumfries from 19th to 21st July 2019, Bonaly Outdoor Centre, Edinburgh from 6th to 8th September 2019. Ardeonaig, near Dochart from 11th to 13th October 2019, Calvert Lakes, near Keswick from 8th to 10th November 2019 and
Calvert Keilder, near Hexham from 6th to 8th March 2020.
Whilst on the residential trips we have participated in a number of different activities such as – Kayaking, Paddle-Boarding, Abseiling, High Ropes Courses, Carriage Driving, Horse Riding, Zip Wires and baking bread on an open fire. Day Adventures have also taken place as follows:
Trip on a Steam Train at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, Falkirk on Saturday 18th May 2019, Flight in a light aircraft at Fife Airfield, near Glenrothes on Saturday 15th June 2019, Kayaking and Cycling at Lochore Meadows, Fife on Saturday 6th July 2019. Zip Wire Roller Coaster, King Swing, Swimming at Calvert Keilder on Tuesday 30th July 2019, Archery, Off Road Driving at Crieff Hydro, Crieff on Saturday 21st September 2019, Football Match at Ibrox Football Stadium, (Broxi’s Den), Glasgow on Sunday 1st December 2019. Sail with Santa at Seagull Trust, Ratho, Edinburgh on Saturday 7th December 2019, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears Pantomime, Kings Theatre, Edinburgh on Friday 3rd January 2020.
All the trips are specifically planned around the children and young people, taking into account strengths and interests and building on experiences.
Families reported that they used their time whilst the child/young person was away, to relax and spend time with other family members and friends. The team responsible for supporting the adventure trips is small and dedicated. We have also recently engaged a volunteer to assist us in providing value for money.
What Aberlour Child Care Trust has learned
Planning and budgeting are an important part of this service and developing good relationships with outdoor centres and activity providers allows opportunities to use a wider range of services at reasonable costs and expand the adventures service. The venue is always visited and risk assessed before the adventure is confirmed. There are 4/5 residential adventures and 8/9 day adventures planned for 2020/2021.
Throughout 2019/20 the young people have visited new venues and outdoor centres where they have participated in a wide variety of activities, it is important to use evaluations when planning new adventures and although some of the activities are similar they are all slightly different in the different locations we visit. Carriage driving was a new experience for everyone, including staff, last year.
Aberlour Adventures is starting to grow with more professionals and families contacting the service for information and details of planned adventures, whilst other families whose young people are close to transitioning to adult services are opting to use adventures as their form of respite, however, often there are problems with a change to their funding and Better Breaks funding has helped these young people to attend adventures and have fun while gaining essential life skills.
How Aberlour Child Care Trust has benefitted from the funding
The Better Breaks funding has allowed the adventures service to provide subsidised places for young people allowing them to participate in day and residential adventures and activities their parents could not normally afford therefore giving them a sense of independence and an opportunity to interact with young people from other Aberlour services. The adventures co-ordinator has delivered presentations to Social Workers and has visited other Aberlour services to promote adventures helping to build the service. Good partnership working with staff at Calvert Trust Lakes and Calvert Trust Keilder and meetings have taken place with staff from the Abernethy Trust. Through developing partnerships with staff at all the venues we visit, whether it be for a day or a weekend, allows the adventures to be better tailored to meet the individual needs of the young people. Through visiting new venues and exploring facilities and activities on offer we are increasing our knowledge and the opportunity to discuss and participate in different activities, often before the young people. Adventure trips are a huge learning curve for everyone and developing new skills and building on these is an important part of the service as it is vital staff are confident when supporting the young people throughout an activity. At present there is a very small core team of staff but it is hoped this will increase as the adventures service builds on it’s reputation and larger groups are able to attend.
Being able to build the Adventures Service will allow more children and young people access to a number of different experiences they would otherwise not be able to participate in. We will provide a wide range of activities for the children and young people to participate in and enjoy.
We delivered 6 x 2 night residential adventures and 8 day adventures from April 2019 to March 2020. The number of young people with severe and complex needs has increased, especially on day adventures. This is due to research and trying out different venues, where there is increased accessibility to facilities available, this has allowed for an increase in participation. 33 young people have benefited from attending adventures this year with 49 parents/carers having respite from their caring roles. The Adventures service is continuing to grow with 4 new families recently contacting the co-ordinator to allow them to access this service for their young people.
S who came along on his first day adventure has severe and complex needs with his parent’s being very anxious whenever he is out of their care. A good relationship with the parent’s had to be built before he came along, with a huge amount of reassurance needed and the promise of regular messages when he was in Aberlour’s care. S was keen to come along with us and as he is vocal asked lots of questions and chatted to staff about his first adventure and the exciting day ahead. S travelled well to our destination, enjoying the company of other young people with some great interaction. On arriving at our destination, The Seagull Trust, Ratho, S became very excited about the prospect of going on a barge, something he had never done before. S was helped aboard the barge and was able to use the lift controls to allow him to go down onto the lower deck. Once S set sail he was fascinated by the whole experience and looked for the figures of cartoon characters along the water bank. As an added bonus Santa came on board to deliver gifts to all the young people. S was so excited when he spied Santa it was a special moment for him. On arriving back at the dock S again used the lift controls to allow him to disembark. S chatted all the way home about meeting Santa and the sail on the barge. As a result of S coming along with us his parent’s had respite for 8.5 hours which they really appreciated. Mum has already asked if S can come along on more adventures.
It is hoped 45 new parents/carers will have respite from their caring role during 2019/2020 therefore they will be able to enjoy a break caring and spend time with other family members. It will allow parents to recharge their batteries and be able to continue to support their child/young person.
A total of 49 parents/carers have benefited from a minimum of 8.5 hours respite when their young people have been on adventures. There have been some very positive comments from parents, with one couple booking a break for themselves over a weekend. Mum commented “We are able to do this as we know she is happy and well cared for when she is on an adventure”. There has been a new Facebook page set up with photographs being posted after each adventure. This gives parent’s an insight into the activities their young people have been participating in, which is especially good for those parent’s whose young people are non-verbal. The young people are always given the opportunity to evaluate their adventure through conversation or using visual examples. A collage of pictures of each young person participating in adventures is sent to parent’s at the end of the year.
A single parent of 2 boys has benefited from the adventures service both the boys are able to come along on day adventures, with one of them also coming along on residential weekends. As a result of this Mum is able to have time to herself which allows her to spend quality time with close family and friends and do basic tasks eg. going shopping. She is always very grateful for the support the adventures service gives her and quoted “The boy’s happiness when they are with you is very genuine” as a result of this Mum is able to relax and recharge her batteries.
The children and young people who attend adventures will gain life skills which will help their parents/carers cope in their caring role. This could be in a range of ways - self care, confidence, gaining independence, overcoming anxiety with new experiences or changes, meeting new people.
The young people who come along on adventures are encouraged to gain life skills and be as independent as possible, examples are making choices at meal times. Some of the older teenagers who are transitioning into adult services are encouraged to build on their life skills – making the bed, clearing the table, whilst forming new friendships and working as team. Being given the opportunity to try new challenges is often very daunting, so positive encouragement is given to ensure the young people can keep their anxieties to a minimum and build confidence. As a result of gaining new/more life skills and gaining in confidence the young people can then be encouraged to transfer these skills into their everyday life.
M is a young adult who suffers with confidence and anxiety issues. He is building on his life skills through using the adventures service and his confidence is continuing to grow. M was part of a group who were canoeing, he was relaxed on the journey but on arrival his anxieties began to increase. He met the instructor who assured him he would be in the canoe with M which helped. However, M became very anxious making excuses not to get into the canoe. With lots of encouragement and reassurance from adventures staff and the instructor after 50 minutes M sat in the canoe, he visibly relaxed once he had paddled from the river bank shouting to staff “I can do this”. After a while M was seen paddling the canoe from the river over Loch Morlich to the boat house. On arriving back at the shore M was so pleased with himself, was relaxed and ready to meet the other challenges he faced that afternoon.
A larger number of new parents/carers being able to access the adventures service who along with existing parents/carers will enjoy respite from their caring role. A day adventure give parents/carers a minimum of 8 hours respite time which will improve their physical and mental well-being.
As the service has been able to provide more adventures from April 2019 the number of parents/carers who have benefited from respite has grown, when residential adventures have taken place the minimum number of respite hours is around 45, this allows parents/carers to plan their respite time in advance, some of them opting to go away for a short break to relax and spend quality time with their close family. Parents are most appreciative of the respite time they get when the young people are on adventures as even a few hours break from their caring role helps their general well-being. The young people who attend enjoy their time participating in a wide variety of activities, some of these more challenging and physical than others but always enjoyable. The physical and mental well-being of the young people is of paramount importance when on adventures and gaining confidence through praise and encouragement, returning home with a smiling face and happy disposition.
G is 20 years old, he started coming on adventures after contact was made from his parents. G suffers terribly from stress and anxiety and was in receipt of support from local mental health services, with the possibility of being admitted to a mental health unit. After meetings with Mum and G it was agreed that he would come along on an adventure, at these meetings G found talking difficult due to a worsening stammer but was happy to be trying something different. G met the staff who were attending the adventure several times prior to the trip, participating in activities on a 1:1 basis. G came along for a residential weekend where he was part of a group of 6 other young people, one of whom he remembered from school. G was keen to participate in all the activities on offer and told staff he was enjoying himself and he liked his new friends. This experience has helped G, he was having fun and feeling no pressure put on him. G has attended several day and residential adventures since and as a result of this his mental health has improved and his stammer is not as pronounced, he enjoys the company of his peer group and is gaining in confidence and independence. G always enjoys his time on adventures "Aye, that has been a grand day out" is his usual response. His parents are delighted with the improvement in his health and well-being and look forward to their respite time when he is on adventures.