A story by COVEY BEFRIENDING
We provided weekly groups and facilitated friendships for 10 young people with additional support needs through their transition years (aged 14-19). The use of local community amenities has given the participants an opportunity to interact socially with others and build skills for independent living.
Monthly support has been provided for carers, giving them respite and an opportunity to have a break from their caring responsibilities, participating in fun, sociable activities, within their own community.
What ANGELS Transitions did
We increased coordinator hours with the proviso that there would be support and oversight from a Befriending Leader who subsequently suffered health issues and was off from 1 July. The Coordinator’s post was not confirmed after extended probation at the end of August and consequently we increased existing staff hours to cover, as well as recruit a suitably qualified Coordinator for 14 hours in January.
For the young people we used existing referrals where a need had already been identified for some of the young people already known to us. We provided a series of short breaks over the summer of 2015 for 5 young people to assess their need for the groups. For the carer support sessions, an invitation was sent to the 28 parents and carers of the children we worked with who had additional needs, to attend an initial consultation. We were also able to offer this support to parents/carers who did not have children already involved in COVEY.
There have been 25 sessions of the weekly group for young people, run in blocks of between 8 and 12 sessions. There were also 3 summer programme sessions. These sessions were held in local schools and community halls. During the time that the group took place for the young people, their carers reported their ability to relax and also spend quality time with their other children. The young people in the weekly groups have been involved in a variety of activities such as cooking, a visit the fire station, gardening, climbing wall, arts and crafts sessions, visit to a restaurant, trip into town using the train and a visit to a local park. There have been 8 monthly session of 3 hours for carers – taking place locally, in community venues and out and about in the community for the more ‘open air’ activities.
The parent/carer support were involved in sessions including, mindfulness, flying a kite, aromatherapy hand massage, bingo and out for lunch. All these activities were chosen by the group, who were able to identify things which they felt they would benefit from, including some activities which were a challenge to take part when you have a child with additional needs.
K has been gaining new life skills at the group and particularly enjoyed the cookery weeks. She said she was going to try to repeat what she had learned at home. The group provides K with the opportunity to socialise with her peers in a supportive and safe environment. Attending groups promotes K’s independence, allows her time away from home and provides respite for mum.
In the past S has struggled to be aware of others, but in the group, he has been supported to address this and it was really noticeable during this block how encouraging and thoughtful he was to others. S is a very fussy eater and mostly lives on Heinz spaghetti. Mum was pleased Sam took part in cookery lessons at Covey and ate what he made. Sam says he enjoys the group and has a lot of good friends.
S is able to attend during school term time only, and the group agreed to be flexible around dates to allow her to attend as many as possible. S spoke of feeling ‘stressed’ ‘worried’ ‘head bursting’ on arrival at the group. After participating fully with the support of the rest of the group she would speak about feeling glad she came’, having a ‘bit of time out’ and being ‘more relaxed’ on leaving the group. She has not missed a session to date.
S has grown in confidence and has spoken about trying new things such as badminton, and now plans to make time for herself when her son is at school as she said ‘the time out really makes a difference to how she feels’.
What COVEY BEFRIENDING has learnedThe fund has allowed those who were unable to receive support the opportunity to have support and has confirmed the need that we felt existed. There is a real gap in services in our area for older children with Additional Needs and this fund allowed us to provide appropriate support and see a difference it has made to the young people who have been involved. The challenge is that there are so many more young people that we have places in the group. We have to be careful to ensure the group dynamics works for all those involved careful to assess the needs of each young person. Taking time to consider the dynamics of the group allowed us to get the most positive outcomes for those involved.
We often assess a young person for our service and discover that the parent or carer is just as in need of support as their child, and this fund has allowed us to offer that support. Participants identified that they wanted ‘time out’ not time to talk about their problems or their child’s problem, and we were able to give them exactly what they said they needed. The participants, within a very short space of time took ownership of this group, suggesting outings, arranging to meet each other away from the group.
The attendance has not been as expected due to cancellations at the last minute, but staff has been able to give support over the phone and ensure that all invited know what is arranged. The coordinator also picks up on calls from parents/carers who call the office for information about the service for their child and informs them of the support group, this has added 2 participants to the existing group. The coordinator has also let referrers who have cases loads specifically for children with additional needs that the group is available to them.
Also please reference a progress report submitted to Better Breaks in September 2015 where we set out the challenges faced due to staffing and our plans for the remaining period. By being flexible and pulling on existing skills in the staff team, we were able to provide a more limited, but just as effective support to young people and their carers.