A story by Bellshill and Mossend YMCA
The Animar project ran three Saturdays a month for young people aged 12 to 18 years old with additional support needs. The activities are planned by the young people, who plan, risk assess and organise themselves with help and guidance from their key workers.
What Animar did
Animar delivered 36 sessions for four and a half hours long, this past financial year. Sessions took place in various locations, including our base in Bellshill, the wider community and local cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Fifteen young people, twenty-four parents and guardians and eleven siblings have benefited from this service.
The young people who attend Animar have come to do so through a variety of ways. These include referrals from Schools, local councillors, Social Work, Other community groups and self referrals. Animar is participated in more partnership work this year to allow the families using this service to feel included and part of a network of support.
As well as the young people who attend Animar being able to benefit from our service, their siblings also gain some respite time. The siblings have been able to spend quality time with their parents and guardians and been able to attend their own recreational activities such as football clubs and socialising with their friends. The Parents and guardians were able to use their free time to socialise, attend local facilities such as local gyms, and swimming pools, able to have an adult only lunch and so some shopping or importantly, not have to do anything or be anywhere for thirteen and a half hours every month.
This last year we recruited a new member of staff. the young people assisted in what they wanted that person to be like. These aspects where taken into account when recruiting this staff member. The young people were able to feel in control of their service with their options been taken seriously and their voices being heard This is the key to our service being a success, the young people being part of the organising and structure of their service. Animar attempted to address many Better Break priority areas through this structure.
What Bellshill and Mossend YMCA has learned
We have learned many things through the delivery of Animar. One of them has been that Animar isn't for everyone, that is hard to say for a service that is for young people with additional support needs. Promoting independence is appropriate at a certain stage for some young people. For Animar to be successful in its mission and outcomes we have to target those who would benefit most from this style of personal development. As a result of this Animar has managed to create links with other local clubs to ensure that every young person who is referred to Animar will find some project to be a part of. Animar will keep in contact with these referrals as when they are ready to create their own level of independence, that will be the correct time for them to start Animar.
Animar has relied on Better Breaks funding for the last four years, we realise as a service we need to source funding from else where to ensure Animar can continue, as much as Better Breaks funding has been vital and a worthwhile funding source we understand the funding is not limitless. The Bellshill and Mossend YMCA Childcare Manager and Animar Manager are looking into alternative funding sources for the next financial year.
Another learning curve for us, was as much as the staff prepare the young people to be ready to be part of their communities sometimes the communities are not ready for the young people. At Animar one of our young people tired to book a table at his favourite restaurant for one Animar session. While on the phone, The young boy got slightly flustered and a staff member helped him with his phone call. However, the man on the other end of the phone was rude, and hung up. after some reflection the staff added in problem solving when things don't go the way they should for our young people. to help them to be prepared when people aren't prepared for them.
The young people will have planned, taken part, evaluated and evidenced their self-chosen activities
Each session delivered was done so with the young people themselves doing all the planning. This year we worked on budgeting and transport as during a consultation when asked what stops the young people accessing the things they want to do, the majority said it was down to financial resource and being able to get there, each young person had an opportunity to plan, budget, take part and evaluate each session. We had a consultation with the young people at Animar to understand what barriers the young people feel stands in their way when accessing new and fun activities. The young people, with their Key Workers, planned activities to help them over come these barriers, learning about budgeting, travel, communication skills and learning what is available for them. This allowed the young people to be able to break down their own barriers to access their own chosen activities.
Declan is a 15 year old boy on the Autistic Spectrum. Declan told his key worker that one thing that stops him being able to access the activities he wants to do outwith Animar, was transport. Declan didn't know how to approach public transport, to buy a ticket or know when to get off the bus or train. Declan and his key worker planned some activities to help Declan understand the process of public transport. They started with scenarios, with Declan's Key worker playing the role of the train conductor or bus driver and Declan asking him for his ticket. They also played out what could go wrong, a service being late or cancelled, missing his stop or someone rude also being on the bus or train. Once Declan was able to work out these issues with someone he trusted we were then able to use trains and busses for a couple of weeks to allow Declan to understand what he was doing. Each time Declan asked for a ticket her became more aware and understood the 'rules' of public transport. This experience has opened up new opportunities for Declan, he now travels independently to school, he is working towards independent travel to Animar and his parents have been able to gain extra time while lessening their stress by themselves being confident in Declan's ability and new found sense of freedom. Declan is now planning on access his local facilities with his friends, as he has managed to break down his biggest barrier.
Parents and carers of the young people who attend Animar will be less stressed and more motivated in their own interests out with their carer’s role.
Animar aimed to have 3 monthly meetings with parents however it was soon realised that this was not what they wanted. The staff changed this, at the parents and guardians request, to have a 6 monthly parents night, where all parents were invited along to discuss any issues or find out as a whole what Animar had planned for the next few months. However as parents could need support or have questions before this, Animar staff adhered to its 'Open Door Policy'. Each parent was greeted and welcomed into the building, inline with the Solihull approach each parent was asked ' How are you?' to open communication between staff and families. The manager sent weekly texts messages keeping parents informed on what the young people had planned for each session and to keep communication open. parents were welcome and encouraged to have 'catch ups' with the manager at each session to discuss anything they had on their minds. This allowed the staff to help decrease the parents fears and stresses.
Lorna and Alan have two sons called Daniel (16) and George (14) who attend Animar. Daniel has had trouble settling into groups in the past. Lorna had expressed concerns that she may not be able to get any respite from her sons if Daniel would not settle at Animar. Lorna had discussed how family members would only offer to 'babysit' one of her children at a time, meaning she and Alan could not spend couple time together. Daniel's Key Worker helped build up his confidence and Daniel enjoyed being able to plan his own activities. Both Daniel and George have been able to not only enjoy their time at Animar but through their personal development have worked on their relationship. This has allowed Lorna and Alan time together, while at Animar, Lorna and Alan often go for lunch or go shopping, be able to make full use of their time together. Daniel and George now have some relations who will take them over night allowing Alan and Lorna time to themselves. Sometimes living with Daniel and George can be difficult for Lorna. Staff ensure they have time in their session to speak to Lorna to help alleviate some of her stress and ensure she can enjoy her free time. Lorna has noted a decrease in her stress levels. She recently said to a staff member 'I don't know what I would do without Animar, before the boys came here I constantly worried about them, and now Animar has given me hope. hope for the boys and hope for all our futures.'
Parents/Carers will have used their free time and lessened stress to engage in activities they enjoy.
Some of Animar's outcomes overlap due to its holistic approach. Outcome three was achieved by attributes very similar to outcome two. Through continual consultation with parents and guardians, staff were able to relieve any worries they may have had about their time apart from their children. Each session was planned by the young people with the key workers keeping parents informed of each plan. Some parents and guardians can feel stress when their children are not with them. This can be intensified when your child has an additional support need. Many of the parents and guardians that use the Animar service have experienced negative remarks or attitudes towards their children. The Animar staff insure they continually reassure parents each week that their children have a service catered to their individual needs and staff will always interact with the young people with respect and a positive attitude.
Aiden is 14 years old and has ADHD and is on the autistic spectrum. Aiden's foster parents, Hazel and Grant, we were initially worried Animar was not the correct group for Aiden. Prior to Aiden attending Animar he had tried to attend other groups. Hazel and Grant felt Aiden's behaviour at these groups was not appropriate so removed him from these groups. This meant that Hazel and Grant received limited respite from Aiden, Aiden's Key Worker, Diane, kept Hazel and Grant aware of the weekly plans and what measures where put in place to make Aiden's time at Animar happy. An example of this, some of the young people had planned to go to some museums in Glasgow, Aiden had expressed this was a 'stupid idea' when Diane had questioned why, Aiden explained he didn't like museums, he found them boring and would not like that day. Diane worked with Aiden to find a compromise. Showing Aiden respect and acknowledging his opinions had helped improve his behaviour, which in turn lowered Hazel and Grant's levels of stress. Diane was able to reassure them that they could spend their free time with each other and enjoy it as Aiden was in a safe place where he had found a way of expressing himself and being heard. It took a few months for Grant to relax, he would often contact Diane or other staff members to see what Aiden's behaviour was like. As the months past this became less frequent. This shows Animar's vital communication has led to a build up of trust within this family.
Carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role
Animar continued its open door policy to allow parents to speak with staff to help the parents to free up their minds to be able to parent to the best of their abilities. The Animar manager researched the Solihull approach which is designed for supporting parents of early years, and adapted these principles for the parents and guardians that use the Animar service. Time was taken each session to ask parents about their day. Parents who were showing signs of stress were invited to speak with the manager and their concerns were heard and at times they were signposted to other services who could continue that support. Parents whose children had stopped using the service were given an exit strategy that helped them transition to their young persons next stage. This support to the parents produces better outcomes for their children.
Gaynor is 13 years old and has Asperger's Syndrome and attends a main stream high school, she was referred to Animar by a school project. She was referred to Animar as it would allow her mother Denise, who has three children with additional support needs to gain some respite. Denise often came to the project very quiet and often distant. Animar manager asked if she would like a cup of tea and a chat, during this conversation Denise opened up about difficulties at home, worrying she wasn't doing a good enough job for Gaynor, and money worries. Together the manager and Denise were able to look at other groups for support. Animar's manager looked again at the budget and was able to waver Gaynor's fees. every session. Denise was welcomed in for a tea and a chat, over a few weeks, Denise's mood started to lift as did Gaynor's. Helping Denise talk about her worries allowed Gaynor to enjoy her time at Animar and allowed Denise to feel supported and able to feel more confident in her parenting abilities.
Young People will be able to access more services and recreational activities within their own communities.
This outcome is a still being addressed. Some young people were able to access local activities and main stream services and some newer members are working towards this goal. Having the young people who use the service plan the activities they are interested in. This allows the young people to problem solve and risk asses accessing their local amenities. This has allowed some young people to access public transport themselves, attend local clubs unaided and make their own decisions on how they spend their leisure time. During our consultation meetings with the young people we ask what are barriers to allowing them to access local facilities themselves. Our feedback has been, money, transport and knowing how. These are barriers Animar staff continually strives to overcome. Our next steps are asking the parents and guardians what barriers they face to allow their children to access these services.
Dermott is 15 years old and is Autistic. Dermott would like to become more independent however sometimes he can become easily distracted and road safety is a concern while Dermott is out in his community. Dermott felt a barrier to him accessing the leisure activities was his lack of knowledge on public transport. Animar had many sessions on public transport, including using it and having Dermott problem solve any issues that arise. Dermott's parents were included in the planning process to reassure them that Dermott would be safe and engaged in these activities. Dermott worked hard on this theme and was able to earn his parents trust He now uses public transport to get to school. Dermott is also working with his key worker to be able to walk the twenty minute walk to Animar from his home. working heavily on road safety. Breaking these barriers down so Dermott can access the services Animar use, such as swimming pools, cinemas, cafes, on his own creating more respite for his parents and siblings.