ASN Holiday Club
A story by Ability Shetland
We provided Holiday Clubs for children with additional support needs in the Easter, Summer and October holidays of 2020. Children were aged from 3 to 18 years old and had a variety of abilities. Our holiday provision also included outreach support and delivery of activities to family homes.
What ASN Holiday Club did
At Easter time we provided a Holiday Club based in a local primary school ASN Dept for those who were from families of keyworkers and those identified as requiring support from social work. All our usual venues and activity venues/transport etc were closed and unavailable to us due to covid. We also had to respect the staff/volunteers who were shielding or uncomfortable with being amongst other people during the tight restrictions of lockdown so could only offer a limited service in the form of a holiday club.
We also provided outreach one to one support to families who were isolating and/or shielding but who wanted support from us to provide a break from caring. We were also able to provide outreach to families in the more rural areas and islands of Shetland to avoid people travelling outwith their own community and accessing public transport. The rest of the families who would usually access the Holiday Club were provided with activity packs and resources, delivered by our staff and volunteers.
In the summer holidays we again were delighted to be able to make use of the Lerwick Primary School ASN Department and also a Community Centre in the North Mainland where another of the local authority essential child care hubs had been working out of. This was very welcome partnership working with the local authority as without these venues we would not have been in a position to deliver a holiday club. Our numbers were significantly high and this was because we had many new referrals that mostly came from families who had been accessing the essential child care hubs whilst schools were shut, and also carers really desperate for respite and support.
Again there were no venues or transport to access but we had great facilities at both premises and were able to access outdoor play areas and public play parks and indoor activities too. We even enjoyed a visit from the ice-cream van on our last day! Our Holiday Club was very different again during the October holidays and we were very grateful of the continued support and partnership working with the SIC which enabled us to provide holiday support to over 45 children and young people.
What Ability Shetland has learned
The importance of positive relationships with other service providers and working together with these providers to best meet the needs of children with ASN and their families has been even more crucial this year. This year has been very overwhelming for our families and having the continuity of Holiday Club has been so well received. We were concerned at the start of our funding about how we would be able to offer support safely but working closely with the local authority meant that we could offer a bespoke service in all the school holidays by accessing schools and offering an outreach service.
We found that this way of delivering the holiday club has worked well and in particular has been reassuring for families, many of whom have been shielding or self-isolating. Parents are anxious and so we have found that having the one venue, with children and staff placed in to the same ‘bubbles’ throughout the holidays has helped with that reassurances for them. We continue to be able to offer a wide variety of activities within these venues as well as being outside as much as possible too.
How Ability Shetland has benefitted from the funding
Due to being successful with the Better Breaks funding, we receive funding from the local authority to meet the rest of the costs, as well as donations from the public too. We would not be able to provide trained staff and a full and varied programme to families in Shetland without this funding. Shetland Carers also receive funding through Better Breaks and they work really well along side us to ensure we are jointly offering support to the whole family during school holidays when parents and siblings are under more pressure in their caring role.
Children attending the Holiday Club will all have joined in activities provided and will have shown their enjoyment in their facial expressions, body language, words and actions. Ability Shetland workers, parents and carers will have confirmed that impression.
The children and young people had a good time and experienced new activities and places to explore. We worked with other services to ensure we made the most of our community assets, which was even more important due to restricted venues and activities for some of our sessions. We were able to make use of a Primary School ASN Department and also a Community Centre. We had great facilities at both premises and were able to access outdoor play areas and public play parks and indoor activities too. We even enjoyed a visit from the ice-cream van on our last day! Over 40 children and young people accessed the Holiday Club, which included returning families and new referrals. We evaluate the Club with families and other partner organisations and all feedback was positive. People were very grateful of a holiday service when there were no other, or very limited, options for carers of children during the covid pandemic.
Lots of happy faces at Easter, Summer and October last year told us that the children had enjoyed their time. With limited venues and activities our staff were creative with what was available and the poly-tunnel at the primary school was a huge hit for some of our younger children who would ask every day in Summer to go and check the plants progress and get them watered and cared for. The children joined in together and were encouraged to get messy whilst they undertook their daily tasks in the poly-tunnel. “My son still talks about the Summer Holiday Club and is desperate to go back”.
Carers will have had eighteen days in which they’ve been able to undertake activities in addition to their caring role, giving more time to their other children and pursuing personal interests. Along with Shetland Carers there will have been days for siblings too, giving parents a complete break.
We provided 18 days of Holiday Club to over 40 families across the Shetland Islands, and also provided outreach support to those who were uncomfortable with their child accessing groups during the covid pandemic. Our formal evaluation responses after each session of Holiday Club are positive from parents / carers. We consult with Shetland Carers about the provision they provide during the school holidays so that our clubs offer a complete break to families and to offer fun activities and trips out to siblings too. In addition to formal evaluation we also receive daily feedback from families direct to the workers and volunteers and as we share photos of the Club on Facebook throughout the school holidays, we receive positive comments from parent/carers and extended family members. We share our planner and feedback with the Care Inspectorate each session and she too gives us positive feedback. We have been inspected and we received all positive with no recommendations.
Although a different year for the Holiday Club and Shetland Carer’s provision, we were still able to provide joined up working where whole families got a complete break. In the summer holiday programme we liaised with the Sibling Group coordinator where she was able to provide a juggling workshop for siblings whilst our Holiday Club was on, so all children in 1 family were getting a fun packed day of activity – and parents got a day off! “Thank you for organising all those activities and all the people who help out. This means a lot”.
Carers will have enrolled their children for as many sessions as possible of the Holiday Club, and asked to book for future programmes. Carers will have made full use of the opportunity to talk to Holiday Club workers and seek advice on the issues and problems which arise in their lives beyond Club
Carers have had the opportunity of 18 days away from caring, and are reassured they can pursue their own interests during this time, knowing their child/dren are safe. The Holiday Club continues to run for 18 days in the school holidays, where half days are an option for parent carers to choose to support with transitions. Parents have fed back that having this option has supported their anxieties around their children attending which then enables them to relax when their child is with our service. Parents have also relayed to us, directly and through school/social work, that they are grateful for the individual support and effort we put into ensuring our staff and volunteers are well trained and experienced and also that our staff are registered with the Care Inspectorate. As mentioned previously, we continue to monitor and evaluate our service with parents / carers and young people, both formally and informally and use this to inform our practice.
Having use of the schools has meant we have been able to support children with transitions in a very unsettled year. The school service has worked with us closely to relieve as much anxiety for families as possible and this has obviously been effective looking at the numbers of children and young people we have had access the clubs in 2020. “Thank you for all your help in the past year. You've made a huge difference to our family during these uncertain times”.
During the Holiday Club time carers will have taken part in activities that helps them to relax and revive and spend time with friends and other family members. They will also have access to carer support and sibling support group support through Shetland Carers.
Parents are given dates of the Holiday Club a year in advance so they can plan their holidays around the opportunity for both child care and for activities for themselves and others in their family. This new way of giving our information beforehand has been very well received by families and allows them time to look through potential activities and time to discuss support and any additional resources that may be required for their child to attend. Before children can attend club we ask for care plans to be completed and for permission to contact other services their child accesses so we can gain child passports and any training from health, education or social care. We are invited to inter-agency meetings with parents and have opportunities to share successes and achievements with everyone involved with the child. We meet and greet parents at the beginning and end of every session so information can be passed on and shared, which helps them feel reassured to enjoy their break.
We continue to work together at setting dates with the Short Breaks Service as well as Shetland Carers so that families can plan extended breaks from caring. We have welcomed Short Breaks staff and family Personal Assistants to support children at the club if that is what may be required to settle children and for families to relax and feel confident with going away for short breaks themselves. Some children come straight from their respite to holiday club, and back again too, so that not only families have longer breaks but also families from the outer isles can access the club too. “Holiday Club was a great experience with excellent staff!”