AYF's Friends and Family Project
A story by Arran Youth Foundations
Our project provided activities, trips & breaks for children/young people aged 9-20 with disabilities and their parents/carers, on the Isle of Arran. These were mostly on the island, with some trips to the mainland. This brought families together and helped the children and young people have fun and make connections.
What AYF's Friends and Family Project did
The project delivered so many great activities for our families. These included: weekly after-school sessions at Orca Krafts; an October trip to Alton Towers; a visit to the mainland for the cinema; sessions at the Auchrannie sports hall and hot drinks after; a session with The Umbrella Holistic Approach doing drum healing, guided meditation, herbal teas etc; kayaking; archery; a guided tour on the Mogabout; and a weekend away to Edinburgh Zoo. The project also supported young people with ASN to attend our summer trip to Alton Towers, mental health retreat, swimming and ice skating, Youth Fest, Glasgow Science Centre, Flip Out, cinema and escape room, Above Adventure, and movie marathon.
All were designed in consultation with the families engaging with the project and many happened at their request.
Our beneficiaries were young people and their families from across the island. As the only youth work organisation on the island, many were already known to us, and we worked with Arran High School, the primaries, social services, Active Schools, the school nurse and other relevant partners to ensure we reached as many families as possible.
Much of the above was able to happen as the project allowed us to recruit a youth worker to specifically work on this and to build relationships with the families. The carers involved told us how great they felt getting a really rare chance to have time to themselves when we engaged the young people in short breaks.
We know the project was a success, particularly because the feedback from activities we delivered for both the young people and their families was so overwhelmingly positive.
The project addressed the Better Breaks priorities of Complex Needs, Sports & Active Leisure, Independence, & Transition To Adulthood.
What Arran Youth Foundations has learned
We have learned even more about working with young people with ASN and how to plan programmes around them and their needs. Considerations included things like the mobility of participants, the need for ride access passes at Alton Towers, hiring mobility scooters, visiting places when it was quieter, designing arts & crafts sessions around sensory needs and so on. All of this helps to make our project and the organisation as inclusive and welcoming as possible for all.
We have learned so much more about families, what goes on at home, and the kids themselves - so much of youth work ordinarily involves little to no contact with parents, so to have such long and meaningful chats with mums about their children really helped us to form a better understanding. Although the majority of the work we do will always be directly with the young people, we have learned so much about the benefit of working closer with their guardians.
We have also reached out and engaged new families simply through recommendation and connections that those engaged in the project made. These families did not come through the traditional connections of making links with the schools or our other partners, but through families who have kids with ASN. There is no doubt that these people with lived experience are often best placed to help form these connections.
How Arran Youth Foundations has benefitted from the funding
Funding from Better Breaks allowed us to try this project, which we anticipated would be a success and were told by families was needed. It was so gratifying to see it succeeding and to see how much the families got from it. We feel this has certainly strengthened the organisation's reputation and helped families to even better understand that we are an approachable organisation who are happy to design projects hand-in-hand with the young folk and families. As a result of this project, our services were expanded to new groups and activities.
AYF will be engaging more children and young people with disabilities than we currently do, in more opportunities than present.
We successfully engaged more children and young people with disabilities than prior to the project, and provided more opportunities for them in doing so. Consultation with families in designing the project had told us that being able to come and engage in activities with their parents, enjoying short breaks together in a way the families couldn't ordinarily, would better suit some of the kids who took part. For some of the young people this was because of their condition, be it selective mutism or social anxiety. This meant they often missed out on clubs and activities where young folk attend without a parent/guardian present. These families really enjoyed being able to come and participate and spend time together.
The below comment came directly from a parent: ‘Rural island life can be isolating at times and my children have had various opportunities throughout the year; from developing positive relationships with peers and workers to experiences through the cabin and excursions, this wouldn’t have been possible without AYF. Thanks to Graeme and the team for all their hard work and dedication to the young people of Arran.’ This comment speaks to how things were before the project; how isolating life on Arran can be generally, and especially for those with ASN. It illustrates how well the project brought people together.
Parents and carers will have had various opportunities to relax, unwind and enjoy themselves.
As a result of the project, many parents of kids with ASN were able to meet, form friendships, and create an informal support group, meeting for coffee etc. They have told us what a huge help this has been and how great it is to spend time with other parents who 'get it'. Parents have told us how relaxing and fun it is to be able to get away on our short breaks as a family; we often heard that this is something they rarely or never do.
One family who came to our Edinburgh Zoo trip told our youth work team what a special weekend it was for them; that because of their daughter's complex ASN, they almost never get away to relax and have fun as a family. They told us doing so was a real treat. When we took this child and their siblings on our trip to Alton Towers, their mum told us this was the first weekend together she had had with just her husband in 20 years.
Parents/carers will report feeling better able to sustain their caring role.
This outcome was successfully achieved as many of our parents/carers reported feeling that the project was helping them to sustain their role; that having friendships and connections with similar families was a 'tonic' and that the opportunity to have fun with their child and their peers gave them a renewed energy.
The case study that best demonstrates this is that a group of families has formed a support network quite organically where they can get together and chat, vent, or help each other with things like applying for a personal assistant, achieving a diagnosis or securing relevant funding. We have been told that all of this helps the families to better sustain their role as carers. Previously there was nothing like this on the island and many of the parents told us in consultation on the application bid that they felt isolated and alone; this group has changed that.
Children and young people, and/or their carers, will tell us the project has improved their wellbeing.
This outcome was definitely achieved. We know this because the young folk told us how much happier they were and how much fun the activities were; this was evident looking at them, and so many of the parents took the time to thank us and tell us what a difference it had made to their child.
Thinking in particular about our trips to Alton Towers, the cinema and Edinburgh Zoo, it was really gratifying to see so many young people who have previously experienced isolation and being marginalised, coming together and forming a social group. They had fun together, made friends, and were able to get away for a short break and forget about how challenging circumstances can ordinarily be for them. We feel this is why we and the families we spoke to wanted to pursue the project in the first place; to give families a respite from the pressures of everyday life. Seeing so many smiles on their faces and so much laughter, forming memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, really cemented the value of the project.