Barnardo’s Aberdeen Young Carers Service
A story by Barnardo's Young Carers Service
Barnardo’s Aberdeen Young Carers Service supports young carers to access a variety of support. This project supported access 1-1, group and family support that benefitted through reduced social isolation, peer support, improved wellbeing and resilience, and limiting the impact of the caring role.
What Barnardo’s Aberdeen Young Carers Service did
Short breaks on offer to Young Carers this year included face-to-face holiday group programmes, primary groups, S1-4 groups, S4+ groups, LGBT+ groups and in school sports/ music therapy groups. Some of the activities on offer included Monday Craft Groups, park visits, Transition Extreme skateboarding and rock climbing, swimming, practical cooking groups, comic workshops, cinema trips, bowling, library workshops, SSPCA activities.
We have also offered short breaks for the whole family including a magician show and our weekly Adults Support Group. Young carers accessed the short break activities through a referral into our service where they were identified for support. The activities took place within Aberdeen City on a regular basis depending on the age range.
We received feedback that face-to-face groups had been more beneficial and incorporated this feedback to work in partnership with other agencies to ensure safe groups could be offered across the city. Some partnerships included Aberdeen Libraries, SSPCA, Transition Extreme, Sports Aberdeen, C-Fine and ELM Music Therapy. We also incorporated Young Carer and family feedback into the type of activities they wished to take part in/ be offered.
We also targeted our more vulnerable Young Carers that found it challenging to socialise with others and/or experience low self-esteem and anxiety. These young carers expressed their unwillingness to attend the larger social groups due to their mental health and wellbeing. Smaller "joint visit" activities with their allocated worker and no more than 5 Young Carers in total were offered. Additionally, offering 1-1 support to those who need additional support with transport, finances, mental health/ wellbeing support etc to access groups.
We continue to encourage our staff to find out about opportunities in the community, access training, identify funding and recruit more volunteers to aid service delivery. Due to capacity and increased numbers of those accessing our service, we have not yet been able to offer residential short-break opportunities to Young Carers and their families. We are now making this a focus of 2023 to offer this to our service users.
What Barnardo's Young Carers Service has learned
Reaching out to and engaging with new families - Our service worked to make young cares and cared for aware of the service available to them by offering professionals training through schools, social services, health services, third sector agencies whilst using current service user feedback to raise awareness in statutory consultations etc. This has helped other services to identify young carers living locally and refer them to our service.
Our proactive approach to increasing the visibility of our service has led to an increase in referrals meaning we now support over 120 Young Carers and their families in Aberdeen City. With this number continually growing.
Finding other sources of funding - as we returned to face-to-face groups, there was a requirement for further funding to allow an increase in social groups and to organise activities which met the requests of Young Carers. Additionally, to keep up with the development of the service, we have had to apply for funding in which supports building capacity, family opportunities, digital requirements.
Developing new short breaks activities- We have set up in school groups in high need ASG areas to ensure awareness by professionals, Young Carers are supported in the school setting and aid with capacity of the service. We have also further developed the EML Music Therapy in new schools who have a significant number of Young Carers registered who would benefit from group setting therapy.
Showing positive opportunities through partnership with other agencies in the Aberdeen City area. Additionally, we have successfully continued to develop our current group and joint visit activities by liaising with other agencies/ professionals to create partnerships which greater meet the needs of Young Carers.
We had to be innovative in our approach due to reduced funding opportunities which led to the use of local public spaces and creative sessions using the skills of Young Carers to lead new opportunities for their peers.
How Barnardo's Young Carers Service has benefitted from the funding
Our service has benefited from the creative breaks funding significantly by being able to provide new groups and build our knowledge, skills and capacity. Our service is the only young carers service in Aberdeen City and this funding has allowed us to provide more group work and activities providing short breaks and respite to young carers. Without this funding we would not have had the staffing capacity to provide the number of groups we currently run including the Saturday groups and the adults group. It also meant that we are able to deliver a well-planned holiday activity programme including joint activities for young carers and cared for. It has enabled us to learn about and start supporting young people to run their own peer led groups. We have worked in partnership with other organisations for example a music therapist who has gone on to secure her own funding to support young carers in Aberdeen through the delivery of her weekly music groups.
Outcome achieved as 50 new young carers were less isolated and had increased positive socialisation with peers. This is based on evidence from 3 monthly review of individual outcomes, evaluation of social groups, feedback loop from young carers, cared for, and other professionals.
Target 1- Continuation of established social groups as well as development of in school social groups. We delivered various groups focussed on confidence building, leaning new skills, the opportunity to short-breaks and socialisation with other Young Carers. During term time, monthly Saturday groups for Primary age and S1-3 age young carers take place following feedback that travelling to groups after school was challenging due to transport and childcare issues. In school groups in partnership with other agencies were developed to improve awareness of Young Carers and to increase in-school Young Carer support. Target 2- Young carers have be given the opportunity to attend groups which have been developed from their feedback. Additionally, they have been involved with leading groups where they take particular interest - e.g., craft activities, sports, games and LGBT+ groups.
YCX is a Young Carer for her mother who is a single parent with complex health difficulties due to her Diabetes. YCX was referred to us in 2020 through Education for 1-1 support and short-term respite through social opportunities. She was socially isolated for a prolonged period due to shielding with her Mum during the covid-19 pandemic. Since being referred to the service, she has engaged in support offered in a variety of ways; including accessing lockdown specific supports, Young Carer funding to purchase items which help with her health and wellbeing, engaged in visits with an allocated worker, attended regular primary and holiday group opportunities, and gaining individual social support through an allocated volunteer befriender. The primary group opportunities and individual social support through the befriender, have resulted in a substantial amount of short-term respite for YCX. And have supported in improving her social skills, increased her confidence, improved her mental health and wellbeing, and building peer relationships with other Young Carers out with the group environment. Overall, YCX's social isolation has decreased significantly - ensuring the impact of her caring role does not impact upon her experiences as a young person.
Outcome achieved as 50 young carers report feeling less anxious with an increased sense of their wellbeing and how to maintain it. This is based on evidence from 3 monthly review of individual outcomes, evaluation of social groups, feedback loop from young carers, cared for, and other professionals.
Target 1- Young carers have built friendships/peer support in group and joint visit opportunities, thus, positively impacting on their confidence to attend groups and their general health and wellbeing. Transport support, joint visits to build smaller connections, 1-1 confidence building sessions and building trust with workers have encouraged Young Carers to attend the holiday and ongoing group opportunities. Target 2- A wide range of activities have been offered including therapeutic wellbeing supports through Music Therapy etc, whilst giving young people a choice of what they attend and when. These have been offered on a regular basis to ensure Young Carers feel connected and less isolated. The positive impact upon their mental health and wellbeing has been recoded through reviewed outcomes and through feedback provided by the Young Carers and their family members.
YCY is a 7-year-old young carer and cares for their older brother who has a diagnosis of severe Autism and ADHD. Due to his brother’s complex needs, the family are unable to leave the family home and go out socially due to YCY’s brother being described as very high risk in relation to his safety because he absconds/ runs away when outside. The family feel guilty that YCY does not have the opportunities as his peers to have fun, enjoy positive experiences, and be able to experience activities as a family due to his older brother’s needs. The family have no family support and most of their external family members reside in England and India. The family moved from England to Aberdeen after YCY’s father secured a new job in the local area. YCY was offered to be involved in the service on a group only basis. He positively engaged in all the supports offered in a variety of ways; including accessing the Aberdeen City Council Young Carers funding to purchase items that helped him with their health and wellbeing such Lego, a new bike and games. He attended the Easter, Summer and October school holiday programmes and thoroughly enjoyed making new friends, meeting other young carers, and having fun. YCY was also identified as a young carer who would benefit from attending our weekly Music Therapy group to increase his self-confidence and self- esteem. He has thoroughly enjoyed these therapeutic sessions and there has been a positive change to his confidence as well as mental health and wellbeing through attending all of the group opportunities offered by the Young Carers Service thus far.
Outcome achieved as more families have accessed our joint family activities as well as development of adult support group opportunities. Evaluation from our shared experiences sessions evidenced an improvement in family connections and improved health and wellbeing for the Cared For.
Target 1- Development of adult support group for adult carers and cared for whilst offered opportunities for peer support. The groups take place weekly offering a variety of activities, information sharing or a chance for a 'coffee and catch up'. Connecting adult carers and cared for individuals with others will improve their wellbeing and reduce their own social isolation. There are currently a main group of 15-20 adults who attend. The reason they need cared for may differ, but the feelings of relying on a young carer bring a commonality that they can identify with as they share experiences and feelings. Target 2- Group activities for cared for individuals and their young carers including Carers Week magic show, Jump-In and Innoflate. Supporting around 50-60 Cared for and Adult Carers overall.
YCZ was referred to the Young Carers Service in August of 2020 and is a Young Carer for their mother who has a diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E). They have substantial caring role, offering emotional support, accompanies their mother to shopping, personal care, and helps with household activities. Initially, YCZ was offered fortnightly one-to-one sessions to understand the impact of their caring role and to support them to access a break from caring. Ongoing communication was kept with relevant professionals and the family as a whole to better support YCZ – whilst understanding the full impact their caring role had on each area of their life. YCZ's Mother also has regular involvement with the Adult’s Support Groups, and this has encouraged her to be more independent in accessing her own support opportunities. Since the referral was received, YCZ has received significant 1-1 support and additionally offered social opportunities through our S4+ group, LGBT+ groups and other young carer activities. They accessed the Young Carers Grant and other financial opportunities which enabled them to fund family trips to museums, parks, cities etc. The following are quotes from YCZ and their mother: Mother- “When the idea of the adult support group first came up, I wasn’t sure how it would go, it started online, and I found it nice to have people to talk to once a week and learned some new things from the guest speakers that came along. When it came to being in person, I was nervous but have found it is a great help to me. It gets me out of the house which makes a nice change for me, and I get to chat with other people in similar circumstance to me. It has really put my mind at ease being able to chat about the hard things in life and knowing I’m not alone. It’s been a boost to my self-confidence on top of being a support”. YCZ- “As a young carer who hasn’t had support in the past, the services offered to me have been supportive both physically and mentally. It’s been great having one on one support as well as the group sessions where I can meet others who are going through the similar things as I am. I find it to be a safe environment so I can express how I feel about what’s going on at home and in other areas my life”.