Barnardo’s Aberdeen Young Carers Service
A story by Barnardos
The project supported young carers to develop new relationships, take part in fun activities that gave them a break from caring, helped reduce social isolation, improved their wellbeing, and increased their resilience.
Barnardo’s Aberdeen Young Carers Service supports young carers in Aberdeen City.
What Barnardo’s Aberdeen Young Carers Service did
Young carers were identified through referrals into our service. Groups were initially online due to the pandemic and resources delivered to young carers homes. Activities included Bingo sessions, Quiz's, Tie Dye T-shirts, Mosaic Tiles, Story Telling, Baking, Halloween Theatre make up and Music Writing that was led by one of our young carers, Food from all around the world guessing game, Festive Crafts, Night In Movie boxes, 2020 Art Competition, and Young Carers self Care event.
Feedback about online sessions was that the majority of young carers preferred face to face contact. Many felt they were not receiving a break from their caring responsibilities because they were still within the home. Another issue raised was the lack of privacy.
Face to face groups commenced in June 2020 following the ease of restrictions with the support of volunteers also. These groups took place in our office garden.
During this time, our Summer holiday programme commenced and involved weekly social groups that offered the respite that our young carers and all sessions were activity based. Activities such as cooking S'mores, Sensory session Lava lamps, Rock painting, Hot dogs, a Football session led by one of our young carer's, Arm Pit Fudge, Games, and self care items were offered.
Additionally, we 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 emotional health needs. These young carers were identified as a need to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Smaller group activities with no more than 5 in total were created.
These smaller groups built connections between these young carers and offered a break from their caring role. Days out to the beach, cinema, parks and visits to ice cream parlours took place. All activities were chosen based on young carers feedback and further trips organised science centre, Ranger Park activity, Trampoline Park, Inflatable theme park, and Footgolf. An LGBT Group was also setup that is led by our young carers that is a success.
What Barnardos 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 through schools, social services, health services, third sector agencies, media opportunities and increasing online visibility. 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 have exceeded our target of 50 new young carers with 63 new young carers accessing the service. Importantly for us we have also seen an increase in self-referrals to the service which hopefully shows that knowledge of the service and how to access it is spreading within the community.
Finding other sources of funding - Digital poverty severely impacted our young carers and they were not able to complete their schoolwork online, receive video calls from their workers, attend the online young carers group sessions and not able to stay connected to friends or family. Some families did not have internet access either which gave them no digital access.
Laptops and WIFI access point devices were resourced through our application to Connected Scotland Funding and we delivered 30 laptops to our young carers. We also provided phones, tablets and data top ups to those in need using the Government Wellbeing Fund that has kept our young carers connected during the ongoing lockdown.
Developing new short breaks activities- We set up 3 weekly social groups for young carers and 1 weekly social group for cared for individuals to try expand the reach of our project.
We learnt that the type of activities offered online would need to take into account the Government guidance regarding individually packed items for group sessions, delivering resources to young carers, considering costs, and taking into account what activities would work online.
We had to be innovative in our approach and delivered virtual cooking classes, quizzes, yoga/relaxation and wellbeing sessions to young carers, Quarantine Bingo, Bake off tasks, yoga, active challenges i.e. 3 minute plank challenge, Brain teasers, Pictionary, indoor scavenger Hunt, Getting to know each other games and one session was led by a young carer in relation to Theatre make up expanding to include their ideas and feedback, and utilise other support from partner agencies to include sessions on art, drama, dancing and Therapets.
Once face to face groups resumed, we commenced our School Holiday Group Programme that included weekly social groups and activities. During these sessions we have encouraged young carers to lead sessions that have included creative writing, theatre make up, and football skills workshops.
During school term time, we trialed a monthly Saturday group based on the feedback of the young carers saying they would prefer a Saturday to after school. These groups have been a great success and we are continuing after the new year until July 2022.
How Barnardos 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 cared for group. It also meant that we are able to deliver a well planned summer 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.
An additional 50 young carers in Aberdeen City will be feeling less isolated and enjoying increased positive socialisation with peers as a result of having access to social groups and social activities.
Outcome achieved as 50 new young carers felt less isolation 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- Three new social groups were established. We delivered school holiday programmes with weekly social groups and planned activities. 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. Regular outings offered opportunities for respite, meet other young carers, and make new friends. Target 2- A wide range of activities was offered virtually initially which young carers benefited from e.g. cooking sessions, quizzes, art, and music. With social activities being delivered safely indoors and outdoors when restrictions eased.
YCX is 12 years old and referred to Barnardo’s Young Carer service by his school. He cares for his mother who is a single parent and has a diagnosis of advancing Emphysema, poor mental health, and chronic pain. The family have a limited support system and the mother is an only child with no siblings. YCX does not have contact with his father and family network includes maternal grandfather however he has his own physical health needs therefore cannot offer respite for YCX. YCX undertakes a significant caring role and his responsibilities include going to the local shop most days, collecting his mother’s medicine prescription, cleaning the home, washing the dishes, helping with the laundry, tidying in general, offering emotional support and helping to cook meals when required. Mum often feels tired, spends a significant amount of time resting, and during the colder weather- experiences significant pain due to her ribs expanding that are caused by her advancing Emphysema. It was identified that YCX would benefit from the service because his mother wished for him to have the opportunity of positive experiences like his peers and felt guilty that his caring role was restricting him to socialise, have fun and “be a kid”. YCX also wished to meet other young carers and understand more about being a young carer and was curious about other young carers experiences. YCX participated in the weekly social groups offered to him and transport was offered for him to attend these as this was a barrier due to mum being unable to do this. The groups improved YCX social skills and increased his confidence and self-esteem. He thoroughly enjoyed the groups and building connections with other young carers. During the initial lockdown, a laptop was provided when the sessions moved to online due to the restrictions and our service was successful in being awarded several Chrome books from the Connected Scotland funding that we successfully applied for. YCX continues to attend our social groups and willingly participated in the YCs Summer programme and attended four outings during the school holidays. The groups/ outings have increased his opportunities to have positive experiences and build friendships with other young carers. YCX also hopes to attend our Barnardo’s LGBT group because he identifies as Gay and wishes to meet likeminded people. Further support is offered to mum and partnership working with education and social work services has ensured that a holistic approach is being implemented. Our future plan for YCX and his family are that he will continue to attend the weekly social groups, attend the monthly LGBT group, ensure that he has the opportunities to access extracurricular activities and use the local council young carers fund to support this financially, and for mum to continue to attend the Cared For group to improve her emotional wellbeing.
An additional 50 young carers will report feeling less anxious with an increased sense of their wellbeing and how to maintain it.
Outcome achieved based on 3 monthly review of individual outcomes, evaluation of social groups, feedback loop from young carers, cared for, and other professionals. Target 1- Young carers built friendships/peer support virtually and latterly face to face due ongoing opportunities for young carers to socialise with other young carers. We have delivered school holiday programmes with weekly social groups/planned activities. Young carers feedback that they thoroughly enjoy the groups and look forward to returning. Target 2- Digital communication/online activities provided support within the family home, helping the young carers to feel connected and not isolated. The weekly online social groups enabled young carers to access more opportunities to take part in leisure or social activities. We know that social isolation increased during the lockdown and many young carers benefitted from meeting other young carers online and seeing other people out with their households.
YCX is a 15-year-old young person who identifies as non-Binary and experiences significant anxiety. They care for their younger brother and father whom both experience various health conditions, including Autism, Hypermobility, PTSD, and OCD. YCX was referred to us last year by their brother’s social worker who recognised their need for one-to-one support due to their emotional wellbeing and access to more respite opportunities. The family have limited family support and their mother often feels overwhelmed and experiences low mod themselves that is often triggered by their current circumstances at home. The relationship between the parents at times can be strained due to their conflicting parenting styles in relation to YCX and their brother. Since being referred to the service, YCX engaged in support offered in a variety of ways; including accessing financial benefits, weekly one-to-one sessions that focused on improving their mental health and finding alternative strategies to manage their anxieties, provided one-off group opportunities in the summer to build connections with other young carers who were identified as benefiting from smaller group active sessions, offering transport to attend the summer school holiday programme weekly groups/ Music Therapy Group and LGBT Group. YCX attended the planned summer activities and the family were offered a joint family activity to Jump In whereby their mother and brother joined in. The family stated that they thoroughly enjoyed their family outing and very grateful for the opportunity. YCX was also identified with their permission to contact our local college Young Carer Lead after they commenced college to alert them of their young carer status and emotional health needs. Further support has also been offered to the family including referral to counselling services, sign posting to Advocacy Aberdeen and Autism support groups, and applications to third sector agencies for food parcels and clothes. The future care plan for YCX and their family is to continue offering regular 1-1 sessions that will be reduced to fortnightly due their mental health improving and their positive engagement in the groups, support them to independently travel to the groups to increase their independence and acquire life skills, continue to work in partnership with the local college to ensure that their educational needs are being met, and ongoing support to the family when required.
20 cared for individuals will report an increasing sense of personal wellbeing and enhanced family connections as a result of having access to their own social group, and participating in joint activities with their young carers.
Achieved - Evaluation from our shared experiences sessions evidenced an improvement in family connections and improved health and wellbeing for the Cared for. Target 1- A new cared for social group was established, that offered opportunities for peer support. The groups take place and online using Zoom as the platform. Currently we have 8 members that regularly attend. Connecting cared for individuals with others will improve their wellbeing and reduce their own social isolation. 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, took place when safe to do so, including online Festive Move Night In activity, Carers Week joint activity, and face to face activities and outings. 27 cared for attended the joint activities.
YCX is a 17 year old young carer who cares for their Mother due to her various health conditions. YCX was referred by their school who recognised her need for further one-to-one support and access to more respite opportunities. Since being referred to the service, she has engaged in support offered in a variety of ways; including accessing Young Carer specific funding to purchase items which help with her health and wellbeing, engaged in two-weekly sessions and phone calls, attended weekly and one-off group opportunities as well as helping set up Barnardo’s own LGBT+ group run by Young Carers themselves. The Cared For expressed their need for additional support in relation to their emotional wellbeing and struggled with low mood. Mum is a single parent and does not have a wider support system. YCX father has no contact with YCX or the family and she has never met her father. It was agreed that mum attend our weekly adults group to meet other adults who are cared for that she has enjoyed attending. Our future plan is to continue offering the social groups to both YCX and her mother because our experience shows that cared for individuals report their wellbeing increases when they see their children attending social groups, as it reduces the burden they place on the young carer, and the guilt they feel about their child missing out on life experiences and chances. Similarly, the young carer knowing that the cared for person has a new support network will also increase their wellbeing and give them a break from the responsibility they feel in supporting them.