Barnardo's Family Support Service - North Lanarkshire
A story by Barnardo's Family Support Service-North Lanarkshire
We have delivered three residential breaks for children and young people affected by disability; 11 children and young people benefitted from these breaks. One residential break was for 4 young carers.
These breaks took place at Wiston Lodge which provides outdoor and bush craft experiences.
The children and young people participated in wall climbing, archery, nature walks, welly walks, camp fires and group/team building exercises. Children were asked to step out of their usual comfort zones to try new activities and to build on there existing skills and abilities.
The respite breaks consisted of two, one day taster sessions (trying out activities) followed by a two day residential break. The purpose of the break was to provide new experiences for children affected by disability and their siblings. Children and young people were challenged to exceed their personal abilities in a safe environment to increase the individual’s confidence and self esteem.
Tip 1:Ensure you choose the right venue for your respite break. Find a venue or organisation that is supportive and can adapt to meet your needs. An organisation that also wants to learn and develop from the experience.
Tip 2:Set outcomes, what is it you want to help children and young people achieve and how can you do this through the fund/breaks
Tip 3:Broadcast! Let families, parents, carers and local communities (schools or organisations in your area) know what you are doing and why.
It created a sense of “team” and inclusion for the children and young people sharing the experience. The main benefit to children and young people was allowing them to appreciate their skills and abilities and to believe that they could achieve more than they realised. The respite breaks provide fun and a sense of freedom for children and young people.
They were involved in decision making, planning and preparation for each activity/task. We wanted the children and young people to enjoy the experience and build their confidence in a way that would help them to continue achieving beyond the respite breaks.
This is an account of the experience from a kinship carer "the taster sessions in which “K” was able to try out Wiston Lodge were very useful as he was able to meet their staff, what he was excited about trying, and his thoughts about being away from home.
We spent time planning with Barnardo’s and highlighted possible issues.
K felt secure about Wiston Lodge and looked forward to the overnight stays. We were a bit uncertain of how things would go and were waiting for the phone call from “K” saying he wanted to come home, this never happened. “K” had managed without us for 3 days and had the most exciting time. He proved to staff that he could show other’s how to do some of the task’s that were on offer to them, it made a significant difference to “K”. He has moved on at school and is more confident about himself, he does not see disability within people, and gives them some of his confidence to enable them to succeed. This has always been our goal of trying to make “K” a person who we have made acceptable to society, with all his difficulties"
One young person aged 17 and with a diagnosis of ASD became very distressed during the archery activity on one of the taster days. He became physically challenging to staff. During the residential stay he was encouraged to be part of the group but he was allowed to sit out of the archery activity. We had devised distraction strategies (woodland walks) to minimise is agitation as others participated in the activity.
The young man did observe the activity for short periods of time but showed little interest. On the final day; without encouragement or guidance he approached a member of staff and took the bow from them and stood exactly how he had observed his peers. He was then able to participate in this activity. This was a huge moment for this young man and demonstrated an increase in his understanding, his ability to make his own choices and improved confidence (observation of supporting staff).
The children and young people were familiar with the staff group who could provide the right level of guidance, support and intervention to enable them to participate and enjoy the experience.
"The Wiston Lodge experience for us was a strange experience. We struggled to accept that things for "K" have moved on albeit for the best for him. It left us a big hole to fill that we never thought about. We struggled to find things to do as we were always waiting for the call that never happened. This was the first time "K" had been out of our care since 2005; this was a challenge that we had never expected to happen. The time away from "K" was stressful but good. We are grateful that Barnardo's can give children this type of opportunity. It has done "K" a wealth of good and has gone some way to giving him life skills that we know he needs to develop for the longer term" (Kinship Carer).
The young carers undertook personal and team challenges in this outdoor setting. This opportunity allowed for peer support, reflection and a break from their caring role. It enabled the young carers to understand that they are not alone in their role and to gain strength from the support and knowledge of other young carers.
Wiston Lodge staff have reported gaining further insight into the needs of individuals affected by disability and feel more confident at providing other groups and organisations with this experience. Although the instructors and staff at Wiston Lodge tailored activities, children and young people were encouraged and guided to try everything that the centre offered.
Our aims as a project are to identify short, medium and long term outcomes/goals for individuals and to support them to achieve these. We respect the individual's right to make choices and we promote independence.
We did ensure that children, young people and their carers were given information on the respite breaks through information evenings, newsletters, web links and photographs. Children and young people were involved in the planning of activities; meals and leisure time during the break; as well as selecting their accommodation (they picked their own rooms).
Although children and young people were encouraged as much as possible to try new things the individual's decision to opt out of an activity was respected.
Children and young people were encouraged to try new things to broaden their experiences and staff were able to continually feedback on their achievements and successes. Children and young people were empowered to make their own decisions and gain confidence in asserting their needs and wants.
Our project is funded by the local authority and the families, young people and children we provide services for are referred by them. Unfortunately we are not in a position to provide services or additional respite breaks to children outwith our service.
We based the groups on age and ability to ensure compatibility and the best possible outcome for those children and young people attending. Individual's with multiple support needs include one young man with Down's Syndrome, ASD, Gilbert's syndrome, learning difficulties, sleep disturbances and breathing issues. We supported a young person with ASD, Tourette's Syndrome and learning difficulties to access the respite break.
Two children with sensory impairments and learning difficulties; one child is visually impaired (blind) and the other child is deaf. Supporting children with multiple needs required more thought to risk assessment and some adaptation of activities but we ensured that children with multiple support needs were fully included and encouraged to try all activities.
I have also attended training provided by Shared Care Scotland which I found very useful within my role.
Observations from the instructors and staff at the venue we used for the respite breaks.