Barnardo's Weekend Residential
A story by Barnardo's
We provided a weekend outdoor activity residential for whole families with children or young people with ASN/Disability, at Fordell Firs Scout Camp Dunfermline. A range of accessible activities were led by Scout staff, with families supported alongside by Barnardo’s staff and volunteers from Barnardo’s and Aberlour.
What Barnardo's Weekend Residential did
We Supported 8 Families consisting of 15 children and young people all with ASN/Disability and 10 parents from Dundee and Perth and Kinross to attend a weekend outdoor activities residential in August 2023. Families were identified by Barnardo's and a range of partners. Prioritising the families that had limited opportunity to access short breaks.
We met with all families attending prior to the holiday to gain an understanding of their needs and fully include them in planning which included choice of activities, food, and accessibility regarding accommodation. Building families confidence and ownership of the holiday was key. In gaining understanding about individual need, ensured our trained staff and volunteers understood how best to support CYP and assisted Outdoor staff to adapt activities to ensure they were accessible to all. The success of the project was our close partnership working and camaraderie developed within and between families.
The range of activities offered included:- Zip line, grass sledging, abseiling, low ropes and bungee trampolining as well as board games and team family games and campfire.
All children reported having fun and were observed to be smiling and laughing and full of excitement. Children/Young people and families alongside all staff encouraged each other to be brave and take part in activities. This created a real sense of achievement for the CYP trying new things, pushing themselves out with their comfort zone, building confidence alongside a sense of achievement and independence. Children/Young people peer relationship forged very quickly everyone helping each other and many have continued to stay in touch after the holiday.
Parents, Children/Young people and staff noted family bonds and relationship strengthened with improved communication and a real sense of fun between them. This has continued after the holiday. Improved relationship and communication have also improved family life and have continued with some Children/Young people having improved sleeping patterns, school attendance and families more confident to try new activities in their own communities. For many families this was their first experience of a short break together, creating lasting positive memories.
What Barnardo's has learned
Children/Young people with ASN/Disabilities and their families can often be excluded and isolated and have limited opportunity to have time together as a whole family undertaking activities. It is important that time is taken to understand individuals and family need. The joint planning is essential to ensure we are getting it right for everyone and being aware of any needs that require adjustments. Having a group of staff and volunteers who are experienced in understanding and knowledge of disability alongside the Scout staff knowledge and experience of outdoor activities, significantly increased parent and Children/Young people confidence to feel included and valued. This led to successful outcomes being achieved.
It is important to take a flexible approach within planning process and allowing families to identify how they can get the most out the holiday experience. Some families decided to take only one child and others deciding to take whole family. Having the additional resource of staff/ volunteers to assist is essential in helping to build confidence especially within this context. This allowed individual more opportunity to achieve and build on these achievements which created confidence and building of self-worth and esteem.
Families highlighted the importance of creating a safe environment where they feel confident in staff’s knowledge of disability and don’t feel judged by others- often these are the barriers that make accessing group opportunities challenging. Getting this right is key to families to feel included: “Meeting other families with a child with disability and similar situation is good as you don’t feel judged”- parent
“everyone was excellent at managing choices, being able to get the food he eats – beans on toast made such a difference” (staff) “ can’t believe how quickly we got to know staff, like we had known each other for ages, everyone was so supportive- Barnardo’s and Scout staff” ( parent) “ this was the best holiday ever, everyone got on so well and we made lots of new friends – I wish we could go again” ( YP)
By Building confidence and resilience with both children and their parents/carer, we expect to see more CYP attending other groups away from their parent/carers once the project has finished. The children will look forward to participating in other activities and groups, and their parents and carers will feel reassured that their children they can attend and participate in activities without them. Parents will have the confidence to seek out other opportunities that support their child's individual needs and abilities and support their child to access them. Parents/ YP are already actioning this and others are still being supported to find the right group or activity for them.
Studies show that social isolation is a significant contributing factor to poor mental health and wellbeing. By promoting friendships the service will be contributing to enhancing social connectedness amongst the children (Sain et al, 2015) Despite this being a short-term project there are significant long-term benefits for parents/carers. For example, a significant number of parents/carers who accessed the service struggle with both their physical/mental health. By giving them the short break/respite experience it was an opportunity for them to have time for self-care and recovery and importantly fun and forging new friendships. This in turn, will enhance their wellbeing and their capacity to continue their caring role.
How Barnardo's has benefitted from the funding
Through the better breaks funding, it gave our organisation a chance to organise a holiday for our families. It has given us the chance to work with other community groups to develop an inclusive holiday that families with additional support needs can benefit from. It has allowed our families to meet and build relationships with other families that are in similar circumstances, it has allowed parents to build their confidence and has improved mental health and engagement within our service as well as other services. We have been able to create a positive working relationship with other community groups as well as with our own delivery partners. We have been able to continue to build these relationships and work together to improve on what we delivered and what we aim to deliver in the future.
Children and their Families will have opportunity to participate in an outdoor and play focused activities by attending a weekend residential in Scotland where a range of outdoor activities will have been supported. Building skills, connections, promoting wellbeing, fun and lasting memories.
All children reported having fun and were observed to be smiling and laughing and full of excitement. Children/ Young people and families alongside all staff encouraged each other to be brave and take part in activities. This created a real sense of achievement for the Children/Young people trying new things, pushing themselves out with their comfort zone, building confidence alongside a sense of achievement and independence. Children/Young people peer relationship forged very quickly everyone helping each other and many have continued to stay in touch after the holiday. Parents, Children/Young people and staff noted family bonds and relationship strengthening with improved communication and a real sense of fun between them. This has continued after the holiday. Improved relationship and communication have also improved family life particularly in 2 cases where children who were previously non-school attenders have returned to attending school fulltime.
“I have a lot of anxiety and so does my child. He has lots of behaviour challenges and I’m in fear of him running off. This holiday has been the best adventure. I got a break and we both got a new adventure. We both became more relaxed as the holiday went on. He made friends, I made friends. I felt we weren’t being judged”. ( parent) This family in particular grew a lot over the weekend away. From the Friday sat around the fire pit when we are all getting to know each other, they sat separate, and it took a lot of encouragement to get them to engage not only with other families and children but engage between themselves as well. Due to both having anxiety they did not want to interact or join in the campfire songs, another CYP went to sit with them and encouraged the YP to join which then gave mum the confidence to sing along as well. The family then felt more confident and engaged more as the weekend went on. Both parent and Young Person struggle to regulate their emotions with new people and surroundings. The weekend away was a big challenge for them, however being around people who had similar experiences helped ease anxieties and encouraged them to join in. They both came on lots over the weekend, they took on new challenges, tried new activities and most importantly had fun together which started to repair their own relationship. The routine and being outdoors helped the family try new things and truly relax in each other company - “the holiday has lifted my mood, I could relax, I could sleep” (parent). This helped build confidence within themselves and allowed for the YP to return to school full time where this was not manageable before. “ I made lot’s of new friends who I am going to stay in contact with and go to other Barnardo’s groups with” - CYP
Parents/carers will have the opportunity to have fun, learn new skills and have new experiences in an exciting outdoor environment catering to their individual needs and abilities in a safe way. parent/Carers will see an improvement in their mental health and wellbeing.
The majority of the parents hadn’t experienced an outdoor activity, and some had never gone away on holiday as a family, due to impact of competing needs, lack of accessible / inclusive environments for their children and due to affordability. By including parents and CYP from the outset, we were able to allay fears, help shape the holiday and help everyone to prepare for what to expect. Some of the parents had their own needs linked to disability, mental health, and financial worries. Our approach was to reduce any access barriers and make everyone feel included. Parents felt their children were in safe hands. This allowed some to spend 1:1 time with their child with ASN/disability whilst the child's sibling was being cared for or simply a parent getting a chance to have a quick recovery break while their children were playing alongside other families. Meeting new families, getting a good nights sleep, bonding together & having fun were some of the key highlight expressed by parents.
“I’m usually split in three different directions, but this holiday allowed me time with each of my children as there was always others around to help” ( parent) Being supported by staff to be away on holiday allowed me the time to relax and unwind whilst knowing my children were in safe hands. This allowed me to join in the activities with my children whilst knowing my other children were safe. ( parent) One family – had three children, 2 still using a buggy and one with additional needs, the parents found it hard to manage all the behaviours and needs at once. Staff gave parents the time to relax and spend time together which most reported back they hadn’t done in years. Staff were able to support the children whilst their parents went to do activities and have time together. Parents were supported with behaviours over the weekend and encouraged to take time for themselves. (staff) Parents were able to bond with each other and create meaningful and lasting relationships with other parents. Families also had the support of other families, parents would share experiences and give advice when asked. ( staff) “ being able to spend time doing fun things with just my mum was something I had not done before because I have a young brother and sister” – (CYP) “ families were really helping each other all feeling they were in the same boat” ( staff)
We have designed the short break around families views, needs and ideas. The residential will enable parents to have down time and relax, this reinvigorating them for their caring role, whilst putting in additional resources/ support to overcome any barriers identified.
Every single child and adult who attended the weekends participated in each activity. Supported by their peers and staff. The comradery between each of them provided encouragement and confidence. Most of the children and parents had never experienced this type of motivation or exhilaration. During some of the activities, children shared previous learning when questioned about the outdoors such as fire safety and keeping warm when outside. These activities led to group discussions in their free time and reflection on how the day went, what they learnt from the day and what they would do differently or again. All parents/ carers and children expressed an increased sense of overall wellbeing. Fun, fresh air, physical and mental stimulation, company and friendship in a safe and supportive environment had immediate and ongoing benefits for all.
“ I am really stressed about things that are going on at home but glad to be here as such a great distraction- so good for my daughter’s wellbeing and mine. I’m just so thankful” (parent) Being away allowed families the time to be together and enjoy each others company. It allowed families to create a safe space for each other. One family in particular felt they could never find time to relax, however being away together gave them the space to enjoy themselves and relax with each other. It allowed them to be in the outdoors and try new activities whilst allowing them down time as well. The weekend kept them busy and came at the right time for them – both parent and child expressed how thankful they were, of staff and the other families for creating a welcoming environment and allowing them to experience new things together. Another family's worker commented on how the weekend away helped repair a fractured relationship and gave the child the confidence to return to school - “There was fractures in parent and child's relationship – they were not spending quality/fun time together. The holiday changed this. As a result the child felt happier and relationship improved. His school attendance has improved 100% and their relationship has also continued to develop” ( worker) Being away together and experiencing new things along with working together as part of a team helped restore a fractured relationship. “ we got to spend time together and get to know each other better, we now get on better at home” - CYP