Befriending & short break support for BME families in Perth & Kinross
A story by MEAD Project
We delivered weekly/monthly support groups for BME families. Due to a high number of children diagnosed with ADHD, we established an additional Support Group for these parents.
We organised therapy and pamper sessions like laughter yoga, hand massage and reiki. We helped clients attend the Carer’s Conference, Healthy Living event, Ceilidhs, Info Days, cooking, computer classes, food hygiene training’s, picnics and PIP for Carers.
We provided befriending (via telephone and one-to-one). Three day trips were delivered to St Andrews, Broughty Ferry and National Museum in Edinburgh. Significant time was spent helping families with applying for funds, benefits, housing and to access other services.
Through befriending, one-to-one and group support, we encourage and raise awareness of the importance of respite for carers, and help them to access other appropriate statutory and voluntary services. We aim to work with service providers to support them to address issues that BME families of disabled children experience in more culturally appropriate ways.
Tip 1:Ensure that families are treated as individuals with attention to their language, culture and ethnicity.
Tip 2:It is beneficial for any agency considering running a similar project to recruit staff from diverse backgrounds.
Tip 3:It is vital that staff at any agency has a good knowledge of local services and a wide range of contacts.
The children and young people socialised with their peers and were able to experience the same opportunities as other children to have fun and spend time away from home. The children and young people also benefited from outings to the park, swimming pool, cinema, Ceilidhs, EID festival, Diwali and classes of their choice i.e. Urdu. With MEAD’s support one Eastern European and one South Asian family were awarded additional funds towards short breaks - Family Fund and 'Take a Break' fund.
With MEAD's help Anna received support from Family Fund and went for a two day short break to Legoland with her family. Her five years old daughter who has a rare genetic disease enjoyed the trip thoroughly, with her mum saying “I never thought that we will succeed in getting this fund, thank you so much for helping! We spent a great time together with my husband and daughter.”
Karol (15) and Kamil (11) both have ADHD. At home they both present similar challenges to their respective families. These children make many demands on their parents, get into trouble at school and sometimes present risky behaviour towards their younger siblings. MEAD organised the day trip to Broughty Ferry which Karol and Kamil both attended. Despite the age difference between the two boys they went off and played together, went to the beach to look for ‘treasures’ while their parents relaxed during the picnic. Karol’s mum, Eva, said “It’s such a relief to see him happy and having a friend, he so struggles making new friends”. Both children requested another day trip, and Eva was so reassured about how the first one went that she stayed at home and had a proper break during the second trip to St Andrews.
Pawel was diagnosed with ADHD in Poland. He has three siblings and one of them is a one year old. Only his dad is working to financially support the family, so they don't have much money and time to go and do something fun together. Pawel took part in the cinema outing organised by MEAD, along with his dad and sister Karolina. Pawel enjoyed the time spent with his dad and was able to gain more of his attention. At the same time, Pawel’s mum stayed at home and was able to relax a bit, and give her attention to her youngest child. Dad said “We had really good fun together. It was nice that I could be there just for two of them for at least a while. Please let me know about other outings to cinema you will be doing”
“Really enjoyed this session and enjoyed hearing about self-management courses and how we can help ourselves at home”
“Thank you for the opportunity to take part in the workshop - I met new people, feel better and much more relaxed”
A South Asian carer of a disabled child attends regular Walking Group organised by MEAD in partnership with Live Active Stride for Life. After the walk the group meets for a coffee and chat. She commented, “this provides me time away from my caring role, the ability to meet other ladies from my community and clear my head and talk about normal things”
Firdous went with her two children Hamid (11) and Zainab (14) for a trip to Edinburgh. Her son Hamid has health problems and has to spend a lot of time in hospital. The family is very private about the condition of their son and Firdous has also other caring responsibilities over an older family member. With MEAD’s help, Firdous and her two children had an opportunity to take part in this trip along with other 41 members of their local community – parents and children. They went to National Museum together and had a really good time exploring Scottish culture and they all went for lunch together afterwards. “I have never been to this museum before, thank you so much for organising this trip, I would like to go to another one”
We also supported carers in attending trainings which boosted their knowledge and qualifications like Personal Independence Payment for Carers workshop, Self-Management Course, Food Hygiene Course and Makaton (a sign language) class.
The mother of a boy with schizophrenia said “MEAD’s staff encourages me and helps me to improve my English, today with their support I got a certificate which I can add to my CV”. The mother of a child with speech impairment said “I am really grateful that I could attend the Makaton class, it will help me to communicate with my child and support what she learns at school”.
Anitha has Downs Syndrome and learning difficulties and struggles to communicate effectively. She is a happy and loving nine year old girl. Her parents both work full-time and so don’t have much time to provide fun activities for her. They live in a remote rural Perthshire location and work opposite shifts in order to take care for her. Anitha was unable to access local resources due to time constraints placed on the parents.
MEAD implemented a befriending service which meant Anitha could go to the local swimming pool, library and park. Anitha receives support for two hours every week and seems to really love it. She loves reading and hugs and smiles her befriender. Her mum commented, “Our daughter looks forward to seeing you and going out with you every week, she really enjoys that. Thank you so much for doing this we have some time for ourselves now!”
We attended conferences and networking meetings. We delivered cultural awareness training for service providers and plan to run another session in January 2014.
We met with staff of the local school for disabled children to talk about barriers experienced by minority ethnic families and shared our experience of working with BME families with disabled children.
We facilitated a Carers' Consultation, carried in partnership with Perth & Kinross Council’s Housing and Community Care department for the purpose of the new PKC Caring Strategy 'Caring Together'. Four parents of disabled children attended that session (three Eastern European families and one South Asian) and had an opportunity for their voice to be heard with interpreting provided by MEAD staff. New strategy will influence the development of future services.
Sarah Renwick, the representative of one of our partner agencies Positive Choices, said: “Through the partnership work with the Better Breaks Fund, we have had the opportunity to work with minority ethnic parents of disabled children, who we would not normally be able to reach. The Development Officer for MEAD has played a crucial part in organising the Self-Management Courses for parents and setting up the ongoing Peer Support Group”.
Iwona: “My son has a profound disability and when I and my family arrived to Scotland from Poland my husband went to work and I didn’t know what to do and where to go. All the services and systems are just so different and I don’t speak English. While visiting MEAD for other services, I heard about the Better Breaks Fund Project and support worker sat down with me and gave information and explained in detail what they could do to support me and my child in my own language. I got assistance with every form and every letter I received. I also received emotional support when I struggled.
Meeting MEAD’s Support Worker was also eye opening for me as I never really thought about myself and my well-being during all this time as my focus always has been my child’s well being. Taking a break was never something I thought about, this is my child and so is my responsibility. Now I pay more attention to my needs and attend the Support Groups at MEAD where I can relax and enjoy myself. At the beginning I was very reserved towards people but now I feel I have support and someone I can trust. That helped me to be more opened towards others. With MEAD’s help, I was offered a one year’s free membership to access leisure services with my son. MEAD’s Support Worker made me aware that I don’t have to do this all on my own. I would have been completely lost without MEAD’s help”.
Eva: “My son is never interested with doing anything apart from playing PlayStation and with his behaviour being so challenging for me at times I am relieved when he goes to some activities. MEAD helped me to make a link with Perth Sea Cadets and when Karol found out he can learn sailing there THAT made him interested! He also started attending activities and trips delivered by MEAD and that gives me the time I need”.
For example Firdausi requested computer lessons for her so she can contact other family members through internet. MEAD’s support worker organised a computer classes for South Asian community members to facilitate social inclusion for this carer of disabled child. “That was really useful for me. It helped me to maintain links with my family and friends who remain in my home country.”
MEAD facilitates an Advisory Group and members include senior managers of Perth & Kinross Council’s Child Health Team. The group organised a visit to local short break centre for families ran by local authority. Through this group cultural awareness training was organised, promoted and delivered to eleven representatives of services delivering short breaks. Issues highlighted by the BME families are the part of the agenda during those meetings. Appropriate actions are taken to address those issues through various mainstream services i.e. Young Carers Services, Cornerstone. MEAD staff regularly shares intelligence gathered from children and young people during the outings in order to improve facilities and activities for them.
MEAD facilitated carers’ consultation carried out by local Council’s Housing and Community Care department in order to address the issues of BME carers on Council’s agenda and carers’ strategy. Interpretation was provided by our staff and the carers had an opportunity for their voice to be heard.
This will help to deliver more culturally appropriate services in the future. “Coming to this country I never thought my opinion would matter and here I am listened to by the Council.”
One of the aims of this project is to raise awareness of needs and concerns of BME families to service providers and help them become more culturally appropriate to meet these needs. We do this by information roadshows, cultural awareness training, conferences and other partnership meetings.
We were also inviting families and accompanying them at various events, conferences and training's to increase their awareness about services available and to encourage carers to access them, i.e. took carers during Carer’s Conference where other services were present and informed about the support they provide for carers.
Mother of ADHD boy was supported into linking her son with Perth Sea Cadets: ‘I was surprised because he is not interested with anything apart from playing games and this time he WANTED to join the cadets’
Mother of a child with genetic disease said: ‘There are so many services available and it is great that this country cares about people like us. If I need some additional support I know that MEAD will help me to access an appropriate service’
MEAD staff helped families to obtain Compass Live Active memberships for their children so they can spend their time more actively and enjoy themselves in the local leisure facilities. Where possible we helped families to apply for additional funds towards short breaks so the children have more possibilities for a growth and carefree fun.
Links with local services created by MEAD staff provide families additional help and support crucial for children’s cognitive, social and emotional growth.
Eva ‘Karol practically lost his one year of education because of how badly his ADHD manifested at school and teachers didn’t know how to deal with him so often he was sent home. MEAD support worker linked me with Perth & Kinross ADHD Support Group and they are helping me now with discussions with teachers to keep my son at school for additional year. He is 15 so that means he would be able to leave education after the next term and play computer at home every day. Now at least I know how to give him a chance for a better start.’
During peer support group meetings parents listen to each other and share their own experience. It is a pleasure for us to observe the forming bond between parents.
We notice that South Asian families are still very reluctant in coming forward and admitting there is a disability in their family. A lot of South Asian support worker's efforts go into building trust among local communities, raising awareness about disabilities and the support we can provide. The stigma around the disability causes that families often isolate themselves from others and don't seek support.
Fairview School in Perth would be an ideal service to provide respite for carers whilst facilitating positive outcomes for the child. This facility has the necessary skills to maximise the opportunities for disabled children. The stigma among South Asians around receiving support prevents them from accessing it, but it is hoped that by visiting and building relationships and trust the parents from the South Asian community will feel more able to access and benefit from the support that services like Fairview school offers. MEAD will continue to work in partnership with Fairview to link BME communities to this valuable resource.
Link with Irene Miller (Perth & Kinross Manager) was valuable in linking carers and children with other appropriate services. This link was also exploited during promoting cultural awareness training for short breaks service providers.
The workload has shifted towards Eastern European as 12 out of 15 families are now from Poland and MEAD will have to adjust its staffing and other resources accordingly as all minority ethnic families require comprehensive and dedicated support.
We engage with statutory and voluntary services to promote the Project, visited Fairview School and Woodlea Cottage to make sure workers will inform minority ethnic families about the service available. Having a senior manager on Advisory Group helps us to promote and identify families known to them.
Additionally information about MEAD’s Better Breaks Fund is included into Council’s Childcare and Family Information directory as well as PKAVS’s website.
We assess the needs of new families identified or referred to MEAD and a support package is agreed. Based on families’ circumstances we prioritise those in most need of support.
Anna is a lovely and outgoing 5 years old girl with Chromosome 9 Trisomy what involves learning difficulties, vision impairment and slow speech development, Anna likes the cinema and her mom learns Makaton to communicate better with her daughter.
Jacek has a profound disability, visual impairment and learning difficulties and until a few months ago his mom didn’t know how important it is to have a break, now she takes care of herself more in order to be stronger for him.
Karol is a goodhearted young boy but his ADHD means that his behaviour is sometimes risky towards others. He also has problems learning new things and remembering to put everything he needs into his school backpack; now his mom knows how important it is to help him stay a year longer at school.
Adam has schizophrenia, learning difficulties and Asperger syndrome, he likes attending activities and trips when someone he knows is with him.
Anitha is a lovely girl with Down Syndrome and learning difficulties, when accompanied by someone she knows she likes to go to library and pick a book she can read at home.
We made sure that our services and activities are appropriate in terms of culture, age, gender and are accessible for all. MEAD office has wide entrance doors and no stairs. Our staff provided interpreting when needed. For arts and crafts session we used variety of materials in terms of ease of use and age appropriateness.
Activities were fun and rewarding for children, we placed their arts and crafts work on a display in our office. We made sure that activities organized by us are performed in a nice and friendly atmosphere, although some children were competing when they found a partner for it and found it fun :)
We are grateful for all the ongoing support provided by Short Breaks Fund’s Manager and Grants Officer. We are proud to be one of the projects supported by Shared Care Scotland and to help them engage with and support minority ethnic communities.
We also do one-to-one interviews with carers and with disabled children (when possible) to see any additional comments. We collect case studies and testimonies, the feedback is received after each activity which will help to improve future services. Our database captures robust information about the service provided.