Better Breaks Shetland
A story by Voluntary Action Shetland
VAS Better Breaks Project offers a range of activities and short break opportunities to support parent carers, sibling carers and the cared for person themselves. The activities are designed to be person centred and where possible to be mutually beneficial for the carer and the person they support.
What Better Breaks Shetland did
This year we offered, a monthly group for young people who have a sibling with Additional Support Needs. This takes place at the weekend and days are offered during holidays, it is all timed to complement the service offered by Disability Shetland. This group has taken a few years to build up but is now one of our key successes. Parents state that this is such a good opportunity for timeout for their children, but also an opportunity to meet friends, run errands, and one mum goes out running. We have found that as the siblings become older they take on more of a young carer role.
We continue to offer Family Days which gives the chance for the whole family to come together. We have noted that this is even more successful when we team up with Disability Shetland. This year the family days have gone particularly well and they have allowed parents to socialise as a family which they tell us that often don’t get an opportunity to do.
Monthly Parent Support Group, for those who have children with social communication difficulties. This provides time out from their caring role. Different activities are offered but often time is spent chatting about the various challenges that people face.
Fortnightly Group for able teenagers on the autism spectrum. It encouraged social interactions and timeout activities for the teenager. Parents also got a break during this time.
One of our key successes this year has been the Lego Group. We initially planned to send one parent and worker away to get trained in Lego Therapy. However, we realised it was more effective to bring the training up to Shetland and have trained 15 people in Shetland to be able to run Lego Groups. 2 of the workers ran our Lego Group and another 2 have set up Lego Groups in their workplaces. We have also spoken to the trainees to help overcome some of the barriers that are stopping them using it which includes having more Lego sets available to support them.
What Voluntary Action Shetland has learned
We have found that the parents who attend our Parent Group sometimes cannot attend the meeting every month due to work or other commitments. Often the issues spoken about within the group are relevant to other families, so staff now email out to all parents a reminder about what has been spoken about. This is done without naming names to maintain confidentiality. This has allowed parents to still hear from professionals (Child Smile) even if they haven’t been able to attend the group on the day the professional was there.
We have found that it is very important not to pre-judge a group of people. This was particularly around the Lego Club. The children were completely different to how we expected them to be, and were able to self regulate on how things were done. This showed us that although the club was set up in a specific way, we needed to allow for flexibility to allow each child to reach their full potential within the club. Staff also needed to be good at negotiating!
We have enjoyed our partnership working with Disability Shetland to allow us to reach more families than we have before during our Family Days. As the days were also attended by Disability Shetland staff, there were more adults to help all the children get the most out of the activities. Voluntary
Action Shetland staff were able to speak to front line staff rather than the manager which built new relationships. There is a lot more scope for working together sharing resources and equipment, identifying new participants (both children and parents) and allowing families to enjoy activities together.
How Voluntary Action Shetland has benefitted from the funding
The Better Breaks funding continues to help us in a number of ways. The Lego training allowed us to make new partnerships with the local authority which also increase our reputation for being able to deliver sessions that bring added value for the whole of Shetland, this also builds knowledge and capacity for the future. It encouraged the people who we brought together to more share good practice and build. It helped that we include parents in our training so that people also see the value of including parents in these sessions. Through the pilot group that we had with Lego Group, it enabled us to offer the opportunity to work on a specific project with our staff for an Occupational Therapy student. This student was working in the children's department of NHS and it allowed her to see how third sector organisations can contribute to the health and well being of a child and their family and how working in partnership can achieve the child's outcomes more effectively.
Monday group success will be receiving referrals & young people building good peer relationships in mainstream environment. Lego group success will be 10 sessions with 70% attendance and that the child is participating. A trained worker and parent.
Initially the plan was to send a parent & worker for Lego training, more cost effective to bring a trainer to Shetland. Training fully subscribed, 15 people from various roles. 1st group we secured an OT student to work with us, giving us enough staff for 9 children. Full attendance achieved most weeks, feedback from parents & children was excellent. For some this was 1st success in attending out of school activity. Allowed parents to have a break, by spending time with their other children or to do errands. Monday group (now Friday) no. of sessions delivered on target, attendance was not, sometimes 25%. We had meetings with professionals to increase referrals and attendance. The nature of group makes it difficult for the children to commit. Friday afternoon, although fits better with the school timetable, does mean that some are exhausted by this time in week. Feedback shows group is successful for the children attending & is helping meet target of building confidence in a mainstream environment.
Craig is 9 years old and has autism. He is in mainstream school but spends the majority of his time outside of class with an adult support worker. This is due to his sensory issues and his Echolalia which can be very distracting and disruptive to other children in the class. Craig doesn’t really interact with other children at break or lunch time and prefers to spend his time with adult company. Craig doesn’t attend any groups or clubs outwith school as he struggles with the unpredictability of the situations. It was suggested that Craig come along to the Lego Club with a personal assistant. Craig loves playing with Lego and has lots of it at home. Craig was very excited to come along to the Club, and initially just interacted with their personal assistant. The other children, who also had autism, initially struggled a little with Craig’s Echolalia but the staff were able to make small adjustments to allow Craig to still be in the same room as everyone else. Slowly, Craig started interacting with the other staff, asking questions with prompts from their personal assistant. One of the other children in the group, Gary, really wanted to be friends with Craig, and the staff allowed the two to spend time together with adult support. This helped Craig to feel included and build up his tolerance of other children and having to share adult attention. Craig had to learn how to problem solve during this club as he was only allowed to play with one toy at a time. Craig didn’t want the toy he was playing with to leave the room, so he went down on the floor to where Gary and the other boys were playing, to give the toy to Gary. This meant that the toy was still in the room but Craig could play with another one! Craig played alongside the other boys for around 15 minutes before coming back to staff. This was one of the first times that the personal assistant had seen this kind of interaction from Craig with other children!
Sibling group achieve 70% attendance. Currently work with 10 carers, keep group registered at 16. Offer 9 parent carer time out opportunities family day, achieve 70% attendance. Currently 14 families registered, increase families registered to 18 accommodate 4 new families by going out of Lerwick.
We have delivered 11 sibling sessions, 4 Family Days which included days out in in areas other than Lerwick to try and make it more accessible for families living outside Lerwick. One of the sessions was in Aith Leisure Centre was an excellent venue and provided us with a very relaxed atmosphere. There was a family trip to the cinema which resulted in 35 people attending. We also have had family days at the Clickimin Centre and the last one in March was done in partnership with Disability Shetland. This widened our reach to cover families who have not attended our events before. Through the summer holidays we have had 6 sibling sessions with trips to Sumburgh Head, Scalloway Castle, Clickimin Broch. We also had a printing workshop at an art studio where we completed our little booklet.
Keith is 10 and lives with his mum, dad and big brother, Joe. Joe has ADHD. Keith is often in the firing line when Joe is finding things difficult, often getting hit or shouted at. Keith attends Sibling Group once a month. Keith really enjoys Sibling Group as it gives him time to play without interruptions. Often, Keith will come in, say hi to staff, and sit down to play with Lego straight away, sitting in his own world for 30-45 minutes. Staff realised this allows Keith time to relax and zone out, knowing that he can do this without having to deal with Joe’s behaviour. Once he has had this time, Keith really enjoys playing with the other children who attend the group. Staff noticed that Keith sometimes shares experiences with some of the older children who have a similar experience to him. Mum said that Keith always looks forward to Sibling Group as it something just for him to attend. Recently, Keith was given the opportunity to attend a football camp. After discussion with mum, Keith decided not to go to it as it would mean that he would miss Sibling Group! Mum was happy to support this decision, and shared this with staff to show how much Keith values the Sibling Group.
12 parent sessions including skill sessions, health & well being, and timeout sessions. Currently have 10 parents registered, to create 70% attendance, offer 2 opportunity for dads to meet. attract more than 2 dads and 1 awareness raising session for family members & supporters to help main carer.
We held 10 parent sessions including skill sessions, health & well being, and timeout sessions. There has not always been a good attendance, so we have changed the time and now made it over lunch. Sometimes we have had fish and chips and this has been a relaxing way for parents to take a bit of time out but also having chance to speak to each other. Each session has a theme so it has meant that we have been able to look at emergency planning. We have invited visitors for example the oral health came along to discuss Additional Support Needs children attending dentist and how this can be improved. We offered 2 opportunity for dads to meet but did not get any uptake. We have carried out a survey with dad and got very little response but from the responses that we did get, they were more interested in breaks that they could get by themselves, this allowed us to redirect them to other parts of our service (mainly our Respitality Service). I think this is a gap in being able to support dad parent carers.
Susie attends the Parent Group, she used to come regularly, but her work pattern has changed and she hasn’t been able to attend as often. Susie came along to a meeting after a break of several months. Susie shared that her daughter, Rose, had been struggling to attend school, and this meant that Susie and her partner were having to take time off work to look after her. Rose has Asperger's and has been finding the school environment increasingly challenging due to sensory issues and inconsistent support during the school day. This has increased from coming home early some days to not going in to school at all for several weeks. Susie was able to talk about this with the other parents who attend the group, and staff at the group. Susie was upset and was looking for reassurance that she had been doing the right things and not just enabling Rose to be off because she felt like it. The other parents in the group were able to offer advice, and could understand the point that Susie was currently at. Staff were able to speak to an autism specialist after the group about how to enable your child with autism to attend school after a period of absence. This was then sent to all parents in the group. Susie shared during the group that although she hadn’t been at the group for a period of time, it gave her an opportunity to talk with others and know that she wasn’t alone in how she was feeling or the things she was having to do, making her feel less isolated. This informal group meant she felt relaxed and could share with the others over a coffee and some cake. The staff were able to signpost Susie to other organisations that might be able to offer her wellbeing activities to allow her to look after her own mental health.
Measuring wellbeing of carers at the start, 6 months, and then in 1 years time.
Recording the well being of carers, enables us to monitor and evaluate where parents are and alter our parent sessions accordingly. The complex nature of the people they are caring for means that the results are not always improving and we use this to work out when times are difficult. We have then used this information to sign post to other areas of our service and to other agencies that we work closely with.
Case study for outcome 2 & 3 show the positive outcomes for carer wellbeing.
To hold Lego Therapy training and sessions with other short breaks providers.
As stated earlier for the Lego Group. We initially planned to send one parent and worker away to get trained in Lego Therapy. However, we realised it was more effective to bring the training up to Shetland and have trained 15 people in Shetland to be able to run Lego Groups. The trained people live and work in areas throughout Shetland meaning that there is potential to set up groups in a wider geographical spread, which is always one of the challenges for Shetland. 2 of the workers ran our Lego Group and another 2 have set up Lego groups in their workplaces. We have also spoken to the trainees to help overcome some of the barriers that are stopping them using it which includes having more Lego sets available to support them. As part of our Lego pilot session we worked with the local authority play worker to deliver the service, this worked really well and is to be used for the sessions that will be delivered in future.
This is not a case study as such but one of the trained people said. "I use Lego therapy training twice a week, it’s going really well with the children I am working with and there are positive results include socialising and learning that things can be mended when we are calm and work together. "