Big Kids Club
A story by Cornerstone
Cornerstone’s Big Kids Club provided a range of outdoor activities for 30 young people with multiple support needs, enabling participation in fun and challenging activities with friends and peers for 6.5 hours per day during school holidays.
This allows time for quality breaks for families and carers so that they refreshed and better able to attend to their caring responsibilities.
What Big Kids Club did
We have built on a foundation that was first established in 2014-15 when we began working with another organisation called Outfit Moray, this was to develop a programme of activities which really challenged children with multiple support needs to engage a variety of outdoor adventure activities. The experiences fostered an attitude of risk enablement for the children and challenged the perceptions and expectations of many parents and carers.
We used a team of 4 core members, some paid relief staff and a selection of volunteers. We also utilised experienced staff from Outfit Moray for specialist activities. We promoted the activities through our established clubs, local social work teams, schools and word-of-mouth.
The play scheme ran for 6.5 hours for 5 weeks over the academic year school holidays. Whilst we used the local high school as a base to meet and for the children to be collected, we were out everyday, no matter what the weather, across the local area accessing the woods, beach, lochs, hills and sea. The children’s carers used the extended time to spend with other siblings or family members, some were able to extend their working periods during the holidays or just having quality time to themselves.
The woodland we went to had established trails and an accessible car park. The terrain was not too uneven so R was able to walk the short distance to our activity base with the support of the 2 staff members. R took part in a short orienteering activity as well as fire building and cooking outdoors, especially “cooking” her own marshmallows around the camp fire. She really enjoyed the experience and is now happy to go on other outdoor activities.
By E coming to play scheme for extended days she can continue her normal working routine with her clients. She feels less stressed in that she doesn’t have to ask for support from other family members. This benefits mum’s well-being and also means E has continuity in contact with her peers and the opportunity to take part in exciting challenging activities. Dad can spend some special one-to-one time with E’s brother as well.
The local activity group in his area for children with learning disabilities offered arts and crafts, Lego groups and other activities which J found “babyish”. Mum had removed him from the local school and he now boards during the week at a school away from the area. This left him feeling isolated him during the school holidays and mum feeling stressed.
J came along to play scheme and really enjoyed the activities offered in partnership with Outfit Moray. He bonded with one of the other boys in particular which led to meetings outside of club. He was able to choose from a range of activities which he normally wouldn’t have experienced and enjoyed the challenges involved.
It was a really positive experience for him in terms of his confidence and the ability to develop his social skills amongst his peers. For his mum, it was reassuring that J was not isolated when he came home for the holidays and to engage in activities that suited him.
What Cornerstone has learnedThe difference the fund has made to Cornerstone is significant. As an organisation Cornerstone has been able to establish a truly innovative respite service for children with learning disabilities. All too often these children are ‘protected’ from risks. We have created opportunities for them to learn and grow with minimal risk.
Both the children and parents/carers are very involved in the planning of activities so we are able to ensure that the service is very child-centred and personalised. We identify the unique needs of each child to ensure all of the supports are in place to make the experiences safe, positive and enriching. As a service we have seen the value of and need for careful planning, communication and organisation.
The Moray community has a very positive perception of the Big Kids Club and routinely receives referrals from local schools and social work teams. This has resulted in many new referrals to the service. We have also been contacted by a local businessman who wants to have Big Kids Club as his chosen charity of the year and hold some fundraising events for us. This is in the very early stages, however we hope that we can raise some funds to support more activities for the children and families over the coming year.