A story by Mid Argyll Youth Development Services (MAYDS)
Breaking Away offered a program of respite for young carers across Mid Argyll, Kintyre and Islay (MAKI). This respite came in the form of regular fortnightly pony club sessions and outdoor activities carried out by Lochgoilhead outdoor activity center.
What Breaking Away did
The first strand of the Breaking Away program allowed Young Carers from Mid Argyll respite in the form of fortnightly sessions to pony club. These sessions allowed young people the chance to have 4 hours away from home at Argyll Adventure over a 6 month period where they participated in horse riding and pony club activities such as Stable Management, Horse grooming and learning about poisonous plants etc. The young people identified to participate in the pony club sessions were done so via their Young Carers Statements and what they had identified within them as being beneficial support or help to manage their situation and caring roles.
Although the pony clubs initiation start date was delayed due to COVID-19 first lockdown the stables were very accommodating in picking up additional session/days to allow all the young people whom participated the right amount of respite sessions as per grant. Pony club as always was very beneficial to the young carers and even more so after they came out of lockdown as for many their situation intensified during the pandemic and their caring roles became more significant with siblings not at school and them not getting the outlet of school etc. Pony club allowed them to get outdoors again and have fun with other young people.
The second strand to our program was respite in the form of two residential trips to Lochgoilhead outdoor center for 10 young carers per trip. The first trip took place in February 2020 just prior to lockdown. Young Carers from across Mid Argyll and Kintyre attended this trip in the 12 to 16 year age range. Those that participated had an amazing time absailing, cycling, boating etc. As there were a range of young people form across the area many made new friends and learnt new skills.
The second Lochgoilhead residential could not happen due to the COVID restrictions so instead, when restrictions had eased and education could go back Mid March, Lochgoilhead instructors went to Islay to deliver a 2 day outdoor camp for 20 young cares with various activities such as den building, bush crafts, archery etc.
What Mid Argyll Youth Development Services (MAYDS) has learned
The major challenge this funding period was COVID-19 and the restrictions this brought with it. However it taught us that there is always ways to adapt projects in the most difficult of circumstances to ensure those most in need such as young carers are still supported. Despite the challenges we managed to complete the project by adapting the way we delivered and worked. We also found it more difficult to reach out and engage with new families due to the pandemic as a lot of the group we were targeting had family member shielding and were therefore wary to engage in any activities.
How Mid Argyll Youth Development Services (MAYDS) has benefitted from the funding
Through this program we have been able to develop stronger links with partners on Islay. We have seen increased referrals from social work, health and education on the island. Through adapting the program to facilitate Covid restriction MAYDS worked with Lochgoilhead staff to allow the program to be run on the island which was greatly received and allowed us to expand on support networks for young carers and strengthen our organisations reputation on Islay. We also secured some respite funding for activities from the local authority which allowed us to support young carers via other avenues.
Young carers and their families will have more space and time for themselves with access to support where needed.
This outcome was fully achieved as through the project 40 young carers have had the opportunity and provision of space and time for themselves through either attending pony club or Lochgoilhead activities. This gives them time away from their caring roles and all have reported back either via Young Carers statement reviews or to youth staff how pleased they were that we were able to facilitate them getting time away from the home and taking part in activities that have been fun, taught them new skills etc. Carers have also reported back increased mental wellbeing in the young people when they have participated in activities.
Young Carer A is 11 years old and cares for her mum who has poor mental health. A will offer a lot of emotional support for mum, making sure she is OK etc. A's emotional well-being is affected by her caring role and she often feels upset when her mum is upset and also due mum's condition she rarely leaves the house. A also has a younger sister who she will also look out for. A has always struggled to meet new friends and to be able socialise with them. Since attending pony club A has met new friends and began to have some time and space away from her caring role for the first time. This has increased her mood significantly and began to build her confidence again. This respite also give her mum and sister some time out as A can often be angry in the home. In addition since coming to pony club A and her mum have both been referred to MAYDS counsellor which has made a huge difference in their mental wellbeing, just having someone to talk to helps reduce a lot of anxiety. . A states that she enjoys pony club and hopes to be able to access more in the future.
40 young carers will have received respite from their caring role.
This outcome was fully met as 40 young carers accessed respite via activities this project helped facilitate. 10 young people benefited from regular time away via sessions at pony club this allowed them to have space and time for themselves while also participating in learning new skill and gaining badges in horse grooming, stable management etc. Gaining these badges also built up the young peoples confidence and self esteem. 30 young people benefited from Lochgoilhead activities (10 at a 2 day 3 night residential and 20 over 2 days when instructors went to Islay). In addition to respite these young people learnt new skill in bush craft etc., they also were able to socialise and make new friendships with people in similar situations. This gave then reassurance they were not alone and increased their support networks.
Young Carer B is 15 years old and was referred to MAYDS young carers services via education. B is the oldest family member and both his parents are deaf and younger sister is autistic because of this a lot of responsibilities in the home fall to B particularly as his parents rely on him to communicate for them. Due to this B rarely gets time away from the home or to participate in any schools trips etc. With the help of MAYDS we arranged for B to attend the Lochgoilhead residential funded by better breaks. One of the activities on this trip was cycling and it became apparent B had never rode a bike or learnt to cycle. While one of the instructors took the rest of the group cycling another stayed with B and a member of staff and taught him to ride a bike. B was over joyed at this and loved his 2 days away as not only did he make friends he learnt new skills and was free to be young for a while. When meeting up with B to do his young carers reviews he constantly talk about this trip and when he can go again.
Young carers will be more confident and continue in their caring role.
This outcome was fully met. Through participating in respite activities young carers engaged in new social outlets and learnt new skills that helped build their confidence and self esteem. They also developed positive support networks via youth staff, external agencies such as befriends and young people in similar situations as themselves. All these things helped young carers feel valued, have some space away and helped them realize they are not alone and their is support if they need it, all of which contributed to them feeling more positive and supported about carrying out their caring roles.
Young Carer C is 16 years old and Young Carer D is 14 years old, they are siblings and care for both mum and dad who have long term conditions. Along with their caring duties C and D also live out of town which makes it extra difficult to participate in activities and meet friends. C and D were referred MAYDS young carers services by education and social work who were both concerned about the toll their caring role and not getting out the home was having on the girls. Since being referred and thanks to better breaks funding the girls have benefited from both pony club and Lochgoilhead residential. These activities gave the girls space away from the home on a regular basis, in addition it helped build their self esteem through meeting new people and having support via MAYDS staff etc. Through being able to de-stress regularly the girls are not as frustrated and anxious which helps them manage and deal with their caring roles much better.