A story by East Lothian Young Carers
The Breaks Together project offered young carers and those they care for living in East Lothian monthly activities to provide them with a short break from caring. The activities took place in East Lothian. Young carers who were unable to attend activities were offered monthly activity packs.
What Breaks Together did
Our “Breaks Together” project delivered flexible, personalised short breaks to young carers and the person they care for living in East Lothian. Breaks were provided once a month for twelve months. The Project prioritised support to young carers whose caring role was having a significant impact on their wellbeing making it difficult for them to access a short break without some support. To offer young carers the opportunity to find a break that suited their needs the project offered three different types of short breaks. Family breaks, Young Carer Group Activities and breaks that could be enjoyed at home.
Family breaks provided young carers with the opportunity to enjoy a break with the person they care for either at home or at an organised group activity. The breaks gave young carers the chance to enjoy time with their family creating childhood memories. Spending quality time together was beneficial to both the wellbeing of young carers, the person they care for and the whole family. The family sessions were very popular and well attended. Families and young carers enjoyed meeting up with each other and making new friendships.
Young Carer group activities provide young carers with a monthly fun break from caring with friends in a supportive and understanding environment. Activities included bush craft sessions, paddle boarding, rock pooling and pottery sessions. The group activities were very valued by young carers and we ended the year with a waiting list.
With Breaks at Home young carers were able to choose an activity to enjoy at home with a personalised monthly activity pack. The packs were put together after a chat with the young carer and reflected their interests. For more anxious young carers offering an activity pack was a gentle introduction to having a break. Some examples of packs provided to young carers were Lego, arts and crafts, book packs and baking packs.
What East Lothian Young Carers has learned
We have learnt that when engaging with new families being able to offer a choice of short breaks is beneficial as it allows a more personal approach. Having a choice of breaks also helps if a person's needs change as there is scope to change the type of short break to something more suitable.
We worked with several external providers to deliver our short breaks. We have worked with these providers for a number of years. It has been very helpful using the same suppliers as they are now very experienced in working with young carers and their families. This was evident in the caring and empathetic way they helped us deliver short breaks during the year.
We have learnt that families in most need of support sometimes require considerable initial input to help them access support. For example a young carer might feel very anxious and wary of accepting support. Taking time allowed young carer to get to know you can help them to feel less anxious.
How East Lothian Young Carers has benefitted from the funding
Creative Breaks funding was hugely beneficial to our organisation. Without Creative Breaks funding the young carers and families supported by the Project would not have had the opportunity to have a break from caring or the opportunity to enjoy having a break with the person they care for. The breaks offered by the Project helped to strengthen our reputation as a provider of short breaks to young carers in our local area. We quickly found we had a waiting list for the breaks offered by the Project. During the year the feedback from the young carers and families we supported helped us to build on our knowledge of working with and supporting young carers and their families. We were listening and learning throughout the Project. Some of what we learnt we could implement immediately and some we will use when delivering short breaks in the future.
Carers will have more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role What will success look like for your project in 12 months’ time? 24 young carers will feel happier and feel more confident
This project outcome was achieved with all young carers supported feeling happier and more confident. The project provided 12 monthly group activities for 12 young carers and monthly activity packs for 12 young carers. Young carers enjoyed a variety of group activities including bushcraft, crafts, rock climbing, paddle boarding and rock pooling. The monthly activities gave young carers the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy some time out in a fun, nurturing and supportive environment. It was good to see young carers confidence grow as they took part in activities and enjoyed their new friendship groups. For those who found it more difficult to engage in person, we provided home activity packs. We had fun creating the packs with young carers to reflect their interests which included baking, watercolour painting, crafts and reading. For some young carers the packs provided a chance to get know the project worker and become confident enough to try attending group activities.
Ashley is 10 and cares for her younger brother who has autism. When Ashley was referred to the Breaks Together project she was struggling at school and feeling very anxious and isolated. At home her brother’s care needs had quite an impact on family life, often leaving Ashley little time with her parents. Ashley loves her little brother and worries about him, she also worries about her parents. It is difficult for the family to go and do anything outside the home as Ashley’s brother often finds it difficult and needs to go home. Ashley was not able to ask friends round as her brother could get upset with strangers. This meant Ashley did very little outside of home and found it very difficult to make friends. When Ashley was first referred to the Project she was very unsure about having a break and leaving her brother and her parents even for a short time. Our project worker spent time talking to Ashley and her mother and found out Ashley liked arts and crafts so we suggested she might like a monthly art activity pack to enjoy at home. When our project worker dropped the pack off she spent some time with Ashley introducing herself and talking to her about the project and the activities she could take part in. Ashley enjoyed using the art supplies in her pack and when we dropped the second activity pack off, she enjoyed speaking to our project worker again. Ashley decided that she would like to try coming along to a group activity. Ashley was still quite anxious so we arranged for our project worker to pick her for the sessions until she felt able to go on the minibus. At the first session we made sure we had arts and crafts materials available so Ashley would have something she felt comfortable with. Ashley enjoyed her first session, she was quite quiet but spoke to some of the other young carers and at the end of the night said how much she had enjoyed it. Ashley regularly spoke to our project worker at the club and in between club sessions. Over the next few months we saw a significant improvement in her anxiety and her confidence. She made new friends and looked forward to coming along to the activities. After two months she asked to go on the minibus and managed really well. She enjoyed spending some extra time chatting with her friends on the bus. Ashley’s school were delighted with the change they saw in her. She is now far less anxious and is fully taking part in school life. Ashley’s mum said “I’d just like to thank you for all you are doing with Ashley. She absolutely loves coming with you guys and I’ve noticed such a change in her since she started coming to your sessions. She is much more like the Ashley she used to be. What you are doing makes such a difference thank you.”
Carers and the people they care for will have improved wellbeing What will success look like for your project in 12 months’ time? 24 young carers and those they care for will feel less isolated and have improved wellbeing
The Breaks Together Project provided twelve family activities during the year including family swim nights, Christmas biscuit decorating packs and movie night packs. During the year 50 families took part in the Project’s family activities. Staff worked holistically with young carers and their families to make sure the Project was providing support that met the needs of the whole family. We were in regular contact with young carers and their parents and despite the ups and downs of caring we recorded an overall improvement in the wellbeing of the young carers and families we supported. The family activities were popular as they gave young carers and the person they care for the chance to enjoy some time together and meet other families in a similar situation. Families told us how much they valued the time together. Families told us having a regular break to look forward to was important and someone else organising the activities meant they were stress-free which was very welcome.
Jamie is 12 and cares for his mother who has mental health problems. When the family were referred to the Project both Jamie and his mum were feeling anxious and isolated. Jamie was not enjoying school and was struggling to make friends. Jamie worried about his mum and felt anxious about leaving her. James's mum was aware of how much Jamie worried about her and she felt anxious and guilty about the impact it was having on him. Jamie joined the Project’s young carers group activities and Jamie and his mum both came along to the Project’s family activities. Jamie settled in well in the young carers group and made lots of new friends. He particularly enjoyed the outdoor activities and grew in confidence with every session. Jamie’s mum was delighted he was getting the opportunity to try new activities and have a break from his caring role in a nurturing environment where everybody understood the pressure he was under. Over time Jamie’s confidence grew and his anxiety reduced. He regularly had one to one time with the Project worker and knew he could talk to her about any worries or problems he had. Jamie liked that the group activities were held regularly as he was able to look forward to them. Jamie’s mum felt less anxious as she saw Jamie feeling more settled. Feedback from Jamie’s mum included this comment- “Jamie really looks forward to going to the group now and his confidence is really growing. Thank you for everything you do.” Jamie and his mum also came along to the Project’s family activities. Jamie enjoyed spending time with his mother doing something fun. He also enjoyed being able to spend some time with his friends who came with their families. Jamie’s mother found the activities very welcoming and enjoyed meeting other people in a similar position to herself. The Project worker was in regular contact with Jamie’s mum offering her a listening ear and practical help with accessing the local foodbank and help with fuel bills.