Creative Breaks for Young Adults
A story by Buddies Clubs and Services
We provided breaks at various locations throughout the UK for 12 young adults affected by disabilities funded through the Creative Breaks Fund so that they could pursue their interests and have fun together with a group of their friends and peers supported by our staff.
What Creative Breaks for Young Adults did
The short breaks we organised at various times of the year and different destinations between November 2021 and September 2022. The participants were able to take part in take in the sights and attractions at Blackpool, experience the culture and vibrancy of Edinburgh, enjoy the environment, views and activities at Whinfell Forest Centre Parcs resort and two groups were able participate in physical outdoor activities at Glencoe Outdoor Centre. We also ran a caravan break to Haggerston Castle for the first time.
Our services are for children/young adults with disabilities. Initially, we select what kind of break we would like to offer. The manager then holds a meeting with the staff to see which of the young people would be best suited travelling together. This service benefits the parents/carers just as much as those who are participating. Because the Creative Breaks funded portion of our project was specifically for people who did not have any funding, this resulted in 24 parents/carers who do not have the opportunity for this kind of break to rest and recharge. An increasing number of our parents/carers are elderly and are very much struggling to cope. A simple weekend to stop and relax is incredibly valued by them.
We have found that many of our adults who have no funding have nowhere else to go. They have been stuck at home. Mental and physical health and wellbeing is at its lowest point ever. We have an ongoing staff-training programme, which is key to us being able to offer such an in-demand service. Choice and Control is the most important consideration with organising the breaks. Meetings to discuss the activities, individual needs, accommodation, and dietary/medication requirements are carried out before each break. This is important because the needs of our young people can change suddenly and dramatically.
The young adults are heavily involved in the planning of everything to do with their break. This strong personal input also gives them the opportunity to become as independent as possible while they are away. Remaining vigilant and observant and being adaptable is crucial to the planning from one break to the next.
What Buddies Clubs and Services has learned
Pre-planning is the key to success not just with this project but all the different services we run. It is especially vital to this project. As we take away young people with complex needs for 3 days-5 days we need a much more in-depth understanding of their needs as they will need different levels of care than if they were only with us for our usual sessions. The staff and young people were away for 3 days/2 nights, which without the extra time planning and getting to know the young people who participate in each break could have resulted in huge levels of stress for all participants.
Each trip has staff who already either know the young people or take the extra time to get to know new participants and their families. It is important that all places we visit can provide a good range of activities to keep everyone involved and busy. We were able to run a more “normal” complement of activities due to the relaxing of COVID restrictions. The young people find that they enjoy just spending time with their friends and their staff just as much as everything else on the breaks. They want and need to feel included and respected. However, we find that having a broad range of activities often-unknown skills that the young people may have and new ideas.
Many young people enjoy activities that their families are very surprised that they even considered participating. As it is with most of our young people, parents tell us that they do not feel that they can allow their young people to take part in certain activities because community facilities cannot safely accommodate their needs without the correct level of support. We can enable this. This of course means everyone gains confidence and become more willing to try other new things.
Parents/carers are very apprehensive about how their young people will cope away from home. However, we have found that because parents/carers have gotten to know the staff involved with each break they are happy for the young people to have the opportunity of being away from home. The success of the breaks means parents are very keen to have more breaks and become very willing to let their young people become very adventurous. Everyone really enjoys having time to themselves and being able to relax. Even those who have initial concerns are delighted at how their young people really enjoy all aspects of the trips.
Some recent feedback has seen that parents/carers are now looking for things to start moving back to where we can offer longer breaks more consistently. Due to our other services, it is exceedingly difficult to accommodate 5-day breaks more often due to the level of staff need for other services. Our ‘Mini-Breaks’ project will remain a fundamental part of our service due to its continued popularity. The biggest success for all would be if parents and carers could build such breaks into their future budgets for their young people.
How Buddies Clubs and Services has benefitted from the funding
Having been fortunate enough to receive funding in the past from the Creative Breaks Fund for many years, we have been able to develop an excellent short respite service, which is suitable for all families affected by disability no matter what level of support they require. It is a service, which families are now requesting when they have SDS/Personalisation budgets produced for their young people. We also receive many enquiries for these breaks from people who do not have any funding. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool. Parents tell their friends about us, and those families call looking for places because their friends recommend us. The fact that we have been able to keep bringing new people to the breaks will hopefully mean further expansion to these families under SDS/Personalisation. This is a difficult task due to continued cuts in social care funding. Many families receive budgets for their young people when they become adults who have never had any sort of real support before. They do not even know that this kind of service is an option for them and therefore not able to understand just how beneficial these breaks are for the whole family. Our experience and knowledge grow every year we are able to run this project. It really has given us a much better grasp of what support carers and cared for people need in our city. We have been able to develop links with activity providers who we use for the breaks, and this enhances the whole experience because they are more familiar with the kinds of complex needs our young people have. We are now at a point that it is more important than ever to help families realise that their lives need not be so limited and that opportunities are not only possible but also now expected.
Our project helps our families to be able to have some well-deserved respite so they can do their daily tasks and chores that can be normally be very challenging when you have a young person affected by disabilities. It also gives families opportunities to spend time with their other children.
We have always asked parents/carers to give us their stories of how they managed to spend their time while they were away from their young people. This is a valuable form of evaluation. Real-life stories and experiences are crucial to the development of the project. For carers spending time at home without their young people is the most common and evidently beneficial result. Anxiety is higher than ever before. Parents/Carers have nowhere they can send their young people and activities and services are in short supply and high demand. However, we have close bonds and good relationships with the parents/carers. We were able to ease their worries and give them this opportunity for real respite. Everyone who participates is always very keen to go on another break and always ask when they can go on another one.
LR is a 28-year-old young man who has learning difficulties and social anxiety. L has been attending Buddies since he was a young child in our Sunday Club and has grown up with Buddies as a part of his life. He now attends our Tuesday evening Youth Club weekly. L stays at home with his mother, aunt and grandmother. L is generally a very happy, sociable and personable young man who just likes to chat and socialise with his friends and the staff. L is one of the few who attends Buddies able enough to cope with 1:4 care ratio indoors. Even though L has been coming to Buddies for years he has never been awarded any support from social work despite his needs and his family situation. When we asked his aunt if he would like to attend our break to Glencoe Outdoor Centre, she was more grateful than ever before for him to have this opportunity as she has just found out that her mum (L’s gran) had just been diagnosed with cancer. L was able to take part in many activities in Glencoe – hillwalking, orienteering, archery, canoeing/kayaking and mud walks. He had a great time, and his family were so happy for him to go. Through the Creative Breaks fund we were able to afford L and his family this opportunity for respite and consequently L’s aunt was able to spend time with her mum and take her to medical appointments and enjoy time together knowing the L was safe with his friends at Buddies.
Having the support from the breaks on a consistent basis will allow the carers to continue caring allowing them a life of their own for that short period. Enabling personalisation and choice of support leads to much better outcomes for both the young person and carer.
Our parents/carers are completely physically and emotionally exhausted. They would be unable to continue to sustain the level of care needed if their young people have no outlets or time away from them. Vey many families have very distressing stories, over the past two years in particular, and we find that they have become very socially isolated. They are stuck at home and parents/carers are burnt out and have nowhere else to turn. This has a very negative influence on the home life because behaviours become more challenging, and carers receive the brunt of this. We have run this project since 2011, it has grown so very popular, and families are always asking when the next one will be. Through the Creative Breaks fund, we have continually been able to support those who have no funding. This kind of project was not something ever thought possible but as each year passes more and more parents know that this is something they need on a more consistent basis
KG is a 36-year-old woman who has Downs Syndrome and Learning Difficulties as well as hearing loss and has specific dietary needs. K is a very active young woman who loves to socialise, dance, swim, work and learn. Before the pandemic, K would attend dance classes with Indepen-Dance, art classes with Projectability and worked in a volunteer capacity. K has been attending Buddies for many years and takes part in our Friday Night Outreach group most weeks. However, because of the pandemic, K lost her opportunities with Indepen-Dance, Projectability and her volunteer role. We were able to continue to provide the Friday night outreach, but this was not enough to meet K’s needs. Feedback provided by K’s mum suggested that K had become very withdrawn, put on a lot of weight and her personality had changed. K’s mum needed support and asked for a break as K’s mum was getting to the point where there was no one else to help. We were able to take K to Blackpool on one of our breaks with three of her friends. She visited Blackpool Zoo, Blackpool Circus, Blackpool Dungeons, the Sea-Life Centre and Blackpool Tower. She even found the courage to sit on the glass floor and climb to the outside parts of the Tower. She helped prepare the meals and set the tables and made sure everyone else was ok. She was a highlight of the break to the staff and a delight to support. Full of jokes and laughter as she came out of her shell. Our Senior Support Worker received a call from K’s mum a few days after the break to tell us that she was so grateful for the opportunity for K to go away with us and that she had become more like her old self again. It was a very bittersweet phone call. As much as we were so happy to receive such positive feedback, this also revealed how desperate parents/carers in Glasgow are for support. We will continue to be one of the organisations meeting this demand and helping parents/carers with their day-to-day lives.
By having access to play and leisure, our young people will not only increase their self-esteem but also have fun and make friends. Most cannot access other services and do not have any friends or social outlets. Buddies is a vital lifeline for our families
All breaks are planned with all family members fully involved to give plenty time for everyone to decide what they will do during the breaks. This is important because it makes everyone feel that their opinions are valued and that respected. The young people who are participating can decide activities that they want to do, and parents/carers have a brief freedom they desperately need. It is eye opening how thrilled all involved are just simply spend the weekend doing “nothing” or with friends or their other children. These are things many take for granted. All feedback reports highlight how much they young people enjoyed themselves and talk about what they enjoyed best and that they want to go away again. The same goes for the parents/carers. The young people rejoice in doing things independently away from their parents and similarly the parents/carers rejoice in being able to do things without the pressure of caring duties.
HE is a 28-year-old man who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome. H is also quite an anxious young man who cannot cope well when there are sudden changes or unexpected events that happen. Simple things such as a bus not turning up on time is enough to cause H severe distress. This makes life very difficult for his parents. H attends out Tuesday Evening Youth Club and our outreach services. H has suffered a setback in his personal confidence as during the pandemic he and his parents were on the shielding list. His mum approached us last year to use our outreach service to support him on public transport going to activities as this is something he used to do independently. This is something we are slowly working on with him. In September 2022, we were also able to offer H to go to Glencoe Outdoor Centre on a break. He was very enthusiastic about this and was very excited to go. He took part in hillwalking, orienteering, archery, canoeing/kayaking and mud walks. He was not so keen on the orienteering though. He even celebrated his 28th birthday whilst he was there. This was a nice moment for us to celebrate him and help him feel valued and respected. His mum was very happy to have a break also as she is suffering from many health issues also. She sent us a nice message thanking us for taking him away and that he had great support and that she enjoyed the opportunity to have a break to rest and recharge.