Creative Breaks for Young Adults
A story by Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Limited
We provided four five-day breaks at various locations throughout Britain for young adults affected by life-long disabilities so that they could have fun away from the regular routine with a group of their friends and our staff and giving their entire families and carers some well-deserved respite.
What Creative Breaks for Young Adults did
The short breaks we held were to Edinburgh (Nov 17), Aberdeen (May 18) and Glencoe Outdoor Centre (Feb/Sept 18). In Edinburgh the young people were able to take part in the Christmas Market, an Ice Show, Botanical Gardens and a gang-show. They even went to a day-spa for treatments.
The Aberdeen trip included theatre shows, a night out for dinner, theme parks, and swimming. Glencoe trips are always very active with sledging, orienteering, mud walks, team-building games, cycle rides and archery.
We are a service 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 most suitable for the location and the kinds of activities available. Whilst our direct service provision is to the participants, parents/carers are involved as well. These breaks are often as much to help them as they are to help their young people.
One parent was able to go on holiday. A number of our parents and carers are elderly and are very much struggling to cope so a simple weekend to stop and relax is incredibly rare for them. One was able to spend a birthday on a small trip. We have made strong links with some of the outdoor centres we use which helps contribute to the success of the breaks as they get to know the kinds of needs we have more in-depth and are better prepared each time we visit and this is ongoing.
We have an ongoing staff training programme which is fundamental to the success of everything we do. 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. The young adults are deeply 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. We always remain very critical of what we do. There are very many variables that can influence how a break can go and staying vigilant, observant and being adaptable is crucial to the planning from one break to the next.
What Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Limited has learned
Pre-planning is of course the key to success not just with this project but all the different services we run. This project needs extra time and effort as staff and young people are away for 5 days 4 nights which without the extra time planning and getting to know the young people who participate in each break could result in huge levels of stress for all participants.
Each trip has staff who either already 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 find that having a broad range of activities often brings out hidden talents and new ideas. Some young people enjoy activities which their families are very surprised at their level of participation. This of course means everyone gains confidence and become more willing to try other new things.
Most parents/carers are very apprehensive about how their young people will cope away from home. However we have found that because parents/carers have got 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. Most parents and carers really enjoy 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.
It is perhaps the fact that many parents do not realise just how adventurous their young people can be as they have just been doing the safe, secure and very limited activities for years. The biggest success for all would be if parents and carers could build such breaks into their future budgets for their young people. This is something that is starting to get moving with parents/carers now asking for these.
How Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Limited has benefitted from the funding
Having been fortunate enough to receive funding from The Short Breaks Fund , Creative Breaks programme previously we have been able to develop up until now a really excellent short respite service which is suitable for all families affected by disability no matter what level of support they require. It has become a service which families are now requesting when they have SDS/Personalisation budgets produced for their young people. 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. Many families who receive budgets for their young people when they become adults have never had any sort of real support before and without having the opportunity to attend a break they would not have been able to understand just how beneficial these breaks are for the whole family. It has really furthered our experience and knowledge in delivering services to children/young adults affected by disability as it was an area previous unexplored outside of traditional building based respite. 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 have got to the point now in 2018 where it is a project that needs to happen in order to show our families and the young people that their lives needn’t be so limited and that opportunities are not only possible but now expected.
Parents/Carers and the young people enjoy the breaks so much that they aim to try and have these included in their Personalisation/SDS support plans.
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. Parents/carers always tell us the stories of their weekend it is both joyous yet revealing how thrilled they are just to simply spend the weekend with friends or younger siblings. All feedback reports highlight how much they young people enjoyed themselves and talk about what they enjoyed best one young man emphasised how much he loved wall climbing at Glencoe. The young people always say if there were things which could have been done better as well. We always find that the young people do not miss their home life because they always have such fun when they are with us. The look of joy when they recount what they did is tells a much better story than words ever could. The success of this project is seen through how families are now realising that this is something they need consistently and are requesting these as part of their support plans
M.S has Hydrocephalus (water on the brain), is partially sighted and has epilepsy which requires an emergency protocol. She attended our holiday clubs and has supported outreach to help her in college. Staff have got to know M.S well and know that she can be frighten by loud noises such as a fire alarm which can cause high anxiety. M.S needs support as she can lack confidence with walking due to balancing problems, she likes to hold onto someone’s arm reassurance, especially on wet slippery surfaces and outside. If she falls she tends to break bones very easily. When travelling on public transport she can need 1-1 assistance as she can be very nervous and cling to staff especially entering/departing the bus/train etc. Despite having been with Buddies for many years using our children’s services she had never had the opportunity to go on a creative break. Her parents were happy to let her go on the break since they knew that the staff were able assist and support her individual needs. M.S was looking forward to the break but was rather nervous and unsure of herself with this new opportunity for time away from home. Not only did the break allow mum some rest time the break did wonders for MS too. She is a very sociable young woman who really enjoys spending time with her friends at Buddies, so the trip to Aviemore was great for her. She was able to enjoy spending a few days away with some of her friends and be supported by the staff some of whom already knew her needs. She really enjoyed her break away from her day to day routine and had also time to relax and recharge her batteries. It was also good for her to see new places and learn about different places as well. The break included; going on the Strathspey steam train and having high tea, going out to dinner and relaxing at the cottage. There was also just the general mixing with friends and chatting and listening to music. She especially enjoyed chilling in the hot tub which is something her parents never had time to do with her. This opportunity helped give her more independence and confidence. M.S. HAD volunteered in our nursery for work experience in the past and was hoping to volunteer again, as this is something she really enjoyed. The break helped to promote her confidence/self-esteem. She had been very anxious and waited for staff direction. After the break she was much more confident in making decisions and using her own initiative in planning activities and interacting and reading stories to small groups of children in the nursery. Her parents say she still talks about the break and is looking forward to another in the future.
Parents and Carers feel the value of time together and an opportunity to do different things. This will give them the motivation to find appropriate respite for themselves and their young people.
We always ask parents/carers to give us their stories of how they managed to spend their time while they were away from their young people. For carers spending time at home without their young people is more valuable to than anything and because of this they had time to get a real rest confident and worry-free. We have close bonds and good relationships with the parents/carers and they give us an account of what they did over the weekend. For example – one husband and wife pair were able to take the weekend to go on a trip to celebrate a birthday. Another of our mums was able to take her mother to Blackpool for the first time in many years for a girly weekend. This is what it really is all about, the young people not only are well cared for but the carers actually gain the opportunity to experience their lives, families and friends separate from their role as a carer. Everyone has participated has been most enthusiastic to receive another break if they were given the opportunity.
G.N. has Asperger’s Syndrome, verbal dysarthia resulting from a stroke, is gluten intolerant and suffers from a chemically induced glutamate storm reflective of absences for which he has an emergency protocol. He started in our services this year with our Monday Youth Club and is a user of our outreach programme. He participated in our Creative Break to Glencoe Outdoor Centre. Our staff have developed an excellent relationship with G.N. and have got to know his needs very well. The young man suffers from high levels of anxiety and struggles greatly using any forms of transport other than being transported by his mother. This is something we are helping the young man with in our outreach programme. Physically he is very able and can be communicative through low mumbling. His mother is very concerned about his low levels of independence in carrying out tasks for himself and his reliance on her as a means of transportation and care. G.N. is one of our newer young people despite having attended the service briefly in the past. Breaks are something his mother has requested from the start as he is very keen to get away from home for a weekend with peers and friends and do things for himself. However his level of need is such that this is something she has struggled with before his coming to Buddies. G.N.’s mother struggles to cope with her role as a carer with her present situation. She has to structure her working life around her son’s activities. He is also prone to going off alone which puts great emotional stress on his mother and also her own working and personal life as she has to go off looking for him. She was absolutely delighted to hear her son was able to have a place on our Creative Break. She is also very confident in how well our staff know G.N. and our ability to cater to his needs. G.N. was also very excited to take part. G.N. took part in things like orienteering, canoeing, archery, rock climbing and a mud walk. He even did some cooking for himself. Just as importantly, however, G.N.’s mother had five days free from her caring responsibilities. She could rest and actually focus 100% on other tasks without the stress in her mind about her son and his needs as he was being well cared for on our break. She was able to do simple tasks that she could not do due to her caring role. She was able to organise her work commitments and paint her house, things which she had continually postponed. She even told us she was able to have a glass of wine. This is such a small thing but typical for our families because most things which we take for granted are things our parents/carers are unable to do. G.N. and his mum were so grateful for the breaks that they handed in personal cards of thanks for the staff and small gifts. The break has also helped G.N gain a little more confidence.
Carers realise that the Creative Breaks give them the strength to continue their full time caring roles but also the need to pursue continuity of breaks within Personalisation plans and budgets.
Before we began these projects parents would tell us that without more support they felt that they would be unable to continue to sustain the level of care needed when their young people have no outlets or time away from them. All of our young people have very heart wrenching stories and we find that they can become very socially isolated particularly when they leave school and engaging activities are much more difficult to come by. This has a very negative influence on the home life because behaviours become more challenging and it is the carers who feel the force of this the most. We have run this project since 2011 and it has grown so very popular and families are always asking when the next one will be. Through funds we have been lucky enough to sustain this project as it was not something ever thought possible but now that parents know that this is something they need on a regular basis they are now making their voices heard with social work departments.
L.S has Autism and moderate learning difficulties and can have severe challenging behaviour. The young man and his family have been users of our outreach programme for many years and only recently have started exploring our Creative Breaks programme. Our staff have all worked very closely with L. They have excellent knowledge of his needs and the care he requires and cope well with his difficult behaviours. L has to have a very structured and consistent routine otherwise he will suffer from extreme levels of anxiety. Any disruption to this structure is very upsetting for him and can result in very challenging behaviours. This is becoming more noticeable as he gets older. He requires 2:1 support particularly whilst out in the community. This places a great level of stress on his family and enormous pressure to find suitable and stimulating activities for him – something which has become more and more difficult as he gets older and no longer has a school routine but is expected to cope in an open ever changing community environment with the introduction of S.D.S and Personalisation. L.S. has been on one of our breaks before. It is something his family were initially very nervous about due his need for structure and routine. However the breaks offer him a chance to experience many new activities which he has found that he actually enjoys and is capable of doing because he has the right level of staff support manly 2-1. This opportunity to develop new skills would not have happened if he had not been able to go on a break. He has now been on his second break as of February 2018. His family are so very pleased with these breaks that they are now continuing request more breaks and opportunities to expand his development. Since he has been lucky enough to have 2 successful breaks over the last 2 years of funding his parents are now requesting that a series of creative breaks be built into his S.D.S /Personalisation programme. At present he has funding for one break per year but his family hope this might be expanded as the break not only gives them sometime together but they are delighted at how L’s horizons are being expanded. Hopefully this is something they are able to build upon because the family and L have found something very meaningful and beneficial to the family unit. Having the consistency of knowing that these breaks will be available on an annual basis is so important in supporting the entire family.
Additional project outcome
Carers/Parents and their young people will have much more choice and control of how they spend their free time away from each other.
Y.M. is a young man with verbal and motor dyspraxia and learning difficulties. He has been a regular user of our after school service for a number of years. He thrives on habits and regularity of the people who work with him. Unfortunately he and his family have recently suffered the loss of the young man's grandfather. Y.M. was very close to his grandfather and struggles with the loss. He is also struggling to process the change in his home life as his older brother has moved out of the family home. Whilst he does participate in our after school twice per week he can be very picky when he comes especially when the carers who are closest to him aren't working. This is something that his mum struggles to cope with as she has found she has had to work very hard to find him appropriate activities especially as he gets older. This is exacerbated by the fact that the family includes a young toddler who needs additional support also. The Creative Breaks offer a fantastic opportunity for the young man to not only have a more extended break but one that he has full choice in what he does. He went to Aberdeen with our staff and his friends and was able to take part in activities that he wanted to do. This also afforded his mother the chance to help her elder son with his move and spend the weekend with her younger daughter also. The whole family have loved having this break and really just allows them all to cope a little better with their lives.