Creative ‘Mini-Breaks’ for Young Adults 19+
A story by Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Limited
We provided 3 day/2 night breaks at various locations throughout the UK for 12 young adults affected by disabilities so that they could pursue their interests and have fun together with a group of their friends and peers supported by our staff giving their carers some well-needed respite.
What Creative ‘Mini-Breaks’ for Young Adults 19+ did
The short breaks we were for 3 days/2 nights at various points and destinations between November 2020 and September 2021. The participants were able to take part in relaxing activities at a lodge in Drimsynie, take in the sights and attractions at Blackpool, enjoy the environment and views at Sherwood Forest Centre Parcs resort and participate in physical outdoor activities at Glencoe Outdoor Centre.
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. Whilst our service provision is directly for the participants – parents/carers are also a huge part of our organisation.
These breaks are just as much a break for them as they are for their young people. Because the Creative Breaks funded portion of our project was specifically for people who did not have any funding, this resulted in at least 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. This issue has been ongoing for years and became much worse last year because of the pandemic.
Mental and physical health and wellbeing is at its lowest point ever. 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 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. We always remain our own biggest critics. Many different factors can influence how a break can go. Remaining vigilant and 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 the key to success not just with this project but all the different services we run, particularly over this past year. Remaining aware of the safety restrictions surrounding COVID-19 and thorough pre-break risk assessments were key to success. The extra time and effort afforded to the pre-planning process ensured we were able to safely deliver our Creative Breaks project in 2020/21.
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.
This was also more difficult this past year due to physical distancing and COVID safety measures. However, we were able to use many of our own resources to create our own activities were possible – game nights, barbecues etc. 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. However, 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 that they enjoyed. Often 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. 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 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. 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. Some recent feedback has been that parents prefer shorter breaks because they feel less anxious about the shorter period away and means we can offer this on a more regular basis. 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. 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 (Glasgow West) Limited 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 grows 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. It gives families opportunities to spend time with their other children taking part taking part in activities that they would not be able to do and having some quality time.
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. For carers spending time at home without their young people is the most valuable result and because of this, they had time to get a real rest confident and worry-free. Anxiety was at critical levels last year. Parents/Carers were understandably concerned about their young people mixing with even small groups outside their homes. However, we have close bonds and good relationships with the parents/carers. We were able to ease their worries and give them a small taste of normality. Which is something they desperately needed more than ever. Despite the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, all the parents were able to enjoy their short breaks away from their young adults and vice versa. Everyone who participated have been very keen to receive another break.
GR is a 25-year-old young man who has autism, learning difficulties and epilepsy. He is also non-verbal, has no danger awareness and has food anxiety, which means he does not know what he can and cannot eat. G has been attending Buddies since he was a teenager in our Sunday Club and for the past few years our Monday Youth Club. Due to the lack of social opportunities, G’s family came to us asking for another day in Buddies. We were able to introduce G into our Wednesday Youth Club also earlier this year. G stays at home with his parents and younger sister. G is generally a very happy and personable young man who participates to the best of his ability in-group but mostly prefers to take part in his own activities. Due to the complexity of his needs, he requires 1:1 support and observation at all times. Even though G has been coming to Buddies for years he had never yet been on one of our breaks. When we asked his mum if he would like to attend our break to Aberdeen, she was so excited for him to have this opportunity as even though he has had traditional respite in the past he has never participated in our breaks which is more close to a “holiday”. G was able to take part in many activities in Aberdeen – trampolining, inflatable football, cinema and meals out. He also took part in a Harbour tour watching for dolphins. He had a great time and his mum was so happy with the result. G’s mum was very anxious at first, not just because of COVID-19, but also because he had never been on anything like this with a group. However, despite this, G’s parents were able to book a weekend away in Edinburgh, which is something that they had not been able to do for a long time. G’s mum is very keen for him to attend a future break.
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.
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. The carers are the ones who receive the short end of the stick. 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 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.
AF is a young man at the age of 33 and has been diagnosed with autism, learning difficulties and Epilepsy; he is also non-verbal but does use a communication letter board or an electronic talker. A really enjoys these breaks away. He really enjoys spending time away with his friends at Buddies and the staff members. These trips allow A to engage in some new activities and learn new skills with friends. Visiting these places gives A more independence with the chance to travel without parental supervision. A really looks forward to these breaks as he only lives at home with his mum. The rest of A’s family all live in England, which meant that during lockdown, A was limited to his social interaction. This had a detrimental impact not only on A’s social needs as he attended various clubs before the pandemic, but also his mum’s, who is on the shielding list and had to be extremely cautious. As restrictions eased and with the advent of the vaccination programme A’s mum began to allow A to attend A’s regular services again. As she became less anxious about A attending his regular services her overall wellbeing improved and started to become more confident in allowing her son to do more things but also herself. A was able to visit Centre Parcs with a few of his friends and some members of staff. The activities A participated in were crazy golf, badminton, a spa day, pedalo boats, swimming and nature walks. A loved participating in all of these activities especially the spa. He got to experience the foot spas and the hot beds for the first time, which was good for his sensory needs. A attending these breaks allows him to develop further existing skills such as communication with staff and young people, it also gave A the chance to interact with new people and develop his self-confidence by building positive relationships with his peers. A’s mum was so worried at first but began to relax when he was away and she was able to just relax and remember that her own health and wellbeing was important too. Having the confidence that we could support her son well and safely allowed her to chance to lift the heavy pressure that she has felt over the past 18 months. Overall, the breaks gave A and his mum the opportunity to get away from their day-to-day routines. The young people really look forward to going on these breaks; it’s a focus for their thoughts. A change in scenery can be interesting and very stimulating. For the parents it was a chance to glimpse what life was like before the pandemic, that they could feel safe to allow their young people to do things outside the home and gives them that chance again to rest and relax that they had not had for such a long time.
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. It can be emotional yet revealing how thrilled all involved are just to spend the weekend with friends or younger siblings and do ‘normal’ things. All feedback highlights how much they young people enjoy themselves. The most common result of the breaks is that the carers feel joy again. The young people take great joy in doing things independently away from their parents and the parents get to enjoy time by themselves. This was needed more than ever last year. The young people and their families always say if there were things that could have been done better as well. 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 future support plans
AJ is a 35-year-old male who attends Buddies on a Tuesday evening club. AJ parents do not have great health, which cause AJ to have bad mental health issues. AJ has suffered from depressed episodes where he has spoken about taking his own life as he felt as if no one was there for him. AJ lives with Fragile X syndrome, which is a genetic condition, the most common cause of inherited learning disabilities. AJ likes his own space, which separates him from others. Therefore being able to attend the funded trip to Glencoe allowed him to interact with other service users in a physical and emotional way e.g helping each other rock climb etc. AJ cares for his dad to the best he can as his dad had been diagnosed with COVID-19 early in 2020 and was hospitalized for several months. He is still recovering and AJ helps alongside his mum who does not have great health either. With being able to attend Glencoe, it allowed AJ to have time to himself and to be able to be more relaxed as well as getting time to do things he loves. During the break, AJ was extremely happy to take part in all activities and had a smile on his face the full time. When speaking with him he had said that it has made a huge impact on his life and he feels a lot better in his mental health with having time away with other people and the stress of looking after his dad. COVID-19 has had a massive impact on his life as he lost his part time volunteering which kept him busy during the day and with his dad not taking well also. When we spoke with AJ after we came back, he had said it was a change of life for him and he feels a lot more positive.