DASH Club Holiday Breaks
A story by The DASH Club
We delivered two holiday programmes for young people (age 11-18) with complex support needs. The young people enjoyed a wide range of activities and outings including, games, dance, drama, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, adapted bikes, and day trips to parks, Edinburgh Zoo, New Lanark and Millport.
What DASH Club Holiday Breaks did
We delivered two holiday programmes for young people with complex support needs: three days at Easter, and nine days over two weeks at the start of the summer break.
Both programmes were based at Broomlea Primary School in North Glasgow which has excellent facilities including a hydrotherapy pool, a soft play area and an enclosed courtyard with climbing frames.
During the spring programme, the young people visited People’s Palace and the adapted bikes (Free Wheel North) and had an all day trip to New Lanark visitor centre. At base they enjoyed hydrotherapy, massage/aromatherapy, a multi-sports coach and a dance coach.
We had extraordinarily good weather throughout the summer programme which meant we could spend a lot of time outdoors in parks in and around Glasgow. We had two day trips, one to Edinburgh Zoo, and one to Millport the first time many of the young people had been on a ferry.
In total 23 young people (aged 11-18) with complex support needs attended the spring programme, and 28 took part in the summer programme. Not every child attended every day. Most of the young people were members of our after school club and parents were asked well in advance of the programme if they wanted their child to attend, and on what days. We were able to accommodate all requests, and in addition, for the first time we included (on request) three siblings of club members, all of whom integrated well into the group. Eighteen staff supported the spring programme, and twenty three staff the summer programme.
Parents reported spending the respite provided by the programme resting, having “me time”, completing domestic chores, visiting friends and relatives, and spending time with other family members enjoying activities they aren’t usually able to do.
Our project addressed the Better Breaks priority areas, Complex Needs, Sports & Active Leisure, Independence,Transition to Adulthood, and Diversity.
In response to feedback from staff after the spring programme, we adjusted the logistics for the summer (three groups instead of two) to accommodate the diverse needs of the young people and the summer programme ran more smoothly as a result.
What The DASH Club has learned
During the spring programme it became apparent that our usual strategy of splitting the group in to two so as to ensure everyone could access activities they enjoyed wasn't sufficient. Our services users were more diverse and represented a wider spectrum of needs than in previous years. We therefore adjusted the summer programme to accommodate three groups. This meant we had to appoint a third Senior Programme Officer, increasing our staff costs, and as a result the budget was tighter than originally planned. However, having three groups significantly improved the programme which ran more smoothly in the summer than in the spring.
We introduced a couple of new trips to the programme (New Lanark Visitor Centre and Millport on Great Cumbrae). Whilst the outings were successful, it was apparent that they would have been less stressful for the coordinators if they had been given the opportunity to do a "dry run" so as to be able to better plan the outings, and carry out full risk assessments. In future we would invest in onsite research for new locations.
The weather for the summer programme was unexpectedly good and we were able to more time out of doors than we're used to. This meant we went to more parks than usual including some we hadn't visited for a while. Not all staff were familiar with the parks and this highlighted the need for thorough briefings on every venue, and for all staff to have briefing notes which would include the location of accessible toilets, available activities etc.
How The DASH Club has benefitted from the funding
The funding enabled us build on the experience of the previous years to provide an exciting, well run holiday programme with a mix of old and new leisure activities and venues. We were able to run a day's training to build staff capacity and the overall knowledge and capacity of the organisation was increased through the programme.
Young people with complex support needs will have taken part in a variety of fun, stimulating activities over the spring and summer breaks. They will have made new friends, and will be more confident/motivated to join in the activities that form our core term-time programme.
In total, 35 young people with complex support needs attended the spring and summer programme. We provided a wide range of activities including games with a sports coach, dance, adapted bikes (Free Wheel North), drama, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy. In the summer we visited parks in and around Glasgow making the most of the good weather, and made a number of day visits to New Lanark Visitor Centre, Edinburgh Zoo and Millport on Great Cumbrae. By providing activities running in parallel at the programme "base", and dividing into groups on outings we made sure that all the young people, no matter how complex their needs, could access activities they enjoyed. The group activities allowed for socialising, as did the breaks for snack and lunch we saw friendships develop during the programme and new ones created. Spending full days with familiar peers and staff engaging in fun activities, some that they were new to, helped the young people to build their confidence.
A. is a 13 year old boy who joined the DASH Club in the autumn of 2017. Initially he was very anxious about coming to our after-school sessions and although he enjoyed himself once he was there he would take a lot of coaxing to come. He would also be reluctant to take part in some activities, only wanting to join the ones he already knew he liked and could manage. During the holiday programme we saw A. relax and grow in confidence. He tried new activities, with drama being a particular success. He socialised more and engaged with staff he'd previously been reserved with. This year at the after-school club A. joins in everything with little or no hesitation and comes straight to the club from class as fast as he's able to. He's happy, engaged and sociable.
The young people will have improved well-being from having a structured, fun programme of activities during the holiday period. They will be more relaxed at home in the evenings and the programme will have helped them manage the transition from school to “holiday”.
Our young people all have learning difficulties/autism, and benefit from structure. The sudden transition to the less structured days of the holidays can be very challenging for the whole family. The holiday programme eased the transition by providing fun activities within a framework already familiar to the young people from the Club's after-school club. They know the staff well and have established relationships with them. They know the routines of the club, and feel secure enough to enjoy new activities provided within the holiday programme. Unlike the majority of the after-school club sessions the holiday programme was located outwith the school and the young people were noticeably more relaxed as a result, enjoying the extended opportunities for socialising with friends. We provided a range of activities that contributed to aspects of wellbeing such as physical fitness and health, communication and self-expression, social interactions, and building confidence.
L. is a 13 year old boy who likes to be kept busy and active. He has autism and benefits from structure. He is very energetic and at home requires alot of attention which can be exhausting for his carer. He also likes to socialise and at home doesn't have many opportunities for mixing with his peers and quickly becomes bored. L. doesn't deal well with the holidays and this impacts the wellbeing of the whole family. L. loved the holiday programme, it provided the structure he likes, plenty of physical activity and lots of opportunities to interact and socialise with his peers. L. being occupied during the day and coming home happy enabled his family to spend time engaging in activities with their other child that they can't usually do and the wellbeing of the whole family was improved.
Carers will have been able to spend time over the spring and summer holidays with friends and families engaging in activities that they aren’t usually able to access in their caring role.
The holiday programme provided carers with between six and half, and seven hours of respite each day depending on what time their child was picked up/dropped off. Providing transport (in wheelchair adapted buses) to and from the young people's homes added to the overall respite time, and ensured that lack of transport wasn't a barrier to accessing the programme. Potentially carers could gain 3 days of respite over Easter and 9 days over the summer. Carers and families reported that they had sufficient time to engage in activities that can be difficult/impossible to access when caring full time for a young person with complex needs.
Caring full-time for a young person with complex needs leaves little time for one’s own needs, or for those of other family members. During the holidays, carers are unable to access and enjoy the activities that other families can, there’s little time for relaxation, and it can be hard to complete routine tasks such as housework and shopping. From the feedback we received carers spent the respite in a variety for ways. For some it was a chance to rest and relax some shopped, cooked and cleaned one "gutted" the house, others spent time with their other children taking them to activities they couldn't normally access (eg. the cinema, swimming, trampolining) or visiting friends and relatives. For all it was a chance to do things they're not usually able to do, and do so knowing that their child with complex needs was being well looked after and having fun.
The carers will been able to “recharge their batteries” over the spring and summer breaks, and as a result be more able to sustain their caring role throughout the year. The DASH holiday programmes will have provided some much needed structure for the young people.
The 6.5 to 7 hour days of respite provided by the holiday programme, and in the summer the chance of 9 days respite split over two weeks enabled carers to take some time "off" from caring. The lack of structure during the summer break can be problematic for some young people with complex need, attending the programme with peers and support staff they already knew helped them to transition from school to holidays. Feedback from carers shows that many of them used the respite to rest and relax, but even if they spent it completing chores or being with other family members, the knowledge that their child was safe and having fun meant they were able to "take time out" from being a carer.
X. is a parent who was struggling with caring for their child with complex needs. By the end of the school summer term they felt that they were "at the end of their tether", and not sure how they were going to cope over the summer break. The 9 day summer programme gave X the breathing space they needed, and their son enjoyed the summer programme especially the more physical activities and came home in the evening calm and happy. By the end of the programme X felt able to care for their child for the remainder of the summer.