DASH Summer Holiday Programme
A story by Project Manager
We delivered a summer holiday programme for young people with complex support needs. We provided a choice of activities and trips: enabling the young people to have fun and socialise, whilst their carers had a break.
What DASH Summer Holiday Programme did
We delivered a nine day holiday programme at the start of the summer break, followed by four half-day outings spread over the remaining weeks of the holidays.
The core programme was based at Ashton School in Glasgow with four days of activities at the school (dance, inclusive sports, storytelling & aromatherapy), and five days of outings: boating/biking at Castle Semple, canoeing at Pinkston Watersports, Chatelherault Park, The Transport Museum, bowling, and the cinema. We also had periods of down time when the young people socialised amongst themselves, played music etc
We picked the young people up at around 9am, activities started at 10am, and we dropped the young people home after finishing up at 3pm/4pm.
For the four half-day outings the young people were taken directly to the activity and then home again. The outings comprised: repeat visits (by popular request) to Castle Semple and Pinkston Watersports, Five Sisters Zoo, and the cinema.
The project’s participants were all young people (age 11 to 18) with complex support needs from Ashton School. We offered places on the programme to all members of the DASH After-School Club and were also able to accommodate two young people whose carers contacted us looking for support over the summer.
The carers and families of our young people used the time provided by the project spending time with other family members and friends, completing household tasks (“I gutted the house”), going shopping and out to places they can’t easily access when with their child, and “just doing nothing”.
We used our core DASH staff to run the programme but also brought on some additional staff from Ashton School. These staff already knew the young people on the project and were able to “hit the ground running” and this was a key factor in the success of the project.
Of the Better Breaks priorities our project addressed: Complex Needs, Sports & Active Leisure, Independence, Transition to Adulthood, and Diversity.
What Project Manager has learned
We had to organise the programme at very short notice, partly because of a long wait for confirmation of the balance of funding, and partly because pandemic related concerns meant we didn't receive confirmation of the venue let until only a week or so before the start date. COVID restrictions also caused uncertainty as to which facilities and venues we would be able to use for outings until very late in the planning stage.
We learnt that the best way to deal with the uncertainty was to plan for several different scenarios, putting in place what we could (eg. staffing, and participant lists), making "reserve" bookings and keeping all partners, staff and carers updated on progress as the situation changed. Once we knew for certain the project could go ahead we were quickly able to finalise all plans and bookings.
We learnt that having long-term partnerships meant that it was much easier to deal with uncertainty, short time scales, and changing plans. Our prior experience of organising similar projects also helped. Without that bank of experience and the excellent relationships we've developed with partners over the years it is unlikely that we would have been able to put together as good a programme as we did in only a few weeks.
This was the first time that we included additional half-day outings in our summer programme. We therefore had to learn what worked best in terms of organisation, staffing etc. We consulted with carers as to what days/times suited them best, and the senior staff team worked together to decide activities and logistics. A routine was quickly established for the half-days and the outings were such a success that we have used other funding to continue delivering regular weekend outings beyond the end of the summer holidays.
How Project Manager has benefitted from the funding
The funding enabled us to try out half-day outings to various venues/activities that we've since continued in the form of "Sunday Outings" with some funding carried over from last year. We are now looking to find further funding so that we can make weekend outings a more permanent service. The challenges of organising the project in a pandemic has built the capacity and skills of the whole team, and also helped us to realise how resourceful and resilient we are as an organisation.
Young people with complex support needs will have taken part in a variety of fun, stimulating activities over the summer break. They will have developed friendships, and will be more confident/motivated to join in the activities that form our core term-time programme.
The outcome was fully achieved. The young people all took part in a wide range of activities and had a lot fun. Whilst we did different things each day, there was a familiar structure to each day (eg. starting from the base, "play-time" at the end of the day) which enabled the young people to relax. Familiarity with our staff, and the staff's already established relationships with the young people was another key factor in the young people being able to fully enjoy the activities. The activities were very sociable with plenty of opportunities for interacting with one another and developing new (and old) friendships, and we've seen those friendships continue at our after-school club. The addition of 4 half-day outings to our usual programme was very successful, and much appreciated by both carers and young people, particularly those that didn't have the opportunity for a family holiday.
P, T and R are teenage boys (16 to 18) with autism. They are all verbal and sociable but do not have many opportunities for friendship out with school, which can leave them feeling very isolated during the summer break, and this in turn can make the holidays difficult for the family as a whole. During the summer programme we saw the three boys develop strong friendships with one another, forming a small "gang" that hung out together, chatted about their various interests, and helped out with activities (eg. putting out equipment). Those friendships have persisted beyond the end of the project and they have told us how much they value one another as friends.
Carers will have been able to spend time over the summer holidays with friends and families - engaging in activities that they aren’t usually able to access in their caring role.
The project outcome was fully achieved as the programme provided a total of 1,145 hours of respite to the carers of the young people. Both the full days of the core programme and the 4 half-day outings were long enough for carers to take part in activities both in and out of the home that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do. We picked up and dropped of the young people each day and this also helped to provide extra respite time for the carers.
M. is 14, autistic and non-verbal. He's very active and likes to run, climb and play chase. However, at home this energy can make it difficult for his family. He lives with his Mum, Dad and two younger siblings, and caring for M. and his needs takes up a lot of time and attention. As a result the family can't spend as much time as they would like meeting the needs of the younger siblings Family outings aren't possible as managing all three children is very challenging. M. came to both the core programme of the summer project and the half-day outings. He was very happy taking part in the various activities and knowing this, his parents were able to focus on the younger siblings, taking them places and spending uninterrupted time with them at home. When M. came home from DASH he was calmer from having fun and expending energy during the day, and able to sleep better. The summer holidays were easier for the whole family and all members were able to enjoy going out and taking part in their favourite activities.
The young people will have improved well-being from having a structured, fun programme of activities during the holiday period. Carers will have had a chance to relax, and spend time focusing on themselves and their other family members.
This outcome was fully achieved. The young people were very relaxed at the holiday club, they knew the staff and each other well, they were familiar with the routines, and felt safe and supported, they were able to "be themselves" and fully participate in the activities. One of our external facilitators commented that what they liked about taking part in the holiday project is the "sense of absolute trust". This trust helped the young people to be open to trying new things - this year they were all given a turn at steering a motorboat and this noticeably boosted their self-confidence. Our staff were very good at creating a positive energy and ensuring that all the activities were fun for everyone. For the carers, the respite provided by the project enabled them to fully relax, recharge batteries, and spend time with family and friends. For some this meant outings and visits, but for others having "headspace" and time alone was their most important wellbeing priority.
M. is 14, autistic and non-verbal. He's very active and likes to run, climb and play chase. However, at home this energy can make it difficult for his family. He lives with his Mum, Dad and two younger siblings, and caring for M. and his needs takes up a lot of time and attention. As a result the family can't spend as much time as they would like meeting the needs of the younger siblings Family outings aren't possible as managing all three children is very challenging. With no respite the summer holidays can be stressful and exhausting. M. came to both the core programme of the summer project and the half-day outings. He was very happy taking part in the various activities and knowing this, his parents were able to focus on the younger siblings, taking them places and spending uninterrupted time with them at home. When M. came home from DASH he was calmer from having fun and expending energy during the day, and able to sleep better. The summer holidays were easier for the whole family and all members were able to enjoy going out and taking part in their favourite activities. Able to relax and address their own needs, the wellbeing of the whole family was improved.
Additional project outcome
Carers to access new/different activities with the young people as a result of the carers learning from the DASH programme of new activities/places they can access with the young people.
We know that for the carers and families of our young people that it can be hard to access activities that the whole family can enjoy. As part of the project we included a daily diary for each young person that detailed the activities they took part in. We also put up photos and videos of each day's activities on Facebook giving information on the various venues we visited. We heard from one carer that as a result of seeing the visit to Pinkston Watersports that they were going to try it out as a family. They hadn't known about Pinkston previously, and could see from our photos that not only did their own child enjoy it, but that it's an accessible and inclusive venue. Ashton School have told us that they have included canoeing at Pinkston as an activity having seen how much the young people enjoyed it on our Facebook Page. Similarly they are also planning on using Castle Semple for activities in the future.