Dundee Activity Club
A story by Cornerstone
We provided respite opportunities for the carers of 32 children. We did this by running two activity groups for children affected by multiple complex disabilities living in Dundee.
What Dundee Activity Club did
Free time, that is what carers have been telling us is important to their wellbeing and ability to cope. When we started the project carers told us that the opportunity to have "time to just whatever I fancy, would be a real life line". That's why we organised two weekly Saturday activity clubs which ran for two hours and were attended by 32 children. During this time carers made the most of the chance to do a whole host of different things, they met up with friends, visited family, took part in some retail therapy and read a new book.
In addition to social and recreational activity some carers took the opportunity to sort areas of their life that were challenging for example attending counselling, accessing benefit advice and meeting with their bank to solve unmanageable debt. We also offered the opportunity for carers to have peer support by having a break out space where they could have coffee and speak with a member of staff if they were looking for advise or emotional support. Children were given the chance to take part in team games and activities to encourage friendships and socialising.
They were also able to take part in free play and lead on the activities they wanted to take part in. Our new sensory room and accessible garden made a huge difference in children's enjoyment, this helped carers relax as "it reduced the guilt, knowing they are having fun. It feels okay to be selfish for a little while". What worked well was offering a regular opportunity so that people had something to look forward to and giving parents and children the chance to make decisions about how they spent their time which built confidence and feelings of independence.
What Cornerstone has learned
We have learned that our approach works well for children and families. We specifically sought referrals for families who as well as having children with multiple complex disabilities have other challenges such as bereavement, financial worries and relationship break down.
What we found was that when we looked holistically at the children we were supporting, beyond the need for a break and offered carers peer support and emotional support, was that the families we support all had a whole host of challenges going on and we would continue to share this learning by increasing the emotional support we can give.
We are considering developing a guide for carers to help them navigate benefits and highlight their options for Self directed support many are so busy that they have missed or not had time to think about what might be the best package of care for their child.
How Cornerstone has benefitted from the funding
The organisation has benefited in a number of ways: - Better Breaks funding gave other funders confidence that we can meet our income targets and deliver on our plans - We were able to then increase our provision to add in a Wednesday and Tuesday group - We have shared learning from this service across our other projects and are looking at new projects following this model in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dumbartonshire. These areas desperately need this type of service and we are able to demonstrate through our experience that our model of provision is effective.
10 children will have had the opportunity to participate in the Dundee Activity Club.
32 children attended our activity club this year, on a weekly basis. They took part in arts, crafts, games and team building activities and free play. We evaluated the activity by using feedback from children collated using a variety of tools to help overcome communication challenges. All of the children attending the club said that they enjoyed their activities and this was reflected in the feedback of carers who felt more relaxed and able to enjoy their time because they knew their children were happy and having fun. "I love my club it makes me happy"
One child who attended the project has never had any friends. The chance to take part in team activities was really nerve racking for her to start with but her confidence built. The opportunity for free play then gave her the chance to lead on activities and invite other children to join her. Her family have commented that she has achieved things they never expected and that the time lets them spend time with their other child which has improved their family relationships.
Parents/carers will have improved well-being as a result of regular breaks from the caring responsibilities.
All the carers who have children who attended the groups agreed that the break has helped their well being. We tracked this through questionnaires but we also asked carers why they thought it helped. Feedback included, knowing I have something to look forward to helps me get through the week, being able to relax is so helpful it means I can refresh and stop feeling exhausted for a while, I worry less and feel more on top of things, I feel better because I get time to unwind and it's good to be able to pick whatever it is I fancy.
One mother who's child we were supporting was struggling to cope. Her mother had died and she was trying to balance caring for her child and dealing with her loss Mostly she was struggling to have space, energy and time to grieve. When her child started coming to the groups she would she would often spend the time to have a rest and to cry. This let her process her emotions and feelings. She felt this helped her to care better for her child during a tough time. When we started our support she was stressed, tired and feeling depressed. She is still grieving but feels less stressed and more able to cope.