Dundee Activity Club
A story by Cornerstone
The Dundee Activity Club has provided five activity club sessions and one youth club per week at set times to suit the needs of the families. The children and young people accessing the club have participated in a range of activities which include – baking, arts and crafts, outdoor play, sensory play and games.
The young people accessing the youth club have been given the opportunity to engage in social activities with their peers. Twelve day trips have taken place including Blair Drummond Safari Park, Codonas fun centre in Aberdeen and The Yard, Edinburgh.
Carers will have regular short breaks while their child attends the club. Carers will be able to, take part in activities or spend time with other family members on a regular basis, allowing them to develop their life outside of their caring role.
Tip 1:Ensure the premises are suitable for the needs of the service and support you wish to provide. Think about location; accessibility for people with additional needs; and the scope to change and develop with the needs of the individuals supported.
Tip 2:Ensure that the service delivery is person centred. Co-production with the families, children and young people is the key! Children, young people and their carers should drive the project from the outset.
Tip 3:Share skills, knowledge, and experiences (good and bad!) with other organisations wishing to undertake similar projects to yours. Be willing to learn from others.
Michael is a five year old boy with complex additional support needs and a significant medical condition. Due to his medical needs, and in the event of a medical emergency, his carer supports him to access the club . However, his carer reports that she still finds this time beneficial and is a break from caring, and gives her an opportunity to play a parent-volunteer role. Michael thoroughly enjoys playing with interactive toys and using the sensory room, evident by his smiles and laughter!
Sarah is a six year old girl with multiple additional support needs; physical, sensory and cognitive. Sarah is unable to access mainstream leisure and social activities due to her needs. Sarah loves to play in the sand pit and with the sensory equipment. Accessing the club allows Sarah to develop her social skills with her peers through play and interaction.
Sharon’s two oldest children attend a session together every week. Sharon’s two oldest children are both on the Autistic Spectrum, and one is significantly affected. Her behaviours are often extremely challenging and place stress on the family unit, and impact on her siblings and Sharon’s emotional well-being.
The club provides Sharon the time to spend with her youngest child who has no additional needs, but is often unable to engage in age appropriate activities due to the needs of her siblings. During this time, Sharon’s youngest child is able to access mainstream activities, which in turn allows for Sharon to have a break from her caring role.
Judith has a 17 year old son, John, who is on the moderate to severe end of the Autistic Spectrum. Before attending the clubs, John was resistant to any changes in his daily routines, and as a consequence did not access any activities. This meant that Judith and her husband had the caring role full time. John has been attending the clubs for approximately 6 months, twice a week. He has settled in really well, and has become accepting of the changes to his routine and engages in the activities at the club. This time gives his parents the opportunity to spend time as a couple, and have a break from their caring role. Judith is so pleased with the club and the progress John has made, and occasionally volunteers at the club herself, as it provides her an opportunity to meet other parents.
The consistency of sessions, means that children and young people have a routine they can look forward to.
The parents, carers and siblings of children and young people who attend the clubs, have improved well being because they have time away from their caring roles. We ensure this happens by providing clubs at regular times throughout the week. This provides a level of consistency and predictability for the parents, carers and their families.
The clubs are run by a trained staff team, who are familiar with the individual needs of the children and young people who attend. This means that parents and carers have a level of confidence that their child/young person is being looked after whilst having fun.
Through this co-production process, the number of sessions on a Saturday has increased to three, and this has allowed for more children and young people to access the Saturday clubs.
Through this consultation process, the dynamics of each group were carefully considered, to ensure that each child and young person got the most out of their session. The process of co-production also resulted in the establishment of a Youth Club session, for young people aged 14-21 with additional support needs. The Youth Club provides an opportunity for social interaction between young people and their peers
The funding of the activity clubs through Better Breaks means that children, young people and their families receive the additional support with no additional costs to them.
The Youth Club has promoted group work and interaction through play. Staff have provided support to some of the young people who have needed reassurance and guidance. Meaningful peer relationships and friendships have developed, evident through the interactions within the group.
Volunteers are difficult to recruit and retain. For the purposes of the clubs, and the needs of the children and young people, consistency of volunteers is very important. Detailed adverts for the recruitment of volunteers will ensure that the “right” volunteers are recruited and retained. This is further strengthened by the availability of a regional Volunteer Coordinator within Cornerstone. We hope to further strengthen the recruitment of volunteers by approaching the local Schools and College to recruit students who are interested in supporting children and young people, as these volunteers are likely to be retained through their interest.
The location of the premises we are currently using causes some issues in terms of accessibility for those families who live on the other side of Dundee or have no regular access to a vehicle. Some of these issues are overcome by staff and volunteers transporting children and young people regularly to ensure they are able to attend and return home safely. The building we are currently using is also limited by size, and therefore affects the capacity, and the availability of the building for our use also restricts the number of children and young people who can attend at any one time. We are hoping to rectify this and are currently looking at premises in a more central location, with greater availability for our use. A permanent ‘base’ for the activity club will ensure a lasting legacy for the work which has already taken place.
The parents and carers of children and young people who attend the clubs have spread the word to their friends and families who also have children with additional support needs and self referrals have been made. These are usually children and young people who receive no other supports or services.
The children and young people have a range of multiple support needs. One young child has complex, life-long medical condition which affects mobility, communication, feeding and cognitive functioning.
One young person is on the severe end of the Autistic Spectrum. Her communication is limited and she can present behaviours which can be challenging.
Other children and young people have multiple support needs which include Autistic Spectrum disorder, additional educational support, communication difficulties, and social isolation.
The online submission of this evaluation report is an excellent idea, and the shortbreak stories on the website are interesting to read. I have welcomed the opportunity to be part of the SharedCare Scotland Think Tank for developing the Consultation toolkit and it has been valuable to meet other providers and learn about the projects they have undertaken.
Staff have regular informal discussions with parents and carers at the club.
Parents and carers have established a Parent Committee, which meets quarterly to discuss the activity clubs, and ways of developing and progressing. This ensures co-production between the parents and the staff team.
We organised a parents social event to celebrate St Andrews Day, and used this opportunity to gain feedback to measure the difference the project is making to their lives.
We are developing a “Treasure Island” concept for both the carers and the children and young people. The children and young people will put their suggestions and ideas as messages in bottles which have been washed up on the island. Parents and carers will provide their feedback, suggestions and “what if's?”, in the sky and on the palm tree!