Edinburgh Better Breaks
A story by VOCAL
We provided two types of flexible short breaks for children with additional needs and their families, in partnership Lothian Autistic Society.
Breaks were provided through, specialist leisure provision in small groups and a voucher scheme for individual befriending or social activities.
What Edinburgh Better Breaks did
We supported carers through solution focussed conversations to work out which of the Better Breaks options best would suit their needs and the needs of the child they support and how the impact of Breaks could be maximised and sustained. Carers have then been supported to facilitate their child accessing either up to four of 15 Saturday Club sessions, during club sessions children and young people were supported one to one by a staff member to take part in group outings and activities at a variety of locations including parks, cafes, museum and leisure facilities. Or organise 35 hours of support provided on a one to one basis, at dates and times to suit their needs during which the child or young person could direct their own activities.
We promoted these opportunities through a variety of methods including VOCAL’s newsletter ‘Carers News’ which has a circulation of 5,500 carers and 1000 professionals in Edinburgh, through a dedicated page on our Website, Facebook and Twitter. In addition we liaised with a large number of professionals who work closely with children and young people with additional needs and their families including Health and Social Care, Specialist Nursing Teams and the schools for children with additional needs and further education programme leaders.
Mother and daughter travelled to the meeting point together which added to the fun as it gave them both the opportunity to go to parts of Edinburgh they don’t often get to. This also encouraged mum to use the time her daughter was out for herself rather than doing chores. Mum said “We both loved getting a bus up to the High Street on the morning, Lauren loves seeing the tourists and I love going round to the National Library of Scotland on George the Forth bridge they have a lovely cafe there with great resources I love spending a relaxing afternoon there.” "She loved all the outings she always came home with a smile on her face chatting away about her special day.”
Following the series of breaks her father reported that both her and his wife had improved health and well being. He stated it was nice to have some free time together and to relax together. This helped them to de-stress a little. “ It was nice to have some free time on a Sunday or Saturday to relax and go for a few hours without thinking “ “It was very reassuring to know that Clare was in safe hands, having a great time whilst we enjoyed some respite” he also said “it is time away from her parents which we feel is beneficial for everyone”
The family also reported that they felt the break was beneficial in helping her develop important life skills. “as a single child to older parents, who will not always be around, we must build up her capacity to deal with and cope with things” Following a positive experience with Better Breaks the family reported that they had requested a Section 23 assessment and have been allocated some hours of support for the coming year.
“We just want to say thank you for giving her the opportunity to have time away from her boring parents to have fun with other young people while being supported by committed play workers”
She also felt reassured that the process did not involve a big assessment and long waits and stated if it doesn’t work out then there is no harm done.
Following the breaks Mum reported that she had been using the breaks to go to the gym saying that she has been feeling much physically fitter and attending the gym has improved her mood and her ability to deal more effectively with the stresses of caring which made things feel more manageable and sustainable.
She also said it has helped her feel less isolated and having more of a life outside caring and that “ I feel more confident to try new things”
What VOCAL has learnedWe have learnt that is very important to work in partnership with others to help those least likely to ask for or accept support. Many carers can struggle to trust a new provider when it comes to the care of a child or young person with additional needs. In these circumstances the recommendation or support of someone already trusted has proved beneficial. Word of mouth among parent carers proved a powerful tool for our Better Breaks opportunities.
The fund has helped us to attract a number of carers who had not previously used the supports available to them through VOCAL. The opportunity to have access a break for themselves and/or their child has encouraged them to make contact initially and then as that has worked well they have chosen to engage with other supports available such as training, counselling and carers support.
Non attendance has proved a challenge in the Saturday Club. Many children and young people were unable to attend at short notice. Reserve lists were to a certain extent able to manage this but not in all situations due to the complexity of some of the health conditions.