Edinburgh Better Breaks
A story by VOCAL
We provided person centred respite through befriending and supported activities, we worked in partnership with Lothian Autistic Society to delver this project.
What Edinburgh Better Breaks did
We used solution focused techniques to support carers to reflect on the difference a break would make to them and to the children/young people they support. These conversations support carers to shape a package of respite (times and activities) that is meets both their needs and that of the children and young people they support.
Following these conversations the family are matched with a carefully selected worker who is appropriately trained to provide the befriending/activity support that young person needs to take them out at the times agreed.
Through this outcomes based approach children and young people have taken part in a wide variety of activities including, trampolining, swimming, visit to the airport and park. While carers have been able to use the breaks to see friends, spend times with other children, read a book, catch up on chores.
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.
The family time out at the swimming pool and the quiet time at home have both had a big impact on the carers well being . She reported feeling less stressed and better able to cope. She also noted being more patient and getting on better with others. ‘ I think we all feel better - the whole family – each in our own way have benefited’
Her son was matched with a worker who supports him to go to the park and swimming (his two favourite things). The carer has used the time he is out to go to the gym. The carer feels that going to the gym is helping her English Language skills which in turn will help her get job. Going to the Gym has also helped her meet some new people and make one friend and hopefully more.
The carer reported that her son is often quite tired after being out with the worker which makes the evening meal and bedtime routine easier, ‘it is less of a struggle on the nights he has been out running around we all get to bed much earlier’. The carer reported that getting a break for a few hours, followed by a good nights sleep and the benefits of exercise at the gym are helping her health over all but especially her mental health and confidence. ‘I feel better. Thank you. I feel less stressed, less anxious, and less tired. Sleeping better’ ‘I feel better mentally and physically’
The carer reported that she is now job hunting. ‘ I still have difficulties finding a job . All companies expecting me to work on a Friday afternoons. Always a problem for me because my son finishes school early’ however she noted that being able to consider getting a job was a big step and one that has been supported by the breaks and all she gained through them.
After discussion the carer received some flexible respite hours with a worker and they began to work together. Initially the home with mum around and then later going out. As the breaks progressed the carer reported that she was now able to see that there was support that would work for her family. The carer reported feeling less isolated and that her mood had improved.
During one of her daughters outings she meet a friend for lunch something she had not managed for over a year ‘ It was a real boast I was on a high for days’ . The carer also spoke about being more motivated to look after her own health as well as her family ‘I understand now if I am not well I can’t help them’.
Following the breaks the carer reported a number of other ‘mindset shifts’ that will hopefully make her caring role more sustainable she spoke of looking into services to provide support not to just her daughter but also her younger son and about seeking family support either practically or emotionally. She also reported that she was talking to her sister more which she was finding supportive and that she as now getting some support from her father with her daughter.
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.
Many parents especially those of younger children where really unsure about how to maximize the impact of the break for themselves and their families and benefited from support to reflect on what works well now that they would like more off and to think of times when things are not as difficult and what is happening then. This learning could then be used to shape a package of breaks that met their needs and those of their child.