Essential Breaks for Young Carers of all Different Ages
A story by Edinburgh Young Carers
We delivered respite breaks and activities for young carers (YCs) and young adult carers (YACs)from Edinburgh. These took place in Edinburgh and Perthshire and enabled the young people to try new experiences, learn new skills and develop the confidence and resilience needed to address their challenges.
What Essential Breaks for Young Carers of all Different Ages did
We delivered 5 short breaks to 63 young carers aged 5-15 and activities for 6 young adult carers in the last half of 2021. The departure of a staff member, coupled with specific Covid restrictions for the 12+ age group meant that we were able to deliver only one residential for the 13-15 age group in this period, although during the summer YCs in this age group were able to engage in ad hoc outdoor social activities outside the scope of this funding.
In 2022, this age group will be prioritised for residential breaks. We were able to deliver an additional break for the 10-12 age group. The residential breaks delivered were: Aged 5-9: 29th-31st Oct 2021- 14 YCs attended Pilton Retreat (Edinburgh), Aged 10-12: 1st-3rd Oct 2021: 16 young carers attended Pilton Retreat, 1st-3rd October: 10 attended PGL Dalguise, (Perthshire), 26th- 28th Nov 2021: 14 young carers attended
Aged 13-15: 5-6 August 9 YCs attended a Driftwood adventures residential, Aged 16+ This age group were subject to different Covid restrictions, and the added complication of a temporary venue closure meant that the planned residentials could not happen. These will now take place in 2022.
In 2021, this age group enjoyed a series of day activities including horseriding, kayaking and workshops delivered in partnership with the British Museum addressing confidence, core skills and employability. We have allocated one of these activities (kayaking) to the Creative Breaks funding.
All of the YCs attending residentials were known to us and had been identified as being in need of a break. The breaks provided long overdue respite from their caring role and received almost universally positive feedback. The issues addressed included: Moving on from primary school, siblings support and for the youngest children, the emphasis was on fun, discovery and resilience.
What Edinburgh Young Carers has learned
We learned that, across all age groups, isolation was more acute than ever before and that the pandemic had inhibited social and communication skills. We adapted some of our resources and activities to reflect this. The acute need for respite will continue for some time and we will be working with schools and families to identify the YCs most in need. This applies especially to the 13-15 age group who have had only one respite break this year, and YACs who have had none. We are able to deliver short break activities using our own resources (see also ‘benefits’ below) and expect that this will increase our capacity to deliver short breaks in future.
How Edinburgh Young Carers has benefitted from the funding
Previously, some of our short breaks have been delivered in partnership with other voluntary organisations (aside from organisations facilitating activities and accommodation). Partly due to Covid, we were unable to work jointly with other organisations in planning the 2021 breaks for under 16s. This has given our own staff added confidence in their ability to deliver the breaks using our own resources and experience. Going forward, we will continue to work in partnership, as working with specialist organisations can broaden the scope of some of the breaks. We will also continue delivering them ourselves, which may allow us to hold more frequent short breaks, ensuring we can meet the increased need from YCs of all ages.
Under 12: becoming more confident, being able to make and sustain friendships 12- 15: becoming more self confident and learning more about themselves 16+ :gaining information and learning skills that will help them to confidently transition from school and/or being a young carer
This was fully achieved. Many of the YCs attending the breaks had never had a holiday and, due to their caring responsibilities, often miss out on typical social interaction. This was especially acute following Covid, as many of the YCs had spent long spells at home and/or away from school with only their family for company. The breaks gave them an opportunity to meet with peers previously unknown to them and to enjoy activities which were new to them. Following attendance at the breaks, the majority reported that they had thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would do it again given the opportunity. Parental feedback was also very positive. The YACs received support to build their confidence and they reported that they have seen real benefits from meeting up with their peers again.
Child A (10) helps to look after a sibling with autism and other health needs. He has been supported by EYC since 2018 and has attended previous residential breaks. Child A had heightened anxiety around Covid which had resulted in him disengaging from EYC and becoming isolated at home. He was missing out on many of the activities enjoyed by his peers and experiencing some social exclusion. He really needed to form new friendships and spend some time enjoying social activities with his peers. His EYC key worker and parents agreed that Child A was a high priority candidate for a respite break. Initially, however, Child A refused to participate. His EYC keyworker met with him and his parents to chat through his worries, reminded him of how much he had enjoyed previous breaks and agreed a support plan which would help him to overcome his concerns about being away from home. Child A was eventually encouraged that going on the break would be good for him. Despite some continued anxiety, he had great fun, tried new activities and made new friends, and he will continue to increase his socialisation while also receiving ongoing support with his mental health.
The young carers who participated in these breaks are more resilient and confident with coping with their home life
This was fully achieved. 60% of the YCs attending Pilton Retreat had never been away from home on their own before and many (particularly the 5-12s) were apprehensive about being away. Some were worried about whether their cared-for parent or sibling would manage without them. During the breaks, they were able to participate in activities aimed at building their confidence and resilience, and reducing anxiety. Afterwards they were able to demonstrate reduced anxiety about leaving their cared-for relative and a better understanding of how to manage their caring responsibilities. They felt more confident about moving on to high school and making new friends. The YACs we support had lost much of their confidence during lockdown, and, following the 2021 activity programme, now feel more much more confident about attending respite breaks in the future.
Child A (10) helps to look after a sibling with autism and other health needs. He has been supported by EYC since 2018 and has attended previous residential breaks. During Covid, he was reluctant to engage with EYC and initially declined an invitation to attend the 2021 break, despite the clear need for him to have some respite after a prolonged period at home. Through discussions with his parents, it became clear that Child A had heightened anxiety around Covid and was worried that by going on the break, he would risk bringing Covid into the house and passing it on to his cared-for sibling. This, in turn, was adding to the parents’ concerns for Child A’s mental health. Right up until the day of the retreat, Child A was unsure if he could attend, but his parents and EYC key worker, working to an agreed plan, were able to reassure him sufficiently to join the group. Child A continued to display some anxieties while away, but with our support he was able to fully participate in the activities. The retreat highlighted specific areas for support with child A’s mental health. He is now receiving Counselling to build on the initial support received at the residential break and his anxiety levels are reducing.