Falkirk Better Breaks
A story by The Action Group
We provided respite for unpaid carers with a child, or children with additional support needs. We did this by offering extended opportunities for social interaction through a regular monthly weekend groups and 2-weekend adventure camps throughout the year.
What Falkirk Better Breaks did
We were lucky to get one camp to Lagganlia before Covid lockdown hit, unfortunately the second had to be cancelled this was a great disappoint to everyone but keeping everyone safe was the priority. We looked at how we could connect with people in a different ways and this was to be digital. The Action Group had a fund where people that didn’t have digital equipment could apply to assist with people joining in. We ran online disco’s, set challenges eg help at home cooking a meal, a previous Better Breaks person ran online exercises classes. People joined our activity page https://www.actiongroupactivities.com. As soon as we could get together again we met at Elgin Park where we could be socially distant and in Zones. We joined The Action group AGM digitally; activity pack were sent out prior to it starting so we could participate in the activities throughout the day. The following months seen us using Elgin park as this had closed to other users which meant we could ensure cleaning measure were in place to keep people safe. We ran themes activities each month. After Christmas we had to close again due to a further national lockdown, we continued to be digitally connected. In June, we met at Elgin Park where we enjoyed a day of just being grateful to be together after another long lockdown. We did Tai Chi, Mindfulness, Baking, crafts. We then had days: At Frankie and Bennies, had dinner then went to see Jungle Cruise at the Cinema, it was so good to be out again and attended the Awakening The Festival, this was an outdoor event in Falkirk that had live bands, animal show, a magician, fairground rides, trampolines, face painters, superhero characters, a big help was the weather was on our side.
For the carers of the young people, these were the only respite they had had during lockdown and they were desperately needing it.
Feedback told us they carers enjoyed some time just relaxing, some got odd jobs done around the house and others spent time with other family. One parent/carer said that sometime it’s difficult to plan things, knowing what day XXX goes to Better Breaks mean we can do something that day.
What The Action Group has learned
1: Dealing with unexpected challenges- Covid, we had to very quickly adapt to not being able to meet face to face so we decided to run digital activities. Enjoyed by everyone, we all learned very quickly how to make the most of digital devices and support others to do the same.
2:Targetting Families in need of support, we are always keeping out eyes open for people that we can help, we keep close contacts with Carrongrange school for young people with disabilities and do open days and update social media with who we are and what we are doing so parents carers can follow us and join us.
3 Developing new short breaks activities
We have had to be all over this arranging what we can do while still following covid rules, while planning for the future post covid.
How The Action Group has benefitted from the funding
The Action Group is not as well known in the Falkirk area, Better Breaks has flagged up our organisation. We have had feedback from people in the community saying they see what we do and have passed on information to unpaid carers they know, also there is a possibility to have some volunteers as well as paid staff. Recruitment is a challenge for care provider at the moment, however staff have joined us because of the exciting work we do with the Better Breaks project.
Being part of this project would mean being less isolated, being part of the group helps them grow in confident as a result of involvement. Success will be seeing these young people doing things they wouldn’t normally have the confidence to do.
We were restricted with this because of COVID however we did our best to be creative with what we could do when we did meet to keep things positive, stimulating and fun. We used resources we had at our base to do educational, seasonal and stimulating crafts, baking and exercise. We were safe in our base. When the young people had to isolate at home we provided digital activities such as online chats, discos, mindfulness, quizzes and exercise
One of our days included linking up with our AGM in Edinburgh which was done digitally. There was a crafting challenge where they sent packs out to everyone who wanted to join in and we did it as a group. We followed the crafting project on the screen and enjoyed feeling part of something again. There was a raffle and SK in our group won an echo!
Carers will be asked to complete a questionnaire at the beginning of the project, after 6 months and at the end of the project. On completion of the questionnaire we will agree outcomes specific to each carer and person cared for, which will be subject to review after 6 months.
Some of the parent / carers fed back that because of lockdown they decided to learn something new but struggled because of their caring roles. When Better Breaks returned they were able to spend more time on learning a new skills, some took up an exercise regime.
When one of the parent/carers was struggling during lockdown, her child did not feel safe going on buses, as soon as she was able to she started driving lessons, when her loved one was at the Better Breaks group she booked extra and was delighted when she passed her test.
We talked to parent/carers, at the beginning of the project, after 6 months and at the end of the project. On completion of the questionnaire we will agree outcomes specific to each carer and person cared for, which will be subject to review after 6 months.
A few of the families involved in the project support and care for more than 1 person and find this overwhelming under normal circumstances, lockdown making it much worse. Better Breaks took some of the pressure off these carers giving them time and space to shift their priorities for a short while
One young man’s mum became terminally ill during lockdown and his dad was really struggling to look after him and his mum, Better breaks gave him the time to focus his attention on his wife and we were able to signpost hen to other services for help.
The Action Group can access information from various resources and have been able to signposted both children, young people and there carer to additional sources of assistance and support. Throughout the project we continue to gather knowledge eg has improved practices for our young autistic people.
Carers, during covid, had very little or no respite, some said their mental health suffered. They were grateful for some time and space on their own to catch up, do some form of exercise or look after themselves in other ways, this sometime was just a quiet cup of tea uninterrupted.
ST and her mum live in a flat with no garden and really struggled in the height of lockdown, they were cooped up together and both their health started to suffer ST’s confidence and self-esteem worsened and she said that she lost all confidence to go out at all. when ST got back to better breaks she said her confidence grew to go out again after seeing her friends and hearing what they were doing. Mum was happy to see this change, it also meant she could enjoy going out again on her own when ST was at Better Breaks. They also started to enjoyed time going out together again.