A story by Angus Carers Centre
We provided fun activities for disabled children and young people, their parents and siblings.
Some activities were for the whole family, some gave parents a break from their caring role whilst giving the opportunity to meet up with and make friends with other parents facing the same challenges as themselves.
What Families Programme did
Families involved in previous sessions and parents who are registered with us but hadn’t attended any of the family programme activities were involved in conversation about how we designed the programme. We completed 41 activities most of which were in local facilities, (e.g. leisure centres, swimming pool, cinema, family ‘petting farms’ and local parks and our Carers Centre.) The focus of the activities were to give families time away from their usual routine and spend time together in places where they felt save and could trust the people who were helping them.
The programme brought together families who would have otherwise been isolated and now have new friends to share experiences with. This aspect of the programme overall has been a great success with parents planning to meet each other out with the programme, sharing hints and tips as well as providing a listening ear for each other.
We published three family bulletins which were posted out those who had registered to join the family programme (about 190 families) as well as advertise the Families Programme more general in our four seasonal newsletter which goes out to all carers registered with us (approx. 1900 people).
The success of the programme is due in the main to us not relying on this ‘passive’ information to encourage new families to join. Our Carer Development Workers, when carrying out initial assessments discuss the Programme with parent carers, explaining how their family’s needs could be catered for at events. As our programme is unique in Angus word of mouth is a very important aspect of people being encouraged to attend and come back as our ‘good reputation’ travels round and is shared by workers in other agencies and school. We have four registered volunteers who provided support to the families at the events and 8 helpers who are friends of the Carers Centre and helped us set up, provided catering and general made some quite complex panning look easy!.
However once in the pool she said he was extremely happy. She said that she thinks he slept better that night than he has done for years and has therefore booked a private 2 hour session to take him to with a couple of his friends in the near future.
The design of the Sportzone activities meant that this was able to be accommodated while the sports coaches gradually encouraged him to take part in certain parts of the activities. In the most recent Sportzone session in Forfar, this same child was able to work in a pair with another boy to push and pull each other back and forward on body skateboards. The beaming smile on his face said it all!
What Angus Carers Centre has learnedAs demand for the service continues to grow we have had to be more sophisticated on how we ensure that places on at the events are allocated. We need to ensure the balance of inviting new families to share the experience is maintained with attendance by families who enjoy the continuity of regularly activities for their child/children. Getting the balance right can be complex, we achieved this by using the workers knowledge of the family’s needs and the changes in their circumstances from week to week. This helped the allocation of the most suitable activity to each family. Following feedback from families we are now exploring the pros and cons of introducing a pricing policy to be able to provide more activities. This would only go ahead if we were assurances that this wouldn’t be a deterrent for families.
As an organisation we have been developing for a while a family approach, as one of our main objectives. The planning and delivery of this programme has brought different aspects of our overall service much closer together. The Young Carers Support Workers work closely with the Carer Development Workers to ensure that any siblings with a caring role are supported. Bringing together different perspectives on the whole family’s needs and strengths help us focus our time giving the right support to the families a much as we can.
Working with a range of partners can extend the support that families can access. A great example of this is the relationship we built up with the National Autism Society this year. The National Autism Society, although active in neighbouring local authority areas did not have a presence in Angus. Our Carer Development Worker invited families who attended the Families Programme to a Coffee Morning where they could meet the National Autism Society workers and decide if there was anything the National Autism Society could bring to them. From this discussion the National Autism Society have set up a Support Group with parent carers who can now access an extra support group on a monthly basis.
The success of programmes we delivered locally have ensured that our organisation has a higher profile amongst other statutory and third sector organisations who provide services to families with a child with Additional Support Needs. We are now involved in the Social Work Respite Panel and are an important contributor to the “Children with Complex Needs” Multi-Agency Group, and workers from a range of agencies regular tell families about us.
These families may not be registered with us so as well as supporting then to think about attending the Families’ Programme we can also ensure that the parent carers are made aware of the full range of support that we can give them. We are keen to use the learning from the Families Programme to sustain and grow this While Family Approach to our work. We will be working with focus groups of parents throughout the year to help us produce funding plans to secure the long term future of the work.