Food and Fun
A story by East Lothian Young Carers
We provided six cookery courses for Young Carers and their families. The courses took place over five weeks and consisted of four cookery sessions and a final session at a pottery painting workshop.
We provided transport to and from all the sessions to ensure the courses were accessible to all. The courses gave Young Carers the opportunity to have a break from their caring role and spend quality time with their parents and siblings. A cook book based on the recipes cooked by the Young Carers will be provided to each family.
What Food and Fun did
The Food and Fun Project held six cookery courses for Young Carers and their families. Each course consisted of four weeks of cookery lessons and a final session at a pottery painting workshop. To ensure the most isolated Young Carers were able to attend the courses transport was provided to and from all activities. East Lothian Young Carers Staff were on hand at each session to help out and make sure Young Carers were able to enjoy the session as young people and not Carers.
The Food and Fun Courses were targeted to support the most vulnerable families. We contacted our partners in social work and mental health services to let them know about the courses. We also contacted Young Carers who were on our waiting list and a number of Young Carers who we were supporting and knew were very isolated and would benefit from some additional support.
The courses were run by a local food project and offered each Young Carer the opportunity to make a variety of dishes chosen by themselves. At the end of each session the Young Carers chose what they would like to cook the following week. Targeting the most vulnerable and isolated families did present challenges. Young Carers had told us that they wanted to spend more quality time with their parents. As some of the parents were quite unwell and were not able to attend every session we held a couple of extra sessions to ensure Young Carers were able to access as many sessions as possible.
The courses were very popular with Young Carers and their families. Taking part in a fun activity helped people to get to know each other and many of the families who took part have expressed a desire to keep meeting up. East Lothian Young Carers is moving and our new space will have cooking facilities and we plan to run a families group and offer cookery sessions.
East Lothian Young Carers staff would be on hand to help Brenda when required. Providing transport to and from all the cookery sessions helped Brenda to overcome her anxiety about leaving the house. The cookery course was thoroughly enjoyed by Hannah and Brenda. They were able to spend some quality time together doing some normal mother and daughter activities.
Hannah was able to talk to other Young Carers on the course and Brenda made some good friends and has continued to keep in contact with them after the course ended. During a visit to her GP Brenda said "I feel so much better for having fun with Hannah and having been out and met people. I wish we could have another course".
The family were very keen to attend the cookery course but were worried about support for James. East Lothian Young Carers staff were able to provide additional support to help with caring for James while the family attended the cookery course. James came along to the course but whenever he required support project staff were on hand to help out and allow Amy and Catherine to continue spending quality time with their mother. The family very much appreciated this opportunity to spend time together doing something fun.
To allow the girls one on one time with their mother it was decided that it would not be suitable for Sam to attend the cookery classes. For the first cookery session a family member helped to look after Sam but unfortunately found it too challenging to carry on for the whole course. As Sophie and her mum had such a great time together on the first session it gave Sophie's mum the confidence to approach Sam's social worker about arranging Sam's respite to allow Sophie and her mum to continue to attend the course. The request was granted.
Ellen, Sophie's mum said "attending the course and having time with Sophie has made me realise that I need to ask for respite that works for us as family. Having seen the difference this break has made to Sophie and me I now have the confidence make sure it happens again in the future."
What East Lothian Young Carers has learnedThis was a slightly more challenging project than usual. A reduction in funding for the local organisation we were working with to deliver the cookery courses meant that they were unable to provide the cookery teacher when the planned the courses would be taking place. We found a substitute teacher who unfortunately canceled at short notice which led to us asking for an extension to the project. It has taught us that you should always have a contingency plan for every part of your project.
The project provided respite for Young Carers and those they care for. East Lothian Young Carers provides respite and individual support to Young Carers but the majority of this is provided away from their families. Young Carers had told us that they wanted to be able to spend quality time with their families. The project enabled them to do just that and helped East Lothian Young Carers make a positive difference to the lives of the Young Carers who took part. They now have happy memories of a fun family activity.
Targeting more vulnerable families meant that to ensure they got the most out of attending the cookery courses East Lothian Young Carers staff had to provide quite intensive support both before and during the course. A number of the parents attending the course had significant mental health problems and required support. Staff met all Young Carers and cared for people before they started a course, this helped us to understand the support they would need and which families would work well together.
Spending a bit of time getting to know the families and supporting them with any problems they were having helped the families to get to know and trust East Lothian Young Carers staff and not feel too apprehensive about coming along to the cookery sessions. This reduced the pressure on Young Carers and meant they could look forward to the course.