FRIENDS+ Social Events
A story by TEENS+
Our FRIENDS+ Events project provided an accessible social experience for those who need additional support. We facilitated a range of unique and fun activities each month in various locations in Edinburgh. People who came to our events had an opportunity to socialise and try something new.
What FRIENDS+ Social Events did
Over the course of the project we offered 10 events including holiday fairs, open movie nights, ceilidh nights, Zumba and afternoon tea, ceramic workshops and picnics, bowling and discos. Each activity was planned on Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons, and Saturday evenings. These were the times of the week that were identified as times where activities were limited for those with complex support needs.
At TEENS+ we offer students an opportunity to attend Monday to Friday. TEENS+ is and educational service that aims to build on social and communication skills of the people we support. During the FRIENDS+ events, supported people were able to use those skills in a social environment.
Parents and carers had the option of enjoying some care free time or to join in the social experience. Many opted to join the events and as a result felt connected to the staff team. An important objective was supporting carers to experience a social experience after the impacts of Covid-19. This allowed parents and carers to build confidence to meet other parents and carers and connect independently.
The values of the events were to ensure each event was inclusive and to benefit cared for people and their carers. We managed to do this by having an experienced staff team who were able to facilitate a positive and enjoyable experience whilst also building confidence in creating a safe environment that minimised any potential risk factors. Many of our cared for people and carers were apprehensive about going into busy social environments. Providing events in a known, safe space with people they trusted was the key to supporting carers and cared for people feel relaxed and gain full value from the experience.
The project was a major success and had a significant impact on those who attended. The project has now paved the way for more events in the future, using sustainable funding over the next three years.
What TEENS+ has learned
The creative break funding allowed us to be creative in providing new diverse support. It gave an opportunity to book various different event facilitators to give a dynamic experience to those who might not have had a chance to have a specific experience on a Friday and Saturday. Fridays and Saturdays were highlighted to be days where cared for people and their carers felt as though they didn’t have the same opportunities as other people in society. Our proactive response to this was to provide a social experience at a time in the week when you would normally choose to have a social experience.
One of the challenges was offering events on a time and day of the week that would likely have lower support staff available to facilitate the event. What were focused on was an event that all involved can enjoy as a social experience. It was as important for the staff team to have a great social experience as it was for cared for people. Having a team who were excited and treated it as a time where they could relax and have fun helped encourage those who were still uncertain if the group or activity was for them. Reflecting on this we are able to factor in the interest and key enjoyment factors from a staffing perspective to build a consistent team for future events. These are events that appropriate care givers would chose to attend and support those when needed.
The exciting outcome from the past year is the confidence to run events to a much wider group of carers and cared for people. There was a clear demand for the project and with that, positive feedback from those that attended, installed a curiosity from those who were and still are uncertain about having a social experience in larger groups. Over the next 3 years, our plans are well under way to create a series of events based on a social experience with a value of bringing people together and reduce the need for paid for care. Having a structured and fun event allows for those who have support needs to have a natural social experience without the dependence of paid support.
What we found was once cared for people and carers attended they communicated their experience to others. Word of mouth was a key factor in the development of the service, however, regular communication via social media is an area that was not utilised as well as we could have. We learnt that social media can have a much bigger impact of reaching more people who may enjoy an event. Over the past few months we have focused on this area and have found that regular posts kept the message and maintained the momentum of regular events.
People then have ownership of the plans and have a visual aid to reflect and share with others. Moving forward social media will be factored into future strategic project plans. We now have a group of tried and tested event facilitators who now have the experience to provide a bespoke, tailored social experience for cared for people and their carers.
- Local Ceilidh band
- Local DJ
- Local Zumba instructor
- Ceramic arts facility
We learnt that taking time to ensure event facilitators have appropriate information about the group along with repeating activities meant there was better experiences for the facilitators. As a result, this meat people who attended had a tailored experience. We found that the event facilitators built a bond with those that attended and could approach each cared for person with the care and attention needed.
Taking these factors forward we are able to use the experience over the past funding year to engage more cared for people and their carers, offer dynamic events on a consistent basis, and continue to grow the different types of events that can stimulate the interest of carers and cared for people.
How TEENS+ has benefitted from the funding
Over the past funding year, we have benefited in a number of ways. Fundamentally it offered us the opportunity utilise the benefits of the core service of TEENS+ and apply a social twist. At TEENS+ we pride ourselves on delivering a bespoke approach to adult education for adults with complex learning and communication difficulties. This approach supports our cared for people to overcome barriers and reach their full potential. When applying for the fund we recognised that there were still a number of social barriers and isolation for people who have care needs as well as their parents and carers. The fund allowed us to overcome these barriers and build a service that can sustain bringing cared for people and their carers together. The pilot service of FRIENDS+ events has now developed on to NEXT STEPS Events. This project has specific aims to reach people with support needs recognise and peruse their interests. The recent Halloween party in October reached maximum capacity which would confirm the impact having regular events during the months prior. Next Steps events are now a pivotal part of our service delivery. The Creative Breaks fund enabled us to collate a full understanding of what was missing from the lives of the people that receive our service and their family carers. The experiences that we have been able to offer the young people has supported our application for additional funding from The Alliance Trust to support the on-going development and growth of the Friends+ and Next Steps services that are now able to support each other with event planning and coordination working together hand in hand. Funding for people to live an ordinary life is essential and the Creative Breaks fund has allowed us to make this experience happen with people. The FRIENDS+ events project offered gave an opportunity for staff to be creative and plan events. This opportunity offered a chance for personal development and build experience of running events that meets the needs of cared for people and their carers. The team who were involved with the planning and running of the events now have the experience to continue to have a positive impact and the skills to deliver these sessions.
Carers will express that the events have a meaningful impact to their lives. Obtain feedback from carers on how the events impacted their daily lives. Target 1 - Positively impact 60 carers. Target 2 - Create case studies for funders to see the benefits of the project.
Throughout the funding year we were able to consistently support carers by offering spaces to try new activities that they may not have done ever or since lockdown. A particular success for these events was support for carers of young adults with complex needs who had just left children's services and into adult's services. During the funding year, TEENS+ transitioned over 50 young adults with complex support needs from school into our educational day service. In addition to our core service, was the FRIENDS+ events. These events had a positive impact by replacing many children based social events and connecting carers with other carers. Navigating the world without the support and structure from school is a daunting prospect for many carers and it was a real-life line to have opportunities to have a space to go and meet other carers who are in a similar position.
During the early months in 2022 we were still living in a world with many restrictions and a social care service that had a number of issues. What we found was a lack of options and support to overcome barriers to create these opportunities to have a meaningful time. In particular, one of our attendees that had left school, had drastically decreased mobility during Covid-19 and the months after. When transitioning into Teens+ service, it was vital that building his mobility was going to be a key focus for his daily routine. This involved many external professionals to have specific exercises and stretches that the staff could support him with. These daily care plans supported a massive improvement. The consistent support to build his mobility gave the attendee’s parent the confidence to bring them to one of our ceilidh events. Everyone was astounded by the musical motivation and the adaptive dance routines that ensured he was able to take part, in the same capacity as everyone else. This was a massive step forward to creating a fuller social based timetable for this attendee. This attendee is now a regular at all events and we are delighted that on the back of stories like this, we have secured funding for a further 3 years to continue to provide social events to not only those who attend Teens+ core service but also to carers and cared for people out with.
Sustainable events with funding from local authority to continue effective support provision. Work with social workers to apply for funding to attend the events to benefit 20 cared for people. Support 20 cared for people to access sustainable funding as part of their SDS.
Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in obtaining local authority funding however we have managed to secure three-year funding from the Alliance Trust to support our Next Steps Project. The Creative Breaks fund has been pivotal in creating the foundations for this project. Understanding what carers and cared for people want from a social experience has honed in our ability to deliver an event for many to enjoy. This means that after one year of funding, carers and cared for people can still look forward to social events on their calendar. We believe recognising these social events with regular social media posts, allows the attendees to feel part of a community.
While identifying what cared for people and their carers wanted from a social experience, we found that many had good experiences but not in a consistent, monthly structure. We know we can put on an event and provide a safe space for new activities that overcome barriers for those that require support and their carers and so being able to do this in a consistent basis was one of our key priorities. When aiming to secure funding from local authorities we quickly realised that this was a priority for a longer-term goal. We managed to secure funding to continue the great work that went on with the Creative Breaks Fund for a consistent three years. A specific example of the profound impact the Creative Breaks Fund has had for future events is our most recent Halloween Disco which booked out over 100 tickets to cared for people. Whilst there are many individual stories, the key success is achieving sustainable funding to continue providing a fun social experience for the group which is cared for people and their carers.
Developing a service that would be sustainable by those who attend the sessions. Adding 1 more event throughout the month. Increasing to 12 more events in the second part of the year. A total of 18 events. Create options for those in different localities in East Lothian and Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, we managed to do a total of 10 events. We had envisaged more, however, we focused on the quality of each session rather than the quantity. This was quickly identified after the first 3 sessions. Why this was important to us, was to help shape the bespoke needs of those who wanted a social experience. This outcome amalgamated itself with outcome 2. As we began running events, it was clear that those who attended the service wanted to play a part in the planning, creating and enjoying of the events. We are continuing to work on bringing events into different areas so that logistics plays less of a factor on those coming to attend. This outcome is a much longer-term goal, as we continue to build the sustainability moving forward, the aim is to promote as much choice for those who enjoy the events. We want to ensure that carers have a key say in the events but at the same time to not burden them with additional pressures of planning or organising.
Whilst offering 18 events may have been ambitious, the events that took place have created a template for our service and others to follow. Having the space and contacts of event facilitators which have been successful, allows us to continue this on an annual rotation. One session in particular which had phenomenal feedback was our Animal Man Mini Zoo. For many of our carers and cared for people, attending a facility with animals such as a zoo or Deep Sea World has many challenges for it to be a success. Therefore, having an event facilitator who could come into our setting and bring a unique range of animals proved to be a great success for our carers and cared for people. We were able to support this facilitator in how to engage cared for people so that everyone in attendance had maximum enjoyment. One particular example is a young man who was petrified of dogs, and unpredictable animals. He came to the first event and observed. During the second event, he gained much more confidence and when offered to take part he held a guinea pig. This confidence was gained due to the familiarity of the venue, the safe space that was created with our staff team and the expertise of the facilitator after we had supported him in working with cared for people. Both carers who witnessed this were elated at this new experience.
Additional project outcome
Have a positive impact with event organisers. Being able to create a list of appropriate event plan for other organisations and carers to use. Work with 6 event facilitators to engage with the people who are cared for and carers. Support 4 freelance event organisers to see the benefits of events.
Over the course of running the events, we supported a local DJ, a Zumba instructor, an Animal Man Mini Zoo, ceilidh band and ceramic workshop. Alongside this we also worked with a local bowling club where some of our events were held. The above providers were able to see the powerful benefits of providing their experience to those with complex support needs and their carers. All facilitators were brilliant and we continue to use their services now. One particular event to mention and highlight is the Zumba. It was the first time the Zumba instructor had provided such a bespoke event. While they were a newly qualified instructor, their motivation, compassion and ability to tailor the class to the people that attended was outstanding. Carers, cared for people and the staff team involved were blown away by how fun the session was. The feedback given, showed that most people didn’t expect to enjoy the Zumba session as much as they did and were pleasantly surprised.