Fun with Friends
A story by PlayPeace
Through this project we delivered twelve outings for families of children and young people with additional support needs. Whole families took part, including siblings and parents/carers. The outings were to a variety of fun destinations creating fun times and building friendships.
What Fun with Friends did
We delivered twelve highly subsidised outings which took place weekly during Easter, summer, October, Christmas and February school holidays. Destinations included the safari park, snow tubing, the beach and pumpkin picking. Families known to PlayPeace participated along with new families who were often recommended by other parents, or by local carer organisations , schools or the neurodevelopmental team.
We planned our programme carefully to ensure mitigation of the many barriers families of children with additional support needs face, to ensure success. This included extensive time researching the destinations, liaising with venues to ensure that we have pre planned for safety considerations, personal care and orientation that will be helpful for the families. To reassure the families , many of who have not accessed these experiences through lack of resources or confidence, we shared web links, site maps and maintained open communication via our closed Facebook and parent support whatsapp chats to answer any questions or address any worries parents had. We also shared photos of the destinations, to support families in preparing the children and young people , many of who have complex communication needs or are non verbal.
We secured resources in the form of free school transport (buses) from the local authority for some of the outings, maximising our resources.
We particularly address the Better Breaks priorities of complex needs and diversity. Many of the children and young people have complex needs and families find it difficult to have days out. We provided reassurance that by careful planning and being part of a group, fun outings can be enjoyed which provides a sense of community, strength in numbers and welcome company for families otherwise potentially very isolated.
Our approach to embracing diversity is evidenced in our core values and the warm welcome we extend to all families. We are fortunate to have a diverse range of nationalities and cultures within our member families. Our organisation was proud to be a finalist in October 2022 in the Glasgow Herald Diversity Awards in the Building Inclusive Communities Category.
What PlayPeace has learned
As reported at mid year, a growing demand and running on volunteer , primarily parent efforts, has deepened our sense that to scale up whilst protecting the quality of our offer will require more resources and some staff capacity brought into the organisation.
Having gained our SCIO status in August 2022 this will now be possible.
We have learned that we need to also invest time in providing extra assurances to newer families who are less familiar with our approach and again this has been time intensive, but worthwhile to ensure that anxiety is mitigated for parents and carers.
We also learned that building the friendships and support created through the outings could be strengthened through more regular opportunities to come together , and through careful deployment of resources were able to offer an additional regular weekly family play session for the last three months of the project .
How PlayPeace has benefitted from the funding
The funding and support offered enabled us to strengthen our organisation's reputation for delivering well planned, high quality breaks and experiences based on the expressed needs of families of children with additional support needs . The confidence invested in us was a contributing factor in us pursuing and securing our charitable status as a SCIO. Thank you !
40 children and young people with complex additional needs will have had fun experiences and tried out new activities informed by them and their families
We delivered over target , providing twelve outings through careful use of our funds , enabling 48 children and young people with complex additional support needs to participate with their families in fun outings. New experiences were built into the programme such as watersports and a trip to an accessible performance of a Christmas pantomime. We undertook regular consultation with the families to shape the destinations and ensure variety , with seasonal elements such as pumpkin picking included at families' request.
A family who joined and accessed the project are parents/carers to twins aged six, one of who has complex ASD and is non verbal and the other neurotypical. Mum describes PlayPeace as "finding my people". The family previously struggled to access outings as a family , taking into account the lack of flexibility commercial destinations have for supporting children with complex needs. In joining with the group the family have enjoyed a number of outings with company , forming firm friendships along the way. They attended the accessible pantomime which was a first for them , and commented on our FB "Thanks PlayPeace for another amazing day ! This was something we would never have undertaken on our own and shows the value of strength in numbers . The kids were all fantastic, we can't believe we got to see the whole show".
45 parents and carers will have accessed regular opportunities to have a break from their caring roles by participating in the programme of family outings
53 parents and carers accessed the programme of family outings , enabling them a break from their caring roles. We know this was valued as we gathered information from a parent /carer survey undertaken in spring of 2022. 100% of respondents stated that PlayPeace definitely or mostly offered opportunities to have fun, develop friendships and do enjoyable activities . 87.5% felt that PlayPeace definitely or mostly helped them to enjoy a life outside of caring roles ( 12.5% sometimes) . Direct quotes from parents/carers included "The outings give us something to look forward to with friends who understand that days out can be very challenging for our kids . Going away with PlayPeace means you are going with support ." "PlayPeace is a lifeline and also very enjoyable for the young people and their adults!"
A family who took part in the project were previously very isolated, as Auntie E had relocated to the area to take up a full time caring role for her nephew. Through regular participation in the outings and other PlayPeace opportunities, there were firm friendships founded for the delightful young man and his Auntie. She sought support from other parent carers on navigating teen hormones, resources such as the carers card and in turn she offered advice to others as a result of her undertaking the legal process for guardianship. The family were significantly more socially active and have been enthusiastic participants in many activities .
45 parents and carers will report feeling more supported in their caring role and more connected/knowledgeable about support services .
In our spring parent and carer survey , 94% reported definitely or mostly feeling better supported to sustain their caring role as a result of their involvement in the project ( 6% sometimes). We regularly shared newsletters and training calendars issued by North Lanarkshire Carers Together and Lanarkshire Carers , as well as promoting online seminars on specific interest topics such as self directed support or knowing your rights in seeking a specialist school place for your child ( eg provided by Kindred and other national organisations) . We know that parents/carers uptook these opportunities when possible as there would then be sharng of materials and resources, and the generating of discussions via our online mechanisms of the private Facebook page or our Parent support whatsapp chat. Offers of peer support, specialist equipment and clothing were all exchanged as well as experiences of support providers.
As a collective , families and particularly the parents and carers , have greater knowledge about support services and there is a demonstrable pattern of peer support regularly present on our Parent support Whatsapp page , with advice regularly sought particularly on navigating statutory services , and responses based on lived experience then shared. Before becoming involved parents often commented on feeling lost and unsure where to go for help, but through this project and the support offered , participants are more informed and know that there is support available often from others whose children are older or have been through the stage they are managing. this is particularly the case given the wide age range of the children and young people and key transitions that are often very difficult for families to contemplate as well as manage.