Glee, Wee Glee, Music and Film clubs
A story by SupERkids
SupERkids provided activities for children with multiple support needs in East Renfrewshire. This project provided supported activities to the young people who attend as there are no other clubs in the area that would accept their unsupported attendance due to their care needs.
What Glee, Wee Glee, Music and Film clubs did
Our project did not go to plan. The world will remember the period April 2020 to June 2021, and Covid 19 affected everyone but especially those with multiple support needs. Our beneficiaries needed support more than ever as the lack of school attendance and home routine meant that their young people were doubly affected by lockdown. One parent / carer said that their son with learning difficulties was unable to comprehend the reasons for the changes to their life and it made every aspect of lockdown even more difficult.
SupERkids activities followed government restrictions throughout and focused on providing a fun activity attended away from home, providing parents/carers with a period of respite. SupERkids invited all young people in our community with support needs to their clubs. At times, restrictions meant that only one activity was allowed per child per week.
The Glee Club initially ran virtually for 26 sessions and physically for 8 sessions (once a facility became available). As parents could not attend a show in person, all the sessions were recorded and a show developed from the edited highlights. The kids still learned songs and dances and wore costume and had their Saturday morning activity.
Wee Glee and Music Club could not be delivered as planned. In their place, we had an Outdoor Club, SupERTrips and Holiday Club activities which were organised in bubbles; smaller groups were our focus. These smaller groups with social distancing and the use of outside space meant that it was more complicated but new friendship groups were formed and the kids continued to gain more confidence and independence through attending.
We ran SupER Saturday Clubs for young people who preferred a non drama based activity on Saturday afternoons. Young people aged from 5 to 19 years attended our clubs and their parents / carers were able to spend time with siblings and some healthcare professionals were able to work. Being flexible meant that although sadly we could not run Wee Glee, we did provide half day clubs over holidays and weekends as well as new Golf and Tennis clubs which met the outdoor COVID restrictions requirements.
What SupERkids has learned
The Covid 19 pandemic has forced us to deal with unexpected challenges. Our unique position as parents and carers for own children who are beneficiaries creates resilience and determination to overcome whatever obstacles arise. This has been tested more than ever during what has been the most challenging period and by focusing on the outcomes for our beneficiaries rather than the activities we have historically undertaken, we have adopted the service provisions to provide the project that could be provided within the governmental restrictions in place to deliver the outcomes both desired and most desperately needed.
Creativity and personal knowledge of the issues that our families face has also helped SupERkids to respond well to the challenges from the Covid pandemic and we have developed new short break activities ran outdoors to provide some of the most affected children in Scotland with some fun and their parents some deserved respite. Our thanks to the Better Breaks fund and Shared Care Scotland for allowing us to be flexible and provide much needed services when planned activities were prohibited due to the necessary Scottish Government restrictions.
SupERkids have learned that we can have more confidence in our abilities to respond. As a wholly volunteer based charity, we frequently question our abilities to meet the needs of our beneficiaries and whether an employee managed service would deliver better outcomes for our children. Having witnessed other service providers retrenching during the pandemic period, we were even more resolved to expand our service provision and deliver the most that could be achieved knowing that the needs of our beneficiaries were greater than ever.
The speed at which we amended our activities is something that as a parents group we are extremely proud of and we are more confident than ever that we are best placed to define and deliver the activities which meet the outcomes we detailed in our original funding application.
How SupERkids has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding has been instrumental in SupERkids securing funding from other organisations allowing us to increase our service provision. It has provided the bedrock of our activities which we have showcased to other funders who have found both the activities and the parent / carer led volunteer based model compelling. Without the funding from Better Breaks, it is unlikely that other funders would have found our unusual organisational structure attractive. We have been able to respond flexibly and creatively to the needs of our SupERkids and provide new clubs and activities to some of the most vulnerable in our community.
Young people will have increased confidence, independence and social interaction from continued attendance at Glee clubs.
Planned activities largely did not take place. As SupERkids is ran on a voluntary basis by parents of kids with multiple support needs, there is a high level of understanding of what needs to be done in changing circumstances. Communication was paramount as ever, this year more than ever, and needed to be consistent and two way. Parents provided suggestions and introductions for new COVID restriction appropriate activities. Surveys and evaluations were completed and a particularly high level of demand and attendance was noted throughout the 15 months of the project. Our virtual Glee club ran for 26 weeks and the easing of Scottish Government restrictions meant that we were able to run 8 Glee clubs on a face to face basis. In total, we were able to run 120 sessions delivering 4,488 activity hours to 111 children. Watching the young people blossom with confidence is a gift and social interaction was a lifeline to those attending over both mediums.
A non verbal SupERkid with autism and severe learning difficulties managed to attend every virtual Glee club and was able to see his friends on a weekly basis. The facilitators developed a theme each week and through the 26 weeks, many themes from Toy Story to Shrek to the Sound of Music were explored and activities focused on what the young people enjoyed. As this SupERkid was unable to manage the technology, his parents sat through the club with him and all the parents and kids participated and informed the facilitators of what was enjoyed each week, so that the most enjoyment could be provided to the children. The parents said that initially they were unsure of how it would work, but it was successful and when it was time to return to the face to face clubs, he attended and loved them. The parent emailed to say: "having the Glee clubs at Isobel Mair School has made all the difference to X as he is happy there and as he knows the facilitators though the Zoom clubs, he knew what to expect! He ran in each week and was able to be involved in all the activities and was delighted to see other kids too. I never thought that he would enjoy drama as lockdown has been tough on him and our family and this has been a wee ray of sunshine"
The provision of over 4,000 hours of respite to parents and carers through attendance at SupERkids clubs.
At the start of lockdown, SupERkids made a promise to its beneficiaries that it would do whatever it could within the Scottish Government restrictions for the children. At times, it felt that getting back to face to face clubs would never happen and both parents and children, many of whom have complex medical issues were concerned with shielding themselves from Covid. SupERkids provided 6732 respite hours to 166 carers over the 15 months of the project, plus virtual activities. A wide range of activities were delivered, in addition to Glee, Outdoor clubs in a forest school, Saturday club, holiday clubs, Golf club, tennis clubs, archery club, football club and Minecraft clubs. In addition, half day clubs were offered over long bank holiday weekends and the festive season and SupERtrips were provided to local attractions. Our project delivered 67% more respite hours to parents and carers than planned, we are so very proud of this provision at a time of greatest need.
SupERkids offered SupERtrips - where a session of up to 6 hours was offered that included a visit to a local attraction and lunch. The buses were school buses and driven by school bus drivers known to the young people which helped with the transitions for the kids. These SupERtrips have been a success for families and children alike. One child said that their trip to Blair Drummond was the best day of their life. Another parent said that “This year has been beyond challenging as we had no support and was in a bubble and the ray of sunshine this year was the wonderful days out and clubs that X got to attend as it has given her a fuller life and experience new and exciting opportunities that sadly we cannot do with her as her behaviour is very different for us.”
Positive feedback from parents, especially those in greatest need. We would expect to receive similar feedback from this program in the future.
Disability does not discriminate and many families with disabled children suffer financial hardship as well as fewer opportunities for their career and their other children. As many carers worked from home during lockdown, having time when your caring responsibilities are shared for a few hours has benefited many families. All activities during the pandemic were delivered without charge, a decision made by our trustees in April 2020. Removing any potential obstacle to participation may have been important to more families than usual. The Festive Club, our first holiday support activity, allowed a healthcare professional to go to work and she was delighted that there was a suitable and safe place for her son while she worked. This individual is a single parent who lost her husband last year and the difference that this activity made to this family was huge. A number of other carers stated that this allowed them to work from home effectively on those dates.
The Scottish Government COVID restrictions have been a dominant factor in our delivered activities. By necessity we have required to adjust our planned activities to meet the restrictions throughout. These limitations on normal life, and lack of schooling have placed substantial added caring burden on families, who are our beneficiaries. Providing them with support during the pandemic has required that we adjust our normal face to face provision and introduce on-line and activity and provide support packages delivered to each family. We remain dedicated to supporting our beneficiaries, who remain the same families with an additional support need child, and committed to the outcomes to support these children within our community and provide their carers and other family members with a short period of respite. A number of comments from parents whose kids attended activities are: "Glee is something X enjoys and as she likes spending time with her friends. Being part of Glee is good for her confidence as she can be very shy with anxiety. For us having something regular that our daughter attends ensures we have some much needed respite at the weekend. It allows us to spend time with our other children and catch up with things. My daughter is non verbal and wrote a poem using her communication device - I try Glee it may be heaven. She is referring to her anxiety and how difficult it is for her to leave the house and attend any activities even those she enjoys. However, she recognises that if she does manage to go, it will be heaven." "I enjoyed the break and so did my son. He loves singing and dancing with kids his age and if he didn't come I would need to try to entertain him and that is hard as there are few closed safe environments he can visit" "there are no other clubs that are truly accessible and my son would miss out if this was not available. My older son went to lots of clubs and it's great for X to go to a club too. It's an activity we can talk to X about and enjoy watching him getting excited about taking part." “my son has been struggling with the change to his routine through lockdown and has adversely affected him and his condition. Having time with his friends and doing activities has made a huge difference to him.” “Getting out the house is vital for my son. His behaviour deteriorates not getting out and he self harms. The club has a positive impact on the whole families mental health, and is invaluable to us as he can go somewhere where he is safe and they understand his condition. “my son attending the clubs helps his sister and allows us to have 1 to 1 time together, which has been impossible over lockdown” "X loves his time at the club and although he is non verbal his smile says it all - when x is happy we are all happy. We can spend time with our daughter when X is off enjoying himself at the club" "I really struggle to get X to go out but he loved the club and enjoyed learning how to play golf and the club really helped him to get out of the house"
The wider community and friends and family will see the young person with multiple support needs achieving through their performance and they will see them become more confident.
SupERkids provide activities where the kids with multiple support needs are supported by trained staff. This makes a huge difference as the staff know how to get the best from the kids and often the behaviour outside the home is less challenging. Activities that other families take for granted is a lottery for families with a child with complex needs and kids are more accepting of new activities and places when they are with friends. When new tennis & golf clubs were offered, parents asked about how it would work. SupERkids meet the facilitators and discuss what works for the kids and staff are there to support their care needs. This ensures there are no surprises and that the suppliers often are delighted at being able to be more inclusive to the community SupERtrips were very popular visiting Blair Drummond, Glasgow Science Centre, SeaLife among others and have shown families and the community that with the right support the our kids deserve as much fun as they can.
One family said: "X was a bit of a lone spirit however his interaction with others is amazing now and I put this down to fun and experiences with Team Glee! As a family, we love that X gets some time away from his family and gets to be with his friends without us constantly looking over him. It gives him independence that isn't always possible due to him not being aware if certain dangers. It has really helped X to develop and follow instructions in all areas, from general following rules to copying and replication actions (dancing and singing)" Another parent said: "x loved attending the clubs and came back with new vocabulary! We are very fortunate to have access to the clubs as it allows her to take part in activities and have new experiences that she would not otherwise have and they provide welcome respite for the rest of the family"