Holiday Clubs for Glasgow Children aged 5-20
A story by Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Ltd
We provided places for 20 children (with Better Breaks Funding) who live in Glasgow to attend our holiday clubs. This provided families who have children with complex needs the opportunity to have some much-needed respite while their children were cared for and had fun.
What Holiday Clubs for Glasgow Children aged 5-20 did
Our organisation runs a number of services for families affected by disability. Our school holiday clubs cater for the diverse/individual requirements of a range of children most of whom have complex needs. Children are individually assessed so we can produce a plan that meets their needs. As well as the important element of play/leisure, we promote health/wellbeing through all the activities and encourage independence/self-help skills.
Demand for Glasgow places is higher than ever as families attempt to recover from the harsh effects of the lockdowns. We try to offer as many young people as possible these funded places. There is a long waitlist and families with no support are first to be offered places. After assessment and meeting the staff, children are then introduced. Staff training is vital and is ongoing within Buddies.
We were able to return to our “old” Holiday Club format. Our Easter, Summer and October Holiday Clubs were not based in our building and we reintroduced our longer session times. During the Holiday Clubs we visited places such as swimming, trampolining, Edinburgh Zoo, M&Ds, Laser Quest, Inflatable parks, Almond Valley, cinemas, bowling, minigolf, Clyde Valley Farm Park, Heads of Ayr, Blair Drummond Safari Park, pumpkin picking, pottery classes, local county parks, beaches, Monty’s Farm Park, speedboats at Loch Lomond, Freewheels, Yoga and many other stimulating and exciting life enhancing activities.
Our project allows some parents to work and spend time with their other children. Many of the children health and wellbeing has deteriorated over the past 2.5 years and the holiday clubs have helped tremendously in their recovery. Many are isolated and withdrawn at the best of times.
The objective when planning any project is to pre-plan/research thoroughly. Whilst unexpected challenges arise, we are always prepared to adapt all plans. Through reflective sessions, evaluations and parent/child feedback the holiday clubs are successful.
What Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Ltd has learned
As with previous years the little support there is available to families with children affected by disability within Glasgow is almost non-existent. This is now almost at emergency levels as we are starting to see a much clearer picture of the negative effects associated with our children having been in lockdown for such an extended period of time without any outlet for the social needs. We fielded requests throughout the year for our holiday clubs and received multiple forms of contact per day in the period leading up to our Summer Holiday Club. We feel like we say this every year but the demand has never been higher. The families who use our services already have absolutely no other services and they transition through all of our services with no sign of other supports available. One of the most common and unfortunate pieces of feedback we always receive is that parents, whilst they are grateful to receive two sessions per week for their child they really do need more than that. One of the more positive things we have learned is that families love seeing their children socialise outdoors again.
The holiday club always brings new families to us and after the holidays, they all want to try to find funding for our other services. We work in partnership with a range of agencies. As we continue to move forward, we are once again receiving more referrals from carer’s centres. Even although they have no funding, they do not hesitate to send families at risk and with high needs in the hope that we can help. We do our best but we are always oversubscribed with the continually growing waiting list. Many families now self-refer as very few have ongoing social work input. Social work has very long waiting lists for their children and families team. We have very little hope that this will improve anytime soon. The special schools in Glasgow also send families to us. Some special schools used to run short ‘holiday club respite’ but these have all stopped.
We aim to offer funded places to families who appear to be ‘at risk’ for a range of reasons. The main one being families who have no support except school and for them the long holidays is a very difficult time with some ending up with family breakdown. We also always have a few emergency situations where a parent is ill and a family needs urgent support.
Holiday periods always seem quite daunting and helpless, as most young people would be stuck at home and indoors due their complex needs. Parents/carers in some cases would have to give up employment to care for the children. All of these things have a detrimental effect on siblings as they can also suffer as they sometimes end up being carers for their brother(s) or sister(s) and even parents and miss having time with their own friends and having their own lives. We were able to accommodate some siblings as they were able to be in-group situations and really enjoy being on trips and outings.
We have also learned that no matter how many children and young people we are able to accommodate, there is never truly enough support. Even though we try to take on new children and families into our services throughout the year - the volume of new applications far outweighs our progress through the waiting list. Furthermore, the demand for holiday club spaces we receive from current users alone means we have ration out places to families. The picture really is that if we could we would have 60 children and young people per day every day during the school holidays. There are always challenges that arise the main one of course is finding funding for staff. Whilst our staff do a wonderful job in caring for our young people we never seem to have enough staff during holiday periods to meet the high levels of need. Due to the complex needs most young people the staff ratio is mainly 1-1 and that needs lots of funding. We are also noticing that we are supporting an increasing number of children and young people who require 2-1 support both indoors and outdoors. The opportunities for these children are obviously even fewer. However, the consequence of this is that it places more strain on our staffing levels and it makes it even more difficult to accommodate more children.
We have been extremely fortunate to be funded by the Better Breaks programme for many years, as finding funding for children particularly in Glasgow is nearly impossible. The Better Breaks programme is the only significant support for children in Glasgow over the holiday periods. The Better Breaks Fund helped 20 families have a chance to have a bit of “normality”, have fun with their friends and take part in life-enhancing opportunities once again. Even though children previously funded have since grown into young adulthood and some have even been lucky enough to have been allocated budgets – it is a simple fact that there will always be children who need support and this will not change. Children get almost no support from the statutory sector except in extreme cases. We are finding it extremely difficult to access any funding at the minute. The demand for funding is high and funding available is low. The funding challenge is exacerbated by the fact that it is getting extremely expensive to operate just normally day-to-day. Without the Better Breaks funding, families in Glasgow would have had absolutely nothing.
Our passion is to help all children and families who contact us and the only we way can do that is to find the money to run the services they so desperately need.
How Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Ltd has benefitted from the funding
Our organisation has been extremely fortunate to have received funding from the Better Breaks Fund for many years – firstly for our adventure breaks programme and since 2015 for our holiday clubs. It has helped us bring a service to children and families who would otherwise get no support whatsoever in Glasgow. It really cannot be overstated how much the Better Breaks fund has benefitted disabled children in Glasgow during holiday periods. Our holiday clubs have run since 1995 and we learn something new each time. Without the funding, we would not have gained as many skills, and as much expertise and knowledge as we have now. Furthermore, without this funding there would be a massive hole in the service provision in this city - children would be stuck at home without any meaningful outlet to express themselves socially and parents/carers regularly have to give up work to carry out their caring duties. This is even truer now than ever before. There is nothing for families affected by disabilities during the school holidays. We recently had a group from Lanark visit us to see how we run our services as they were looking to start a service in their area. It is hard to comprehend why things are so difficult for families affected by disabilities and it is hard to put into words what we see these families go through on a day-to-day basis. By receiving the funding we have brought over 60 different children over the years into our family here, we have been able to bridge a huge gap that is extraordinarily difficult to fill. However, most importantly, we have continued to build and develop the skills and capacity to effectively make a difference to the lives of our children and their families. We have been able to make partnerships and links with these organisations who provide services to carers/cared for children and adults and have the opportunity to support each other and share good practice. We continue to experience massive difficulty in finding on floor staff. However, thanks to the funding, which we have received from the Better Breaks programme our reputation has grown as an excellent service, provider and we are able to show other funders that we are a cause worthy of support. This is backed up by our most recent Care Inspectorate reports and we have managed to find funding for our senior staff team. This team is the key to a strong and enthusiastic organisation. All of this continues to improve the overall development of the organisation. We hope to be able to continue to build on our growing strengths. We have lodged an application to the new round of the Glasgow Communities Fund to support families in Glasgow. We continue to be optimistic for the future in our new premises and will continue to fight to provide a first-class service to our families and help them thrive in their lives.
20 children, who live in Glasgow and have no funding, will have been able to participate in the holiday clubs and had the opportunity to experience stimulating trips and outings with other young people. This will have given them the chance to have fun and make new friends.
All children involved have the opportunity to take part in activities and new enjoyable experiences that not only enhance their learning but also offer them the chance to grow in confidence and build on their independence/social skills. They are surrounded daily by others their own age and have the opportunities to build positive relationships/friendships not just with their peers but the staff. Most children use our other services throughout the year and we know their likes/dislikes and what activities they enjoy; we still encourage all to make choices and show that their opinions are valued when planning. We found new challenges this year. Challenging and complex behaviours have been negatively affected by the lockdowns and this presented a challenge when reintroducing some of our children in the community-based activities. Despite the challenges, we were able to successfully run a full complement of community trips and outings for our children.
RJL is an 8-year-old boy. R was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD. R lives at home with his mother and his three brothers. R and two of his brothers actually attended our nursery as young children so they have been a part of the Buddies’ family for many years. R started in our after school service approximately one year ago and attended several sessions during our holiday clubs. When R is happy and willing to take part he is a breath of fresh air and it is joyful to see him take part in activities he enjoys. However, R has little regard for his own safety and of those around him when he becomes emotional. He has been known to be violent and displays severely challenging behaviours. Because of this, we have assessed him as needing two dedicated staff members when out in the community. Due to the nature of his behaviours and needs we have to anticipate all scenarios when planning a trip that involves R. This is crucial to the success and enjoyment of all on all trips. Despite the concerns surrounding R’s behaviour, we were able to take him on several outings during the holiday clubs. Most recently in our October Holiday Club, we took him swimming at the Time Capsule, which he loved. Being able to facilitate trips for children who cannot safely take part in community outings without the correct support is one of the purposes of our organisation and to see R’s enjoyment during these trips showed us just how important it is to follow through on that purpose.
The 20 parents/carers and young carers whose children participate in the clubs will have time to do things outside their caring duties. This includes being able to go to work, meet friends, go out together or with other siblings. They will be able to take part in daily activities.
Being able to offer children holiday club sessions meant all of the parents/carers could plan lives outside of their caring roles. This year is the first time since the lockdowns where people could move and socialise freely without any restrictions. The rest of the family can share new experiences and have fun. Having a child with complex needs affects everyone in the family when there is no formal support. All parents/carers/siblings throughout the entire service had an opportunity for respite with the cared-for children and adults out of the house. Just having a few hours to relax and not be cooped up for 24 hours a day with no social outlets had an immediate positive impact to mental health. Our increase in session time benefitted here also. It also helped to maintain very strained family relationships. Mental/physical health severely deteriorates for all who are stuck inside for any length of time. Fortunately, we were able to provide a diverse range of life enhancing experiences.
MJ is an 8-year-old boy who has been attending Buddies for almost 12 months. He has been diagnosed with ASD, learning difficulties, sensory disorder, genetic disorder and is currently awaiting a diagnosis of ADHD. He also started in our service with his father suffering from cancer. M is non-verbal with the exception of babbling noises and pointing. He does, however, use makaton, PECS, and certain flash cards to communicate. M lives at home with his parents and four of his six siblings one of whom has ADHD. M is a lovely natured little boy but is prone to lashing out and aggression if upset. He needs 1:1 support indoors at all times and 2:1 outdoors, as he has no awareness of danger and obstacles and tries to eat small objects. He is a runner and is extremely quick. M attends our Tuesday after school service weekly and was able to take part in holiday club sessions. He loves parks, soft plays, theme parks, swimming and cinemas. With M taking part in our services, his parents were free to spend time with their other six children together and alone time to recover. This is particularly important to help with M’s dad’s recovery from cancer. It really is taken for granted to be able to spend time together as whole family and the effect on young carers such as M’s siblings is quite severe. We are able to help with this problem. We only wish more could be done.
Carers will be involved in their child’s progress and will have built good relationships and work collaboratively with staff in order for us to provide the best possible outcomes for the children. Carers will feel comfortable and happy leaving their young people in our care.
We meet and speak to parents/carers daily. We involve them in all aspects of their children’s care. With this high level of personal involvement, we are acutely aware of how much they struggle to cope with their daily lives. It can be very emotional to listen to their stories. We prioritise the need of parents/carers to have a life outside of caring. These services offer desperate parents/carers consistent and reliable support. They know that their children are safe and happy. This is often taken for granted by other families with no caring commitments. As the threat of lockdowns seems to be minimal, families feel more confident about their children getting out again. This has meant there has been a very serious increase in the demand for our holiday clubs. It was distressing how many people requested spaces. This only paints a small picture of the battle carers face. The children and young people love to socialise freely once again and this is also true for the parents/carers.
JK is an 8-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with Autism. J was referred to us under emergency circumstances. His mother suffered from cancer at the time of referral and has since passed away. J attends of after school service and holiday clubs. He was only introduced into our services this year. J’s dad was desperate for a service where his son could go. J is a very happy, mischievous boy – he has limited verbal skills but he is always ready to make his needs known. Due to J’s mum’s medical needs – J’s family needed all the support they could get when he was referred. J’s mum tragically passed away just before the Summer holidays. As it would be expected, the family are grieving. J lives with his two sisters so with J being able to attend our services gave the dad some quality time to grieve with his daughters without the pressure of his caring role. It was a very tough time for the family. Despite the heartbreaking story, J maintains his happy nature and enjoyment when he comes to us and is always happy to take part in the activity of the day.
All children will have had the opportunity to be involved in a range of activities giving them the opportunity to express themselves and make choices. Children will feel a sense of security and will have formed positive relationships and friendships in an environment where they feel part of a family
During the clubs, parents/carers are able to spend time with their other children in an environment that does not have to cater to the needs of their child with complex needs. With the disabled children in our care, they were always happy and excited upon arrival. The holiday clubs afforded the opportunity to parents/carers spend time to listen to the needs of their other children, family members, work and social opportunities. Within their family units, they are able to respond directly to these needs and discuss as a family how they can perhaps introduce changes in their day-to-day lives. Small changes arising from these discussions often make huge differences to all. This is why these services are so important. In terms of duration, our services might not seem as impactful as “respite”. However, we can provide services far more consistently throughout the year, particularly during the school holidays. It helps maintain stable routine for all.
GT is a 10-year-old girl who has only been attending Buddies for the past few months. G has Autism and needs 1:1 support at all times and is a wheelchair user. G lives at home with her parents and older brother. G is non-verbal and uses Makaton PECS and Board Maker to communicate her needs. G has also no danger awareness at all which has to be considered in order to facilitate her services. G began with Buddies in attending our new Morning Sunday Club. G was anxious at first and was very emotional as she was not used to going out at weekends and her parents find it challenging to get her to socialise at all. Despite this, G has been attending our Sunday Club regularly and her parents felt it was the right time to try her during our holiday club sessions. G was able to attend, most recently, our trip to Blair Drummond Safari Park during our October Holiday Club. G had a great time on the trip and this gave us an opportunity to enable G to be exposed to a larger group setting and more used to being with her peers outside of a school environment. She has come on leaps and bounds since being with us. Her parents are delighted at her progress. The next challenge is to get her used to being around male staff members as she currently is more responsive to female workers.