Holiday Clubs for Glasgow Children aged 5-20
A story by Buddies Clubs and Services (Glasgow West) Limited
We provided places for 20 children 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, with our experienced and well-trained staff.
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 very high and 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.
The ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic forced us to run an adapted version of our holiday clubs in 2021. We were unable to run our Easter Holiday Club after the stay at home order was relaxed on April 2nd. This was based from our building with local trips with small groups included. In the Summer, we were able to be more “adventurous”. We had the use of two local authority provided buses and our own minibus every day. We were able to do more trips outdoors and further afield. Our October Holiday Club was more like “normal” with a full timetable of trips and outings each day. Between the Summer and October Holiday Clubs we visited places such as cinemas, bowling, minigolf, Clyde Valley Farm Park, Heads of Ayr, Blair Drummond Safari Park, M&Ds, pumpkin picking and were even able to organise two swimming trips.
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 19 months and the holiday clubs have helped tremendously in their recovery. Many are isolated and withdrawn at the best of times. Anxiety still is at extreme levels.
The objective when planning any project is to preplan/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) Limited 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 a very serious concern now as we are slowly exiting the pandemic and begin to realise the devastating effects the lockdowns have had on all. We had more requests for places than ever before, in particular for our Summer Holiday Club. The families who use our services already had absolutely nothing and were completely isolated at home for well over a year. 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 are beginning to feel more confident again about their young people socialising in community settings again and realising that this is something they cannot afford to lose 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 a continually growing waiting list. Many families now self-refer as very few have ongoing social work input. We have also recently discovered that social work have 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. The volume of applications 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 community 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 were unsuccessful in our application to the new Glasgow Communities Fund, which we needed to support vulnerable families. We received a reduced grant from the new Transitional Support Fund thanks to a wonderful campaign led by our families but this is serious cut on our previous Integrated Grant fund level. Social care budgets are continually getting stricter too.
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) Limited 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. By receiving the funding we have brought over 50 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 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. The Robertson Trust has granted us, again, three years part funding towards the salary of our Services Manager. The Gannochy Trust has also again provided part funding for 3 years for our senior support workers. We are also awaiting the result of our application to BBC Children in Need. 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. The blow we received by being turned down by the Glasgow Communities Fund was quite severe. It damages our reputation and shows the attitude shown by the local authority towards people with disabilities. Despite this, 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 faced a bigger kind of challenge this year. We had to plan building based activities for separate groups whilst as a backup just in case the COVID-19 restriction levels meant we could not follow through on our Plan A. Fortunately this did not happen as it was imperative for the wellbeing of our young people that they had the opportunity to socialise in community settings again.
BKP is a 6-year-old young girl. B has Asperger’s syndrome. She lives at home with her mother, father and brother. B became known to us from a very young age as she attended our nursery. Our highly trained nursery staff were able to identify that B needed additional support from an early age and this helped speed up B’s diagnostic process. B attends Buddies’ after school twice per week and our holiday clubs. B is a very happy and quite girl but once you get to know her she really comes out of her shell. B really enjoys spending her time with her friends and the staff at Buddies. She loves playing in our home corner with her friends and dressing up. B was very isolated at home during the lockdowns and struggled at school at first. Furthermore, her older brother has been attending Buddies for many years also. Dad has moved from job to job also so taking part in social opportunities is difficult for the family because of these factors. B was very happy to take part in all activities that were planned. B was able to go to Clyde Valley Farm Park, Inflatable parks, Blair Drummond Safari Park and trampolining. She really loves taking part in new and fun activities. Because of B being able to attend our services, she is really beginning to thrive making new friends, positive relationships and taking part in activities she has never been able to before.
Parents, carers and siblings whose children, brothers/sisters 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.
Being able to offer children holiday club sessions meant all of the parents/carers could safely plan their lives outside of their caring roles. This was more important than ever in 2021. It was the first real opportunity in over a year that adults could socialise and move freely without breaking restrictions. Knowing that their children who receive support from us means that 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. At least 120 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. 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
MK is a 7-year-old young girl who suffers from RETT syndrome, epilepsy and has no functional use of her hands. She is a wheelchair user, wears splints and needs full support with feeding and personal care. M is a girl who we only introduced into our Sunday Club 2 months ago. In addition, M is unable to communicate verbally. She uses a board maker and PODD. Despite her conditions, M is a very happy girl and loves to be around other people and having fun. This is M’s only service and had been on our waiting list for over a year. M’s parents were struggling to balance work and home life as M has very heavy support needs. However, what bothered M’s parents more is the she had no one to interact with outside of home. They felt guilty and quite helpless. They were overjoyed that a space became available in our Sunday Club and M comes along every Sunday so excited to take part. This helped increase her parents’ confidence with our service and being more adventurous with what they allowed M to do. Understandably, they are very protective of M. Through the Better Breaks fund, we were able to offer M space in our holiday clubs. Mum was very anxious about M attending at first but began to relax after seeing that our staff are more than able to cope and we have great experience supporting disabled individuals in the community. Afterwards, M’s mum came back to us and said what a new experience it was that they did not have to worry about their daughter and were able to relax and do other things with their day. They are really hoping that M can take part again in the holiday clubs again in the future.
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. Even though the pandemic is still a major concern, we had an unprecedented level of demand for spaces. It was quite alarming how many people requested spaces. This only paints a small picture of the battle carers face. The children and young people loved to socialise freely once again and this is true for the parents/carers also. The feedback we received showed how important these clubs were to health/wellbeing of all.
OP & GF who are 13 and 7 year old siblings respectively. O suffers from Di-George Syndrome, associated learning difficulties, anxiety and Coeliac. G has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and has sensory difficulties and anxiety. O has been attending Buddies for a number of years and O was only introduced into our services this year. G’s mum was very anxious about G attending at first but has become more confident as time has passed. They are both lovely children and so enthusiastic to come to Buddies every day that they can. O’s and G’s parents unfortunately separated this year. The parents needed all the support they could get previously to this. However, the separation has placed great strain on the family and mum’s mental health has deteriorated severely. It is a heart-breaking situation for the whole family. The children have so little opportunities outside of the home and to have this further strain placed on them is making it very difficult for all to cope. We were able to offer the family all the sessions they requested for the holiday clubs. This gave the children an escape from their home life and have some fun with their friends and our staff. Just as importantly, it gave mum and dad the opportunity away from the children to deal with the personal issues separately, regroup, and refocus their priorities so they could move forward as best they could. They are currently working on seeking funding so that they children can attend our Sunday Club every week as they need more support than they currently have.
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, stress levels are immediately lowered. This gives the opportunity to parents/carers spend time to listen to the needs of their other children. During this time, they are able to respond directly to these needs by listening to the issues raised then to 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. Parents/carers/siblings are the ones who really feel the benefit of this.
TY is an 8-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with autism. T also is a child who has become known to us through attending our nursery. Our nursery staff identified early on that T needed more support, although this is not immediately noticeable when you meet him. He is a quiet and very lovely natured young man and very happy to play independently. However, he can struggle to cope with his emotions and finding safe ways to express these are difficult for him. His younger sister, C, who is mainstream, was able to attend our holiday clubs this year through our sibling support programme. T and C are lovely children. They are very sociable and love to take part in all activities and try anything once. However, the lockdown was a difficult time for their family, for T in particular. They had no social opportunities and with schools being closed for such a long time, they were stuck at home. The family unit also suffered a hit as their mum and dad separated. This was awful for T and C as they were used to having their mum and dad together all the time. The staff had noticed at first when T was attending Buddies again that he was more withdrawn than usual. He missed having his dad at home. He also was struggling with bullies at school. Despite this, he always looks forward to coming to Buddies. He is always so excited when he comes in. In addition, during the holiday clubs he and his sister were so excited every day when they arrived. They really relaxed and you could see the fun in their faces when they took part in their sessions. With both children attending the holiday clubs, this gave their parents a chance to relax themselves as they had a very difficult year also both personally and because of COVID-19. T will continue to attend our services and will continue to grow and develop.