Holiday Clubs for Glasgow Children
A story by Buddies Clubs and Services
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 did
Our organisation runs a number of services for families affected by disability. Our school holiday project caters 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 except school 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 pandemic forced us to change our provision. We were unable to run our Easter Holiday Club as this was scheduled the week after the first lockdown began. Following government guidance and advice, we were able to run our Summer/October Holiday Clubs. We moved the whole programme to our premises. We repurposed our nursery for the children’s holiday club, promoted physical distancing, and maximised the use of our outdoor spaces/local parks and our minibus was able to take small groups out locally. We also capped the number of children and shortened the contact hours to promote stricter cleaning. The Summer Club was our first “full” service post lockdown and it was very successful. In liaison with Shared Care Scotland, the Summer Club gained media attention. We received very emotional feedback. One family said that it “saved their lives”.
Our project allows some parents to work and spend time with their other children. Many of the children who we support are unable to comprehend why their lives were turned upside down. Many are isolated and withdrawn at the best of times. Anxiety was/is at an all-time high.
The objective when planning any project is to preplan/research and anticipate the needs of all. 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 has learned
As with previous years the little support there is available to families with children affected by disability particularly within Glasgow continues to dwindle. This is particularly worrisome due to COVID-19 and its effects. Despite the lockdown and the public health emergency, we continued to receive requests for places for our service. Obviously, our families had absolutely nothing and were completely isolated at home between April and July 2020. One of the most common 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. This is still important to bear in mind but our families were exceptionally received to hear that we were going to run our Summer Club.
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. Local Carers’ Centres refer a great number of children who have no support at all, and whilst social work rarely fund children, we get many referrals for all age groups. 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. Many families now self-refer as very few have ongoing social work input. 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 marked 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 do try to accommodate some siblings as they are 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 have been extremely fortunate to have been funded by the Better Breaks programme for many years but finding funding for children particularly in Glasgow is extremely difficult. This was more important than ever in 2020. The Better Breaks Fund helped 20 families have a chance to have a bit of “normality” and have fun with their friends. 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 very extreme cases and this shows no signs of changing either.
This is particularly worrying for the very near future. The Integrated Grant Fund has closed and although we were unsuccessful in our application to the new Glasgow Communities Fund, we received a reduced grant from the new Transitional Support Fund thanks to a wonderful campaign led by our families. 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 has benefitted from the funding
Our organisation has been extremely fortunate to have received funding from the Better Breaks Fund for many years. It has helped us bring a service to children and families who would otherwise get no support whatsoever. Our holiday clubs have run since 1995 and we learn something new each and every time. Without the funding in recent years, we would not have gained the skills, expertise and knowledge to level to the same extent that 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 languishing 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 40-50 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. Through Shared Care Scotland, we took part in a Senior Managers’ Network where we have had the chance to meet other organisations throughout Scotland. 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. While we still have massive difficulty in finding on floor staff thanks to the funding we have received from the Better Breaks programme and C.I.N our reputation has grown as an excellent service provider. This is backed up by our Care Inspectorate report and we have managed to find funding for our senior staff team. This team is the key to a strong and enthusiastic organisation. The Scottish Government has funded an attainment post for the nursey, which also helps other services. The Gannochy trust has also provided part funding for 3 years for our senior support worker. 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 are very hopeful for the future and will continue to fight to provide a first-class service to our families and help them thrive in their lives. We were given a much-needed boost in March 2020, three days before the first lockdown, that we were successful in gaining occupancy of new premises, which will enable us to expand and grow. We are very excited by the opportunities that having this new centre will provide for us.
20 Glasgow children 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 make new friends supporting our inclusive ethos with a strong climate of respect.
All children involved have the opportunity to take part in activities and new 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. Some 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. This was challenging this year as we had to plan building based activities for 24 full days over the Summer for separate groups whilst bearing in mind each individual child’s needs. The staff rose to the occasion magnificently. The only sad thing from our point of view is that we were unable to invite new children to participate, as the risk of introducing new faces was too high at the time.
CV is a 17-year-old young woman. C has Down’s syndrome and mild to moderate hearing difficulties. She lives at home with her mother, father and brother. She currently attends Buddies’ after school twice per week and our holiday clubs. C is a very independent, sociable and happy young woman who enjoys spending her time being active and with her friends. She has competed in athletics and gymnastics competitions and she thrives on attention and being in the spotlight. She is a performer at heart and loves to show off her singing skills. She is very intelligent but needs a lot of dedicated attention to blossom. She is not shy to communicate her feelings and her likes and dislikes. She likes to travel and see different places and loves to tell us her stories about where she has been. Being locked-down with no access to social opportunities and school life has been extremely detrimental to C’s development as she is just beginning to enter adulthood and finding herself ready to make choices about life outside of school. She has volunteered (pre-COVID) in our nursery to help give her a small taste of a “working” environment. However, all of the things that she would normally do – clubs, holidays etc were all closed. She needs to continue to have all these opportunities to give her the best chance at life. Buddies 2020 Summer Holiday Club was the first time C was able to get out of the house since March 2020, see her friends, and spend some time doing things that she likes to do – mostly outside as she likes being active and singing and dancing. C was very happy to take part in all activities that were planned by our staff but was mostly just so excited to see the staff who she is very close with and her peers and spend time on her own outside of the house. It was lovely to see her so happy and helped give her something to look forward to during a difficult period where there was very little to do.
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 satisfy the needs of their child with complex needs. Immediately things become relaxed because stress levels are lowered. This gives the opportunity to spend time to really 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. The additional benefit this year of the holiday clubs is that having the children attend allowed for a more productive WFH environment for families. Parents/carers found that working from home whilst the children are present is extraordinarily stressful when their children are “mainstream” – we have found it was much worse for parents of children with disabilities.
BH is a 16-year-old young man who suffers from Brain Damage, West Syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon and lives with Down’s syndrome and Asthma. B requires 1:1 support at all times. B is very independent but needs constant supervision as he is prone to running at no notice, struggles with his balance and has no sense of danger. B lives at home with his mother, father, two sisters and his younger brother. B has very limited communication skills and is reliant on Makaton and staff who are familiar with his needs. Very recently, his father has also been suffering with serious health conditions, which made life much more difficult to navigate in the middle of the pandemic. Both B and his dad had to shield for the initial period. Thankfully, with medical approval B was allowed to attend our holiday club in the Summer last year. Despite the challenges that last year presented to B’s family we were able to care for B twice a week during the Summer. B was able to come to a place where he is happy and take part in things that he likes to do. His family were enormously relieved for the support as dad was able to take some time to rest and recuperate whilst facing his own health challenges and spend time together with his wife and three other children together. This helped them all physically and mentally decompress and helped their wellbeing. The whole family need this consistent and reliable to support in order to get through the year in “normal” times and even more so in 2020.
The 40+ 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 meet friends, go out together or with other siblings. They will be able to take part in daily activities like shopping,
Being able to offer children holiday club sessions meant all of the parents/carers could safely plan their lives outside of their caring roles. 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 40 parents/carers/siblings had an opportunity for respite with the cared-for children 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 a massive benefit to mental health. This also helped maintain very strained family relationships. Mental/physical health severely deteriorates for all who are stuck inside for any length of time. This is worse for parents/carers because the little help they had in place to maintain stability in their lives was completely taken away. We were able to step up when they needed help more than ever.
S.E is a 9-year-old boy and has Autism & complex sensory needs. S lives with his mum, dad and younger brother. The family also have a pet dog. S normally attends afterschool twice weekly and holiday clubs S can be an exceptionally affectionate and playful young man although this is dependent on his mood, which can change instantly. S enjoys outside play, relaxation time and parks. S will always play with regular things during afterschool, which ranges from the ball pit, beanbags, DVD cases, and our outdoor tyres. During our holiday clubs, S had the opportunity to take part in trips on the bus. He has visited and played at a number of parks and beaches during this time. If S had not taken part, he would have missed having fun at his club when there was absolutely nothing else was running anywhere. It also provides a degree of routine and normality for S, which was missing during lockdown. This also offered opportunities for exercise for S as he enjoyed walks on the beach during one of the trips as well as the fun of general play and being around other people again. S life improves by taking part in holiday clubs as it gives him access to a routine, which is fundamental for his wellbeing and development. S gets this routine with school and during holidays with Buddies. This can fall apart without the holiday clubs with disastrous consequences for his family. Most time for the family is focused on S due to his needs. Due to Buddies being able to run our holiday clubs we enabled a small chance for valuable respite for his family to spend time together without having to worry about S and to allow his mum and dad some time to themselves and offer their other child some care and attention that is so desperately needed.
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 on a daily basis. We involve them in all aspects of their children’s care. With this strong personal involvement, we are very aware of their daily struggle to cope. It can be very emotional and draining. We take into consideration the need of parents/carers to have a life outside of caring. The clubs offer them consistent and reliable support. They know that their children are safe and happy and carers can relax. This is often taken for granted by other families with no extreme caring commitments. Even though the pandemic was a major concern we had the same level of demand for spaces as we would normally have had. This gives you a glimpse into the mindset of our parents/carers. The risk posed by the pandemic was less concerning than the effect of a full Summer in complete isolation. We saw how happy the children were to see their staff and their friends again. The feedback we received showed how important these clubs were to health/wellbeing of all.
K.F is 12-year-old young woman who has Global learning difficulties, cortical visual impairment, dorsal stream dysfunction, and epilepsy. K’s needs are very multi-faceted and she requires a solid routine and support system in order to help meet her outcomes. K lives with her mum and dad, two sisters and a dog. As with most of our young people, the whole family’s life has to work around K’s needs. K normally attends our afterschool, Sunday club and holiday clubs. K can generally be affectionate, friendly and at times can be very relaxed. This, however, is wholly dependent on the kind of day she has had prior to coming to us. K loves listening to music, being assisted to play guitar and time on her iPad or smartboard. During our holiday clubs, K had the opportunity to take part in trips on the bus to parks as well as local walks to parks as well as many in-house activities led by our staff team. K gets fun out of Buddies. Buddies was the only club, pre-lockdown, which she has come to regularly where she finds reliable and consistent support. It also gives K routine and if she would not take part K would be completed isolated at home and the entire family struggle as it is already. This was completely made worse by the lockdown as K could not even go outside, as she has no garden of safe outdoor space she could access. Due to the holiday clubs, K had access to a peer group, going on trips in the local community are vital parts of K’s social development and how she copes with her day-to-day life. Taking part in holiday club keeps K calm, focused on activities, and gives her routine. This helps the family greatly as she is in our care for 2 full days per week during the school holidays. This provides the whole family a break from their caring duties and the opportunity to rest, recharge, take part in other social activities and mentally disengage from their role as a “carer”. It is also provides the family with some reassurance as they know and trust the staff to look after K’s needs and encourage her as much as possible.