Inverclyde Family Support Team - FFAB Services
A story by Barnardos - Inverclyde Family Support Team
Inverclyde Family Support Team delivered Fun Friday’s and Activity Breaks for children and young people with disabilities. Fun Friday’s provided teenagers with a monthly Friday night group and the Activity Breaks service provided 8 school holiday sessions to children 12 and under while their families had some time to themselves.
What Inverclyde Family Support Team - FFAB Services did
A referral form was distributed to the Carer’s Centre, ASN school and social work team and Skylark Hospital services. We received 52 referrals and all were offered a place, out of the 52 only 3 families choose not to use the place offered. Fifteen volunteers worked at the sessions. Staff ratios were higher than anticipated due to medical and support needs. Increased staffing also supported some young people to participate in the sessions. Children/young people had care plans completed by staff ensuring that we met all support needs including sensory or physical needs and taking into account personal interests/social skills.
Fun Friday’s Monthly Group met from 5-9 pm with sports/games for the first hour, then back to the base where everyone enjoyed eating together before activities, games or just relaxing together. Activity Breaks (Easter, summer, October school holidays) provided 8 x 3 hour sessions. Where children were unable to manage a group session for example due to sensory issues, then they were provided with 1:1 or 2:1 staffing for a calmer/quieter session.
Activities and outings, chosen by the children/young people included; drama workshops, karaoke night with photo booth, sports/games sessions, art workshop, “Freezing” party/songs and a visit from Elsa from the film frozen, Health and Wellbeing evening, soft play, free play, " time out” in sensory room and meals out.
Parents/carers told us that the break made a difference and let them do practical things including attending appointments, DIY, shopping; or leisure activities such as eating out, walking, reading, going to gym. Carers also said they spent time with siblings/other family members.
Kay was referred to Fun Fridays in June 2015 and first attended the group in August 2015. Kay was extremely shy and at her first group appeared very nervous. She would not take her coat off or speak to anyone and didn’t want to take part in any of the activities, despite encouragement from staff and some of the young people. However over time things began to change for Kay and she started to develop friendships and as such her confidence started to grow.
Although Kay is still shy a quiet young woman she is now able to initiate and maintain conversations and relationships with both staff members and other young people from the Fun Friday’s Group. She takes part in all activities offered by the group and has sung karaoke at an 80’s party and our recent ending celebration party. Doing this has been a significant milestone for Kay and she has told us that she is “proud” of herself. Fun Fridays has made Kay more socially included within her local community, has enabled her to form new friendships out with school, and has contributed to the development of her confidence and self-esteem.
As part of gathering feedback from the young people Kay agreed to meet up with a staff member to talk about Fun Fridays.
Kay told us how she felt before she began to attend Fun Fridays and said that she felt very shy and didn’t like talking to people. She explained that she “only spoke with her friends once, maybe twice a day at school.” When asked why she didn’t like to talk Kay explained that when she is trying to talk all she can hear is everyone else’s conversations around her and that this then puts her off speaking. However since coming along to Fun Friday she said that she now “talks to her friends loads” and this has made her feel happier.
Kay also told us that she was very “nervous and scared” when she started the Fun Friday group, and that she “didn’t really want to talk to anyone”. However she now “loved Fun Fridays” and is “happy she has lots of new friends”, and that she finds it “easier to talk now”. Kay said that her favourite bit about the group had been when she was “singing in front of everyone, I never thought I could do anything like that….and that she was proud of herself”.
Kay’s parents also talked to us and said that initially they were unsure about Fun Fridays, and whether the group was the right fit for her. However they now believe that Fun Fridays has been of great benefit to Kay and they have been able to see her forming friendships within the group. Kay’s has given her parents positive feedback each time she has attended and they stated that she particularly enjoyed the arts sessions.
Staff observations of Kay has identified that she has made excellent progress since beginning to attend Fun Fridays. She has developed a number of skills at the group including, team working, effective communication and confidence. Additionally she ensures that all of her peers are included and has the ability to identify where someone may need further support in a task and is more than happy to provide this. Kay has shown an exceptional ability to nurture and support her peers whilst maintaining equality and individuality within the group.
Daisy (5 years) has Autism and requires 1:1 supervision at all times. She is very energetic and constantly requires attention. Daisy’s mum was in a great deal of pain, constantly tired and was struggling to even walk so she didn’t know how she would be able to cope with her daughter over the school holiday’s. Her husband Daisy’s dad had to be at work and she had no other supports. All Daisy’s mum wanted was for her to be able to play, spend time with other children and to provide some routine over the holidays.
The Project Worker dealing with this call assessed there was a need for support immediately and discussed this with the staff member responsible for the FFAB services. It was clear that Daisy not only met the criteria for accessing the Activity Breaks Service, but as the service has just begun it was assessed that the Better Breaks Activity Breaks service was perfect for her. Given the family circumstances Daisy was given an emergency place on the programme and the family were delighted about this. The Activity Breaks Service worked very well for Daisy and she was able to build peer relationships, have fun and join in with the other children.
Providing this service also meant that Daisy’s mum felt less guilty about not being able to do things with her daughter over the holidays. It also meant that Daisy’s mum was able to take her medication, which she refused to take while Daisy was in the house, as it made her drowsy. In short this break supported Daisy’s mum by giving her some much needed time to support her recovery.
Ethan has very little support and there are no other immediate family members to help other than Ethan’s dad who works very long hours. This means that most of Ethan’s interactions are limited to his mum, and people within school. Previously Ethan had been given the opportunity to attend our Creative Arts Group however the majority of children attending were younger, and although Ethan viewed himself as a helper at the group, there was no natural peer group for him.
This affected his attendance and as such proved not to be the correct service for him. Prior to attending Fun Friday’s Ethan became quite anxious and nervous about attending the sessions. He told staff that he felt “very nervous” about the new group and that he did not want to attend as he felt “scared”. Staff then spent some time with Ethan trying to re assure him and to support him by going over a plan that would help him come along and join in the group. Despite Ethan’s worries and his own personal barrier that he had constructed everyone knew that he would enjoy the group if we could just get him there as there would be lots of fun things to do, and a new exciting cool thing to do with people his age.
As part of trying to encourage Ethan to attend the Fun Friday sessions his project worker arranged a meeting so that he could come in and talk to us about some idea’s he had about the group, and things he would like to do as part of the group. We felt that if Ethan was part of the initial planning stage this would help ease some of his anxiety about joining the group. As the first Fun Friday session crept nearer Ethan still appeared to be a bit reluctant and worried.
However to help him with this he was given the opportunity to call the service and talk through what was worrying him. However he did not need this and he managed to come along on the first night of the group quite willingly. Although initially quite nervous and reserved Ethan began to come out of his shell a bit, particularly during the warm up games with Sports for All. What also helped was that Ethan also had the company of two very close friends from school and this helped him to relax. Over the course of the next few sessions Ethan continued to show increasing confidence within the group and has continued to show positive progress with support and encouragement. Ethan now no longer needs a 1:1 staffing ratio and works well within a group setting.
Throughout the sessions Ethan has interacted freely with the majority of his peers who attend the group and he has made lots of new friends. His confidence in taking part has also developed and from the shy reticent teenager who needed a lot of reassurance to come in the door, he has been a star attraction singing to the group his own rendition of ‘Defying Gravity’, a medley of 80’s music and a brilliant rendition of “Sweet Caroline” at the end of year celebration.
Ethan enjoyed the group that much that he spent his birthday with us as one of the sessions fell the day of his birthday. At the time he said that he “wouldn’t miss it for the world” and that it would be “fun”. Ethan attended every session and has given us nothing but positive feedback. He has also told the staff that he wishes the group was “every Friday”
The Fun Friday group has allowed Ethan to interact with a variety of young people of his own age with support and guidance, allowing him to participate at a pace that he feels most comfortable with.
Tara was very excited about attending Fun Fridays and her mum was keen for her to attend as it would provide her with the opportunity to take part in different activities within the community, and to be with other young people of a similar age. Tara has attended Fun Fridays consistently since August 2015 and has built up positive relationships with the staff and other young people at the group by taking part in different activities such as, sports games, arts and crafts, going out for food. The highlight for Tara was attending the pantomime at Christmas time, where the audience sang Happy Birthday to her which made her very excited.
Tara has appeared to enjoy all aspects of Fun Fridays and has demonstrated a passion for arts and crafts and sports. Tara appears to love going to Fun Friday’s and is excited each time she is attending. She is very sociable and the group has been beneficial for Tara as it has provided her with an opportunity to take part in activities with other young people of a similar age. She is very sociable and interacts well with her peers, taking part in all activities provided.
Tara mum, SJ advised that Tara really enjoys taking part and spending time with all the other young people at the group. SJ added that Tara doesn’t normally get the opportunity to socialise and take part in activities with other young people. Tara was in the town at Christmas time and met a member of staff from Fun Fridays, and mum advised that she got really excited about it.
When Inverclyde Family Support Team began planning the Better Breaks Service it became obvious that the school holiday session format matched this referral request. This referral was forwarded to the Better Breaks referral process due to the significant and complex support needs within the family and Harvey and Simone’s Mum was delighted to have her children involved in this service. The assessment process was thorough to ensure that all mobility, communication and transportation issues were given due consideration, and Harvey and Simone were matched to two staff members. Time was built in prior to the first Activity Breaks sessions beginning in order for staff to get to know the children and their care and support needs.
Harvey and Simone attended all of the Activity Breaks sessions offered to them and the feedback from the family and the staff team involved has been very positive. Laurie told our staff members that she had never known Harvey to be so enthusiastic about a group before; and also said that following the first sport’s event he did not want his t-shirt washed because of all of his winner’s stickers. Laurie also said that she particularly appreciated the fact that Simone’s interest in the movie “Frozen” was taken account of and developed into a drama session facilitated by a drama specialist.
Harvey’s ability with the Paralympic sport Boccia was also noticed during the sports session by the sport coaches from Active Schools and as a result of this there have some further discussions with Laurie in relation to him taking this sport forward as a regular activity. In addition to this Harvey’s demonstrated a real ability and interest in drama and as such a referral was made for a place in Inverclyde Family Support Team’s Creative Arts Group.
What Barnardos - Inverclyde Family Support Team has learned1. Community Partnerships/connection
There was positive partnership working with Active Schools Sports coaches, West College Scotland, Beacon Arts Centre and local companies that provided art and drama services. These services not only supported the children and young people at the FFAB groups to build skills, long term resilience and the ability to access community resources independently. But the partnerships also allowed staff to negotiate reduced costs, or free access to these resources and as such allowed the grant to maximise value for money.
2. Consistency in staff /volunteers
The consistency in staff and volunteers contributed toward children and young people developing good attachments to staff and volunteers allowing them to be supported in trying new activities/ experiences.
This consistency also has helped parents/carers who are able to meet and get to know the staff their children were being supported by. This also helped to build positive trusting relationships with parents and carers and feedback highlighted how this helped them to take the full benefit of the break knowing there child is cared for, safe and happy with people they are comfortable with.
3. Personalised service
Each child/young person who accessed the FFAB service had a full care plan carried out over a three week period and this gave the staff an opportunity to spend time with them in order to gain their views and what they were interested in. This process also allowed parents/carers to highlight any behavioural/sensory issues so that we could plan ahead to ensure children and young people’s needs were fully meet. The information gained from the care plans helped the staff to ensure that all children and young people could participate fully in all aspects of the service. Examples of this was preparing for the health and wellbeing evening, we ensured the hairstylist did not bring hair mousse as one young person had a phobia of this.; and another child had a fear of balloons so staff ensured no balloons were to be used at any of the workshops. Working in this personalised way allowed us to plan to meet all presenting needs and break down barriers to inclusion.
4. Unexpected benefits
Two families reported back to us that they had noticed that their daughter’s had become less “aggressive” and there has been a reduction in lashing out at their siblings/ other family members. One mum stated that “this time last year I did not know if my family would stay together” and that because of the “reduction in violence within the family home there is an overall feeling of less stress” within the family.
One young person has said that they now talk to their friends more at school and feel happier in school.
Due to the partnership with Active Schools the service had access to a wide range of specialist sports equipment. One example of how this promoted inclusion was when playing basketball there was a moveable hoop to allow wheelchair users to feel the sense of achievement when they scored goals.
All young people attending the Fun Friday’s over the last year have demonstrated clear attachments across everyone in the groups. This resulted in the group building a real sense of community where everyone came together and supported each other. Providing support is a skill in itself, and the young people attending Fun Friday’s are used to being supported, however through the attachments made many of the young people chose to take on a supportive caring role for their peers. Examples of this include one young person taking on the role of pushing a wheelchair for another young person during the sports sessions; praising 2 group members, who had been given places in the Paralympics next year, by a round of applause and high 5’s; demonstrating care and positive responses toward a young person who cannot physically or verbally approach others. Over time the young people were able to understand the non- verbal cues and as such included the young person in all activities.