Midlothian Young Carers
A story by Children1st Midlothian
Children 1st Midlothian Young Carers ran groups for Young Carers, provided individual support, delivered a summer activities programme and took Young Carers on a residential.
This provided respite from their usual caring duties and allowed them to take part in activities which were fun, developed their confidence, self esteem and social skills and built resilience.
What Midlothian Young Carers did
Young Carers Groups, we delivered 6 groups to Young Carers aged between 7-16. These groups were for 2 hours every week for a period of 12 weeks. In addition to this the Young Carers had between 3-5 one to one sessions with a worker to prepare them for the group and find out about their needs. The group programme was a mix of in house activities and outings, for example, games, baking, bringing in speakers on subjects like confidence building, mental health, drug misuse, the world of work, swimming, roller skating, eating out, going to the cinema.
Summer programme, we ran a summer programme offering 12 days of fun to our Young Carers, each day catering for between 8-16 young people plus a family day at the beach. They experienced tubing, the cinema, East Links family farm days, beach days (carers only) , Messy Play days and the Five sisters Zoo.
Residential, we took 12 Young Carers on a three day residential to a Scout Activity Camp in Fife, for some of the group it was their first time away from home and for many of them it was the first time they had tried some of the activities on offer. The activities included. bungee trampolining, archery, adventure challenge course, grass sledging, skittle alley, BMX trial, and crienteering. All of the activities were primarily staffed by experienced Support Workers and Sessional Workers within Children 1st and we also used experienced play workers for the messy play sessions.
I was going to CAMHS, I worked with Emma, she was helping me as I have some difficulties with my social skills and in social situations, sometimes I just wont speak.
Emma was visiting at my house one day when I was helping mum put on a pair of socks. My mum hurt her back sometime ago. She says this stops her from having a job or doing certain things, that’s why I have to help out around the house too and putting away the shopping is my favourite job.
Emma suggested to me and mum that she could refer me to Midlothian Young Carers Service with Children 1st. They have a group every week and she said this would help me to join in with some activities, meet new people and have a good time…I wasn’t convinced. I struggle with change. Emma said it would be good for me to spend some time with other children without mum…I still wasn’t convinced.
Sometime later a lady from Children 1st got in touch and came to visit me and mum at home. I didn’t feel like talking that day so didn’t speak to her, but mum did, she said ‘I’ll be surprised if Alfie comes as he is shy and doesn’t settle well in a group but we'll give it a try’.
The lady came to my school every Tuesday for about 6 weeks, we filled in a booklet called ‘Getting to Know You’ then after we would play a game, my favourite game was Jenga.
The time came in April when the group would be starting, the lady got in touch with Mum again and asked if I would like to come to see the place where the group would be held. I didn’t want to go without Mum so the lady said it would be okay for Mum to come along too. I liked the space where the groups would be held, there was a pool table and a cupboard full of games, I just didn’t want to go without mum.
The first group started, it was on a Friday afternoon, when the lady turned up to pick me up I really didn’t want to go in her car so mum said she would run me down this time she said ‘the first times always the worst’. That first day we did some stuff about getting to know each other, we did ‘group rules’ and the snacks were good. I really had fun and there were another two boys in the group too, 8 of us in total so not too big. I had fun that day and never looked back.
Over those 12 weeks we did loads of stuff. I made some new friends, ‘we went everywhere’ with the group and did stuff I’ve never done before like tubing at Hillend. I even joined in the Summer Programme, we did loads of stuff like watching sea lions jump and swim at Blairdrummond and a trip to Eastlinks Family Farm was amazing when we saw loads of animals including a ‘Shig’ (that’s half sheep half pig) we took a train ride and got soaked in the water feature. I got on really well with most of the kids and liked the ‘cool’ stuff we did.
When the staff offered me the chance to go on a holidayl my mum said ‘we’ll see’ I don’t think she thought I would go and wasn’t sure if I could cope. Actually, I really did, and I had a great time. We went to Fordell Firs over the Forth Road Bridge. This was a bigger group, 12 of us in total. The first day I struggled and didn’t really want to join in but after I got used to things it was great.
Staff from the group contacted Mum sometime later and asked if attending the group had helped me. She said ‘it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for Alfie’, ‘it’s given him so much more confidence and he’s more willing to try new things now’.
I felt alone, unloved and unwanted at times. I worry about lots of things and sometimes self harm. I had lots of questions no one would or could answer. Sometimes I see my Mum if she is sober, but most of the time she lets me down. I love my Mum but I hate what she does to me.
I was referred to Midlothian Young Carers by a family Support Worker who was helping my Dad. My Dad was struggling to cope with the changes in our lives. He was now a single Dad looking after my sister and me, he gave his job up to care for us, also my Dad could not accept what was happening with my Mum. I rebelled against him thinking he did not care for me.
At first I did not want to work with Children 1st, I didn’t want anyone to know what my Mum was like or what was happening to me. My worker encouraged me to open up about my feelings and continued to meet me regularly. Eventually I was able to talk to her about how I was feeling. She made no judgement, listened and although at times I didn’t agree with her, I always felt better when I was with her. We built up a good relationship and I looked forward to seeing her and knew that if I needed to speak about anything I could call her.
I agreed to go along to the Young Carers Group and meet up with other young people like myself who were affected by someone in their family who had issues with drugs or alcohol or sometimes disability. My confidence grew each week and I began to take part in discussions and share my feelings with the other young people in the group. It was good to know I was not alone.
Young Carers was good fun, I was able to try new things and forget about worries at home for a few hours. The group met every 2 weeks. I made new friends and one of my best friends. Some weeks the group had a visit from different people that could support me in the future. Speakers from MYPAS, Y2K, Skills Development Scotland, Community Police and other places. I found this interesting and useful.
During the summer holidays I attended the summer programme which was most days. We had lots of fun and team building activities on days out to different places. I went rock climbing, canoeing, tubing, swimming, orienteering, bowling, beach BBQ,trip to the theatre, visited museums and places of local interest that I would otherwise never have seen.
Things are still not great with my mum and I don’t see her a lot but because of my Children 1st worker I now have a better understanding of why she behaves the way she does and I know that it's not my fault.
For the first while my worker picked me up from school and we went to the office. We did a workbook about me and played games. She was silly with me and we had lots of fun. It made me feel much better about starting the groups. I was still a bit worried about it because I didn’t know anyone else going. My worker also helped me realise why I am a young carer, because my mum struggles with being really sad sometimes, and my baby sister has to go to hospital a lot because she is quite poorly.
When the groups started I got to meet the other people in the group. They were all very different but they seemed nice. I got on really well with 2 other boys from the beginning. They’ve become my friends now. We got to do fun stuff like baking, making things, and going places like trampolining and nature walks at the park. I was sad when the groups ended because I really enjoyed going and seeing everyone each week. It also gave me time away from home because sometimes it’s really hard there and I get upset and angry. The only bit that made it better was that we got to do more things over the summer.
I really enjoyed the things we did in the summer. My favourite was Scottish Young Carers Festival and messy play. My absolute favourite was the holiday. I was a bit worried because my baby sister was in hospital when we were away, but the workers helped me stay in touch with mum so I felt better. I really liked the cabin we stayed in and all the stuff we could do. I loved the BMX challenge the best, but everything was fun. I managed to do a flip on the bungee trampoline and was so proud. The worst bit was having to go home, I really wanted to stay for longer.
My worker met with me one last time in school. We talked about how I had felt about the group. I told her how I had made new friends which I really liked. Also that I do feel more confident now, and a bit more able to talk to people when I’m finding things tricky. I asked her if I could come to another group because that would be amazing!
What Children1st Midlothian has learnedWe have been able to identify and provide a service to 71 Young Carers in Midlothian. We know from the large number of referrals that we get,and our waiting list, that it is a highly sought after service. This is perhaps unsurprising given that it is likely there are anywhere upwards of 1500 Young carers in Midlothian.
Our 12 week groups have been very successful but the one thing that the Young Carers keep telling us is that they want more! Even the ones who have accessed the summer programme and the residential!
We have also proposed to change our delivery model of MYC going forward to include 1:1 work as well as family support in recognition of the complexity of the families we work with and their needs.