Oban, Lorn and Isles Parent Carers Time for Me
A story by North Argyll Carers Centre
We provided short breaks opportunities for parent carers and their children, in the Oban, Lorn and Isles area. These took the form of fun, group outings for parent carers with their disabled children and other family members, and spa days for parent carers alone to get some ‘me time’.
What Oban, Lorn and Isles Parent Carers Time for Me did
We provided 2 group visits to Blair Drummond Safari park for parent carers, their disabled children and other family members. The first took place in November 2021 and the second took place in March 2022. We prioritised places for families who had registered with us during the pandemic and those who had not previously been on a visit, and then opened the offer up more widely. We were able to offer more places than we had originally anticipated because of discounts we were given by the provider. We found that all families preferred to travel under their own steam rather than using communal transport provided by us. We had expected that some would prefer to do so and a contribution to the families’ fuel costs was included in our budget. No families were prevented from taking part because of this change.
We provided 2 spa days for parent carers, giving them some individual time out, with the whole focus shifted to their own health, wellness and enjoyment. These were held at a spa hotel in Oban which meant that they were more easily accessible for carers from across the area. Again, where needed we factored in being able to assist with transport or travel costs. These were December 2021 and February 2022.
We addressed the Better Breaks priority areas by providing opportunities for active leisure to disabled children with complex needs, many of whom are under 5, and their parents and families. Due to our geographical remote location, there are few amenities in our area for children with more complex needs and the practicalities, costs and parents' awareness of negative perceptions of disability are an additional barrier to access further afield. Our project has been successful in overcoming these barriers, giving carer families and their children the confidence to take time out to have enjoyable time together with the reassurance of the group setting, where responsibility for planning and logistics does not lie with them and the financial costs are supported. As well making happy memories as a family, parent carers have been afforded some much needed time out for themselves, giving them the chance to relax, recuperate and be pampered.
What North Argyll Carers Centre has learned
Project Planning, Budgeting and Unexpected challenges:
Covid brought another dimension to our considerations. When we made our application for this funding we still had no true sense of how long or to what extent the pandemic would affect our lives. We were optimistic that we could meet our objectives and adapted plans using what we had learnt in the first 6 months. Parent carers and their children told us what they would enjoy and their choices reflected what felt safe for them and those they care for at those times. This was essential if they were to feel able to participate, and to relax and enjoy their time once there. For the children that was making visits to a place with lots of outdoor space where they could expend their energy and which had lots of interesting things to look at. For their parents it was important their children could socialise in a way that did not provoke too much concern about transmission of Covid and enjoy being children. For the adults the spa days with exclusive use of the facilities for our small groups also gave reassurance that the risks were as well managed as possible and allowed them to have relaxed time out. With renewed lockdowns and continuing restrictions we were concerned early on that we might not meet our commitments, but ultimately we found that we had made the right choices. It was brilliant we were able to make those experiences available, through the funding we received, after such prolonged uncertainty and stress.
An unexpected opportunity was the fact that the safari park gave us generous discounts for carers and also for group bookings. This enabled us to make places available to a greater number of carers and those they care for than we had originally anticipated. We also found that carers were more inclined to use their own vehicles. They advised that this was better not only from a Covid perspective, but also because for many of them, the group travel on a minibus would be too much of a sensory overload for their children. This also reduced our travel costs and allowed for more places on visits. This is something we will take forward in future planning and we will consult them again to ensure this continues to be the case. Previously we had thought that the journey together was part of the adventure.
Targeting Families Most in Need of Support and Partnership Working:
What became apparent during the pandemic was the disproportionate effect Covid had on parent carers. Their challenges were some of the greatest we saw. They had so many additional things to contend with and were already in some of the most challenging caring roles of our caseload. Financial pressures were exacerbated. Caring roles increased due to unavailability of services and they were trying to juggle home schooling and home working. Many children could not understand why they could no longer maintain familiar routines or see friends, and this was very difficult on all concerned. Families who moved to the area just before or during the pandemic found their lives turned upside down. Many had left behind existing support networks. This had not been a problem when travel and contact were not restricted, but with successive lockdowns and ongoing restrictions in force those supports became increasingly difficult to access and establishing new networks was also very hard. We know from feedback that our service was seen as a "light in the darkness" where support could still be found. Our parent carer Facebook group allowed newly registered carers to establish contact with others and when we could bring people together these friendships blossomed. We are very fortunate that we have an excellent partnership with our local social work departments and they continued to make referrals to us throughout, helping us to identify unknown carers and to ensure they were supported.
The support we had from a local hospitality provider, despite their own Covid pressures, was also wonderful. They really took on board the role of the carers and went to great lengths to make them feel really special and appreciated. We will definitely work with them again and this may also be an opportunity to promote the carer-friendly workplace message with their head offices, now that things are becoming more settled, as they seem receptive.
How North Argyll Carers Centre has benefitted from the funding
We made a connection with a local hospitality provider who is keen to support us with delivering activities for carers. We have since used their meeting spaces for group work with other carers and intend to book again with them for our parent carer spa days this year. The contact has raised their awareness of unpaid carers. We would like to build on this through work with their head office, looking at helping them to identify carers in their workforce and finding ways to strengthen their own teams' support as a carer-friendly employer. In our partnership with the HSCP, our access to grant funding outside our contract, to provide non-statutory, preventative support and short breaks opportunities for carers, strengthens our reputation and adds value to our offer. This is advantageous to us in terms of our reputation and future tendering processes. Our Carers Act Implementation Officer has met with parent carers as part of the HSCP's Short Breaks consultation, and has been very impressed by the feedback from them about our project. This may enable us to secure additional funding for a monthly session where parent carers can meet with Health and Social Work professionals to get condition-specific advice and support. It will also help identify gaps and areas for improvement within statutory services, both for carers and for their disabled children.
Carers will feel less stressed and isolated and have improved wellbeing.
The opportunities we were able to deliver allowed us to meet our outcome fully. Carers, their disabled children and their families were able to come together and have fun, exciting times together. Lockdown and Covid restrictions had amplified carers' feelings of isolation so the chance to be physically present in a group and to have fun together were of increased importance. Many parent carers faced additional stresses during lockdowns with reduced external support in their caring roles, home schooling adding a further pressure, and in many cases trying to manage their own 'working from home' commitments. Time dedicated to themselves to unwind was in short supply so the spa days gave a real boost to mental and emotional, as well as physical wellbeing. Carers advised us that the individual support and contact from our Carer Support Worker was also invaluable at a time when so many services were closed or unavailable.
Carer X and his wife Carer Z, care for their autistic son. Carer X also cares for his wife who has a long-term physical condition which has flare-ups and periods of remission and also impacts her mental health. The family took part in one of the visits to Blair Drummond. They told us that this was not something they would otherwise have felt able to undertake. The cost, planning and logistics would have proven too overwhelming. They live in a very remote area with little in the way of amenities and few opportunities to socialise locally. They were a little unsure initially about whether they could take part, but decided to sign up. We were thrilled that they did, as were they. We saw as the day unfolded that they relaxed and were able to join in with the group. Their son loved looking at the animals and had the space outdoors to expend some energy. His siblings got to meet up with friends from our young carer groups and the parents got to enjoy some adult company. Their feedback about the day out was quite moving. "It was so amazing to be able to get out, actually being able to spend time together. It is something we rarely are able to do". "the care and concern for our (and other's) well-being is just...words cannot adequately express our gratitude. It's a relief to know that someone actually has our interests at heart, and that we are not alone."
We will see continued strengthening of friendships, an increased sense of inclusion and carers having recourse to broader networks of support including and peer support, through taking part in family day trips and spa days and availability of individual support from our Carer Support Worker.
We fully met our outcome. As with Outcome 2, parent carers were able to meet up, support one another and take part in activities aimed both at having fun with their families and at providing them with time for themselves. During the family activities they were able to see their children having a great time together, mixing with their peers in a safe and friendly environment. They also benefitted from time in other adults' company, away from the usual routines. There was a degree of shared supervision of the children too and a chance to acknowledge the toll that the last 2 years have taken. The emphasis was on happy family times, and a regaining of the moments of joy together that had been so lacking. In contrast the spa days were explicitly and exclusively about carers. They were the centre of everything; something that is rare for them. They advised us of the joy of having a time when they could relinquish their responsibilities and concentrate solely on their wellbeing and enjoyment.
Parent carer A cares for her son who has a neurodevelopmental disorder. Having moved to the area quite recently, she advised that she has felt quite isolated, and this was exacerbated by Covid. Involvement in carer activities provided by North Argyll Carers Centre has enabled her and her husband to meet other carers in similar circumstances and to develop friendships and a strong supportive network of people who understand and share their challenges. Carer A is very sociable and was very keen to take up the opportunity for a family day out with the wider parent carer group. She has 2 other children, one of whom is a young carer. Due to her own poor health, and her caring responsibilities she is unable to work. A family day out is not something they would be likely to undertake without the carers centre's support as financially it would not really be viable. On her return from the visit. Carer A emailed the Carer Support Worker who led the visit to express what the opportunity had meant for them: "As a family we would like to thank you and your colleagues for giving us the opportunity to have a great family day out. It was fantastic the children truly had a brilliant day as well as us "big kids” we are all very grateful"
Disabled children and their carers will engage in activities which will provide opportunities to socialise, make friends, feel supported, reduce isolation and allow for fun, new experiences, time out and relaxation
As described above this outcome was fully met. We were able to deliver the activities carers and those they care for requested. The feedback we received demonstrated that both had thoroughly enjoyed their days out and they had been able to have the much-missed social contact they so badly wanted and needed.
Parent carer A cares for her son who has a neurodevelopmental disorder. Having moved to the area quite recently, she advised that she has felt quite isolated, and this was exacerbated by Covid. Involvement in carer activities provided by North Argyll Carers Centre has enabled her and her husband to meet other carers in similar circumstances and to develop friendships and a strong supportive network of people who understand and share their challenges. Carer A is very sociable and was very keen to take up the opportunity for a family day out with the wider parent carer group. She has 2 other children, one of whom is a young carer. Due to her own poor health, and her caring responsibilities she is unable to work. A family day out is not something they would be likely to undertake without the carers centre's support as financially it would not really be viable. On her return from the visit, Carer A emailed the Carer Support Worker who led the visit to express what the opportunity had meant for them: "As a family we would like to thank you and your colleagues for giving us the opportunity to have a great family day out. It was fantastic the children truly had a brilliant day as well as us "big kids” we are all very grateful"