Off the Scale
A story by Paragon Music
Paragon delivered a programme of inclusive music activities for children with additional support needs and their carers across Dumfries & Galloway, enhancing creativity, social connections and wellbeing while encouraging carers to take some well deserved time to themselves.
What Off the Scale did
Our short breaks activities took place over the course of a year in three locations across Dumfries and Galloway. We delivered tasters with our partners at Langlands School (15 children) and Quarriers (12 children) to help recruit for the project in Dumfries, reaching people we knew would benefit from our activities the most. The first 6 sessions of Off the Scale took place on Saturday mornings at St George's Hall, where 5 children joined us to make music together. The second block was held at Dumfries Baptist Church Centre (this had a more suitable space for carers to gather), where a further 5 children took part. Parents and carers dipped in and out of the workshops and spent time together in the break-out space, catching up over teas and coffees.
Through the Stranraer arm of the project, we delivered tasters in Belmont School (10 children) and subsequently held a block of 6 workshops at the Millennium Centre with 9 children. Many of the children were very isolated as they came from Women's Aid sheltered Housing and were fleeing situations of domestic violence and abuse. Carers had the option of sitting together in the café area during sessions.
An unexpected partnership with Lockerbie Learning Centre saw us delivering an extra block of 4 sessions with 12 children with additional support needs. This enabled us to work with a community in Annandale, as well as Stranraer and Dumfries, further increasing our reach and impact across the region.
Through Off the Scale, we established new partnerships which we will continue into the future and reached groups we've never worked with before. Some of the older children on the OTS programme have expressed an interest in joining our regular Resonate programme (15-25years), enabling them to continue on their musical and social journey with us.
The biggest challenge was getting participants along to the Dumfries sessions, so we are considering a new time for future workshops, perhaps on a Saturday afternoon or after school.
What Paragon Music has learned
We have learned how challenging recruitment can be for a new activity in the region. We are very often reliant on the information about our activities being relayed to carers via the schools and partner organisations we are delivering tasters with. This has led us to take a proactive lead in collecting people's details in the workshops, so that we can send out the information ourselves.
We made new partnerships with other likeminded organisations and institutions, including Langlands School, Belmont School, Women's Aid and Lockerbie Learning Centre. and we are excited about connecting with them again to deliver future projects.
We learned that many organisations now use apps to communicate with the families the support and this is something Paragon is also now considering for the future.
How Paragon Music has benefitted from the funding
Through Off the Scale, we reached a new demographic of people in Dumfries & Galloway. Having previously worked mainly with young people aged 15-25years, we were able to increase access to inclusive music making to a younger group (8-14years). We built our knowledge around incorporating activities for carers into our programmes, including gathering feedback on the impact on them, as well as the impact on participants themselves. This has been incredibly valuable for us to find out the broader impact of our work. We also established strong relationships with new partners including: Quarriers, Lockerbie Learning Centre, Langlands School Dumfries, Belmont School Stranraer and Women’s Aid Sheltered Housing.
30 children aged 8-14yrs access inclusive music sessions over a 6 month period and make new friends
We surpassed our target by 61 children altogether, through tasters with our partners and regular sessions, bringing them together to meet new friends and create music together. 100% of respondents to our feedback survey reported improved confidence, social skills and communication as a result of taking part in Off the Scale sessions. 67% reported improved independence.
R is 11 years old and has complex support needs, due to being partially sighted and having a developmental delay. He is fostered and goes to mainstream school but struggles to find accessible recreational activities for him to meet new friends and have fun. His foster parent, A commented on the increase in independence she saw in R: "Our child is very adult led, however he has relied less on us since being at paragon." R loved to talk about food and so Paragon practitioners helped him to weave this passion into his music. A said: "He wants a keyboard for his birthday and your musicians made it child centred and fun so this has inspired him to take it further."
50 carers of disabled children have the opportunity for regular respite from their caring role over a 6 month period on a Saturday morning
Paragon provided spaces and refreshments alongside workshops for carers to gather and chat over a tea, coffee and cake. In the Dumfries Baptist Church, there was the "Warm Hub", while in the Millennium Centre, we created a space in the café. 41 carers of disabled children took part in the Off the Scale workshops, with around half of them taking advantage of the social spaces we created, while the other half either stayed in the workshops or went elsewhere. 100% of respondents to our feedback survey said they had benefited from their child taking part.
A is the foster parent of one of the children on the Off the Scale programme in Dumfries, she reported feeling confident enough to leave her child at the workshops, which is something they often struggle to do: "Because of Our child’s disability we tend to be helicopter foster parents, however we did leave him in the care of the lovely musicians at this workshop, he loved it and gained lots of skills and independence." A was one of the carers who took advantage of the social spaces: "We joined the ‘warm hub’ downstairs and has a couple of hour talking with the older generation, but child free."
Carers report that they have made new connections with other carers and widened their support networks
100% of carers reported that they also benefited from their child taking part in Off the Scale. "I would just like to say thank you. All the instructors and leaders at paragon were so friendly and welcoming. Attending the sessions was a genuine highlight of both P and my own week's and something he always looked forward to and never wanted to skip."
J's dad, C, opted to stay in the workshops and told us he felt he learned new ways of interacting, engaging and encouraging his son, thus benefiting him in his caring role: "As the groups on some occasions were small I was welcomed to participate and add encouragement to James. Having the sessions each week was a fun way to take part in a more child led way which has increased James's confidence. Both James and myself looked forward to every session we attended."
Disabled children and their carers report improved physical and/or mental wellbeing
A number of carers reported that the person they care for has been more relaxed at home since taking part. We also got the following feedback indicating improved wellbeing: "Our child has enjoyed being part of this, he regularly contributed and felt valued." 100% of respondents to our survey said they had improved social skills and/or communication as a result of taking part and making new friends.
S is 9 years old and has Autism and ADHD. His creative imagination and storytelling really captivated the group and he enjoyed taking more and more of a lead in the sessions as the block progressed: "S seemed much more confident in being part of a group. Whilst he already was quite good at socialising he definitely preferred smaller groups or one to one. He has came out more in taking a voice in bigger groups where as in past he would tend to be more restrained if in larger unfamiliar groups." By the end of the block, he was taking a lead in workshops and conducting the Paragon practitioners and his peers, which really boosted his confidence and self-belief. "S has loved the music making sessions. He has shown more of an interest in making his own music and has started using some apps on his phone to create beats and songs. The paragon sessions have really nurtured his creative story telling and encouraged him to think in a less literal way about many of the stories and games he creates."