A story by Aberlour Options Adventures
Options Adventures is a service for children and young people, especially older teenagers, who are losing respite provision as the transition into Adult Services can take some time and funding is not always available for parent/carers for many months.
What Options Adventures did
The Adventures service delivered four - two night residential weekends to two different venues. These venues were chosen as due to restrictions with the pandemic places with appropriate facilities were limited. We visited Calvert Trust Kielder and Calvert Trust Lakes with four young people attending each adventure weekend. These took place in May, September, November 2021 and March 2022. The service delivered ten day adventures with six young people attending each of these. We have travelled on a Steam Train in October, been canoeing at Kielder Water in July and at Lochore Meadows in October, flown on our broomsticks at Alnwick Castle in September, visited the Camera Obscura in March, Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre in November, went to Crieff Hydro for some archery and axe throwing in August, visited the Five Sisters Zoo in July, travelled on the Falkirk Wheel in March and had a fun evening at the Pantomime in December. The young people attending all have a range of needs and disabilities and the service has been able to offer beneficiaries valuable respite to allow them to spend time with siblings and families. With the limited amount of respite available over the last year Social Workers have been contacting the service to enquire if places are available as many parents/carers have been struggling to cope. Adventures have been able to help through taking young people out for a day, either including them in the day adventure groups, in smaller groups or individually. This has been very successful and it is hoped this can continue in the future. A small staff team has been formed which has a positive impact on the young people and their families, as they recognise the staff and are forming good relationships with them. On reflection being able to build on the Adventures service has been beneficial to all the young people and their families, especially through some very difficult times recently.
What Aberlour Options Adventures has learned
During 2021/22 more families have needed support and the adventures service has been able to provide this for those families who have been denied their usual respite services due to restrictions. As a result of this need eight new families have been able to get some form of respite by using the adventures service. The coordinator has built on previous partnerships to continue collaborative working with outside agencies and has met with new groups and the local sports centre facilities where they have mornings for young people with disabilities. The challenges of the pandemic have played a major role throughout 2021/22 especially when planning adventures - numbers have to be considered, not only for venues but for social distancing, something which many of our young people do not understand. The introduction of self-catering weekends has been a great success as it gives the young people so many more opportunities to gain life skills, independence and confidence whilst facing some new challenges in their lives.
How Aberlour Options Adventures has benefitted from the funding
The funding from Better Breaks allowed the adventures service the opportunity to build on their reputation being able to offer respite to a larger number of families during difficult times. We were able to offer a more bespoke service to some of the families in times of crisis by taking young people out in smaller groups or individually, this not only allowed families valuable respite time but expanded the service to offer different types of adventure days often focusing on the young persons preferences and abilities. Staff gaining knowledge about new venues and facilites, new activities and facing new challenges themselves all help to promote the service we offer.
Building the Adventures service will allow more children and young people access to a number of different experiences they would otherwise not be able to participate in.
The service delivered four - two night residential adventures and ten day adventures. These are evaluated using conversations, with both young people and parents/carers. Using photographs, Talking Mats, Facebook and quotes. It is important for the young people and their parents/carers to have a voice in the planning of future adventures.
B is a fifteen year old boy with learning disabilities and little verbalisation, his parents contacted the Adventures service to enquire about day adventures as they felt these would have a positive impact on him. As B enjoys playing games consoles Mum asked if he could come along for a more active day out to participate in a different kind of activity. Mum was offered a day adventure to Kielder Water for a canoeing activity, she accepted a place on this and was pleased B would be able to be outdoors. B was happy to come along with us and once on the minibus he recognised another young person from school so sat close by for the journey. B was happy when we arrived at Kielder and ran towards the shore, showing his excitement at being somewhere different. B was a bit apprehensive when staff were getting his lifejacket and helmet on but once ready he chose his paddle and went off down the jetty with his peer group. B happily climbed into the canoe and when on the water smiled and giggled. B had great fun participating in this activity, spending around two hours on the water, something he had never done before and he loved it! B smiled and made happy vocalisations all the way home, Mum was delighted he had been able to come along with us and had been participating in a new and exciting activity. She told staff “We have been for a picnic with B’s siblings today, something we couldn’t do if he had been at home." B has since participated in two further adventure days.
It is hoped five new parents/carers will join the existing families to enable them to have respite from their caring roles during 2021/22, therefore they will be able to use this time to enjoy a break from caring and spend time with their families.
Due to an increased demand for respite the Adventures service provided parents/carers from eight new families the opportunity for respite from their caring role during 2021/22. All families whose young people have participated in Adventures have given positive feedback and have asked for them to be included in Adventures in the future.
N is a fifteen year old girl who has Downs Syndrome and a medical condition. Her parents want her to live life to the full but are finding as she is getting older she demands more of their time. N has to be supervised at all times at home as she can open outer doors, switch cookers on and recently managed to get some matches making a bonfire in her bedroom. Mum contacted the Adventures service asking if N would be able to come along. It was agreed she would come along on a two night residential to allow her parents to have a break. N is reasonably independent in her daily needs and was happy to come along with us. N enjoyed all the activities she participated in and interacted well with the other young people in the group, she listened well to staff and instructors and there were no incidents whilst she was with us. N’s parents managed to get a weekend away from home to relax and spend some time together. Mum said “Thank you, we really needed that time to ourselves, just to relax and go for a meal was wonderful”. N is booked to come on more residential and day adventures in the future
The children and young people who attend adventures will gain life skills which will help their parents/carers cope in their caring role. This could be in a range of ways – self care, confidence, gaining independence and overcoming anxiety in new experiences.
The young people who come along on Adventures are encouraged and supported to become more independent, overcome anxiety and gain confidence, especially when they are participating in new and different activities. Basic life skills, especially hand hygiene, have been highlighted with most of the young people looking for sanitising stations when they are out and about. We evaluate feedback from parents/carers and build on this to ensure we are continuing to provide the best level of service to meet the needs of the family.
The Adventures co-ordinator was contacted by a parent asking how he could access the service, explaining during the conversation that he and his wife had recently parted and he had sole responsibility for their son, who has learning difficulties, asking if he was eligible to use this service. As a result of this conversation H was invited to come along for a day adventure to Alnwick Castle. Staff had met H previously and he was happy to come along with us, Dad was very anxious when H climbed into the bus, explaining this was the first time since his marriage breakdown that he had a day to himself as he had been constantly spending time with H. Staff reassured him H would enjoy his day and we were contactable at all times during the day. H recognised one of the other young people and sat with him during the journey. Arriving at Alnwick Castle H was relaxed and was keen to explore the Artisan Courtyard where there were lots of interesting things on display. H looked a little puzzled when staff explained he was going to go broomstick flying and it would be lots of fun, H made his way to the area and was enthralled with the broomstick lesson, when he realised he wasn’t actually going to be up in the air on a broomstick he told staff he was a bit disappointed but then said he would have been a bit frightened if the broomstick had gone too high. Later in the day H participated in the archery activity and was so happy as this was something he had never done before. H had a lovely day at Alnwick Castle and on the journey home was heard speaking to his peers saying “I hope Dad has had a good day too”. Back at home Dad was delighted to see H and hear about his exciting day, staff asked Dad if he had enjoyed his day – the reply being “Thank you so much, it was just what I needed to recharge my batteries – I have done absolutely nothing”.
A larger number of new parents/carers being able to access the adventures service who along with existing parents/carers will enjoy respite from their caring role. A day adventure gives parents/carers a minimum of 8 hours respite time which will improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Since the pandemic many respite services have been cancelled or postponed for famlies, the Adventures service has managed to accommodate families during 2021/22 supporting them by offering a more bespoke service - often taking young people out in smaller groups or individually to allow parents/carers some respite time. Day adventures have been more popular with parents/carers as this allows them to spend time with siblings and families.
F is a fourteen year old boy who has severe and complex needs. His mum was struggling to cope after the home carer passed away as a result of COVID and Social Work contacted the Adventures service to enquire if they could offer any help. Due to his complex needs F needed suitable facilities and hoisting equipment that is compatible for his moving and handling care plan to be in place before he could join us. It was decided after some enquires the facilities at Lochore Meadows would meet F’s needs. A day of canoeing and adaptive cycling was planned with F’s mum being so happy he was able to come along, participate in activities and have fun. When we arrived to collect F his mum was almost in tears she was so pleased to be having a break from her caring role, we arranged to pick up F early to allow his mum to have a longer break. F can make some vocalisations and happy noises and when he arrived at Lochore Meadows and was taken to the jetty these started so we knew he was happy and going to have fun. F was hoisted into the canoe and taken out onto the water, he smiled and made happy noises all the time he was in the canoe, loving every moment. When F was taken in his wheelchair onto the adaptive bike his face ‘lit up’, he loved every minute of his time on the bike. Staff and instructors were so pleased this adventure had been chosen for F as he had a day of fun whilst his mum had a day to herself. When we took F back home his mum said “Never in my wildest dreams did I think F would ever be able to go in a canoe” “Thank you so much, I really appreciate this time to myself”. Mum has asked if F can come along on more adventures to allow her some ‘me time’.