PALS (FUNSHINE) Holiday Club
A story by ENABLE Scotland
We delivered PALS (FUNSHINE) school holiday programme that supports children with a Learning Disability and/or other complex support needs. PALS (FUNSHINE) enables children to participate in a variety of exciting activities, interact with others, whilst having fun and achieving outcomes.
What PALS (FUNSHINE) Holiday Club did
PALS(FUNSHINE) is a school holiday club that provides children with the opportunity to play, engage with others and achieve outcomes whilst giving their parents and/or carers respite time. The club took place during Easter, Summer, October and February school holiday periods. The club usually runs 9am to 3pm however we adapted some of these times depending on the needs of the families at various points in the pandemic. Activities took place in our building base at Dalmuir Community Education Centre, at the homes of the children or in their local community, depending on the restrictions at the time.
Many of the children attend PALS afterschool club. Others have been identified by working in partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council children with disabilities team co-ordinator who has helped us reach out to families who are looking for help during school holidays. We also have self-referrals who hear of the club from a variety of different sources. We offered the club to all of the children who usually attend, however some families chose not to take the support at periods during the year due to various pandemic associated reasons. The reduced numbers afforded us the opportunity to provide additional support (either by increased hours or increased staffing ratios) to the children and carers who needed it most.
Whilst children were supported, carers used the time to engage in activities for themselves, exercise, spend time with other family members or carry out essential everyday duties. We were able to address Better Breaks priorities 1 to 4 through the delivery of the club. The project did not go to plan and had to continually adapt to meet government guidelines and the changing needs of families and children. Reflecting on the last year, the highlight has been our ability to adapt to meet these changing needs and continue to deliver the club safely and successfully. We have received a lot of positive feedback about the difference PALS(FUNSHINE) has made to the families we have supported.
What ENABLE Scotland has learned
In such an unprecedented year, there have been challenges, frequent problem solving and a lot of learning along the way. We have had to adapt service delivery to ensure that it met health and safety compliance. This meant frequent liaising and partnership working with regulatory bodies such as the Care Inspectorate and Unison Trade Union. ENABLE Scotland also responded to the pandemic by having a Health and Safety committee meet regularly to ensure that all service delivery met regulation standards; the Services Manager for PALS(FUNSHINE) sits on this committee.
When we were able to access our building base in the October school holidays we had to introduce new strategies and health and safety measures in order to comply with regulatory guidelines. This included social distancing, frequent hand washing and the regular sterilisation of areas, equipment and toys. Many of the toys had to be decommissioned as they couldn’t be sterilised. The toys that remained were removed for washing once a child finished playing with it. All of these measures are time consuming but essential for the wellbeing of everyone. We ensured that these measures were actioned to the highest standards so that everyone remained safe and well.
When we were unable to access the building base we responded by offering support at home for the children. This brought about new challenges and new ways of working. Personal Assistants were then working in the homes of the children and adapting activities to the home environment. We considered footfall and managed rotas so that the families, where possible had a consistent worker. This was also a challenge for the families who often had never had support within their homes before. The opportunity that this created was for stronger relationships to be built, both between the Personal Assistant and the child, and between the Personal Assistant and the parents/carers.
The Personal Assistants were able to do more focussed work with the children, which was beneficial due to the impact that the pandemic had on some of them. We had to introduce new risk assessments for the Personal Assistants working in this way and at times had to provide 2 Personal Assistants if a child was known to be having some challenges. The decreased numbers of children accessing PALS(FUNSHINE) afforded us the opportunity to increase staffing ratios where it was deemed necessary.
Many of the outcomes for children had to be adapted due to the changing needs of the children. Some children had their progress hindered due to the pandemic and outcomes became focussed on reducing anxiety. We will continue to adapt in this way to support the children with their anxiety as we begin to support with peer social interaction and social engagement. We are now looking forward to PALS(FUNSHINE) being able to resume in a more ‘normal’ way and are beginning to plan for new and exciting activities that the children can participate in.
How ENABLE Scotland has benefitted from the funding
The funding has allowed us to continue delivering PALS(FUNSHINE) in some form or another at a time when it has never been more needed. The funding has allowed us to be flexible in our response to need and shape our service around the specific needs of children, young people and their families and carers and make use of our expertise. This has been a year of uncertainty, where the main focus has been on continuing to deliver a service in as safe a way as possible. The fact that we have been able to deliver a service has strengthened our reputation with the families who have benefitted from the support. The impact of this is that we are seeing new referrals, the source of which has been from word of mouth from our existing families telling people they know about PALS(FUNSHINE). As we enter a new year of funding with the world gradually easing restrictions we are planning how to build on the success of PALS(FUNSHINE) and develop the service further for the benefit of the children and families who access it.
Children attending the club will be more able to build positive relationships and identify activities they enjoy
Delivery has changed in the last year, resulting in limited activity choice and peer contact opportunities. However, the team have continued to ensure that the children form positive relationships and engage in activities they enjoy. This outcome has been achieved, though not as fully as may have been possible without the pandemic. We have compiled each child’s profile and made changes to support plans and strategies to help them have structure and choice in their time spent with the team. This has helped to build a picture of the child in their current situation. Many children have regressed due to the stresses of the pandemic, but staff have responded with appropriate activities and engagement. Staff plan activities ahead to ensure they fully comply with Covid safety guidance. Due to social distancing, positive relationship building has mostly been between children and staff rather than with peers. This has been vital though as often the children were only seeing close family.
We support a young man who is 12 years old. He has a learning disability and is non-verbal. Whilst receiving PALS(FUNSHINE) support during the summer holidays at home, the Personal Assistant noticed that he was becoming disengaged with some activities and at times appeared bored. The PA started looking at other activities he may enjoy and also looked at utilising different spaces at his home more creatively, including the garden. Firstly the PA worked at using the young man’s shoes as a signifier to show when he would like to access the garden. He began to hand his shoes to the PA when he wanted to go outside, however through time built up his independence to put his shoes on himself. The PA remembered that there was an activity that he had enjoyed engaging in when he attended PALS(FUNSHINE) building base pre-covid. This activity involved the PA putting out different coloured blocks around the garden and working with him to identify a specific colour, go to the colour and jump on that spot. This was evidently a success as he would laugh and smile as he participated. It gave him an activity he enjoyed whilst practicing his colours and promoting his physical activity. The young man also has a scooter that he had not quite mastered the use of. The PA has been supporting him with this throughout each holiday period to build up his scooter skills. When the children could access the building base in the October school holidays staff provided a Fun Fair day activity. They planned this based on the previous success of the activity, knowing that it could be safely delivered in line with health and safety measures and social distancing. The children loved this activity and had a day of laughing and smiling.
30 carers will report respite received through PALS has enabled them to explore and access person centred activities and opportunities around their individual needs.
During the past year carers have had limited opportunities to access activities to meet their own needs, however they have really valued the respite times afforded by staff supporting their child. Many parents have had their carer role intensified by the lack of school, resources or family members who would normally help but who have been isolating. Parents have told us that by having the time to relax, go for a walk, spend time with other siblings or even pop to the shops has helped them a great deal. Thus, this outcome around carer’s individual needs has been met. One of the parents has reported that they have recently secured a new job that they said they can attend without the worry of who will support their child during the holidays. We have spoken to many families who have had some difficult experiences over the past year, however the time their child has been with our staff has allowed them to look after themselves, which in turn has helped them sustain their caring role.
We support a young man whose family previously had additional support from grandparents. This support had to stop due to the grandparents isolating and a decline in the grandfather’s own health. Previously the young man attended the holiday club 3 days a week however we were able to increase this to 5 days a week in order to better support the family. Mum and dad have been working from home throughout the pandemic however they could not have balanced this along with looking after the young man due to his additional needs. Staff provided the support at home to allow both mum and dad to continue working. The support was greatly appreciated and mum sent a lovely thank you card saying she wanted to say a huge thank you for the support we gave her family through lockdown . She said it was reassuring for her to know how well her child was cared for while they worked and it was wonderful to see how her child interacted and played with the staff.
30 carers will report feeling more resilient and have awareness and access to other sources of support
As previously mentioned, carers have had a challenging experience over the last year. Due to the impact of Covid-19 we cannot say that carers are necessarily feeling more resilient, however we have been able to support their resilience throughout this challenging time. We know this from the feedback we have received. Through regular contact with carers we have been able to respond to their varying needs. As well as providing support from the staff, we have been able to signpost carers to additional resources. We have provided the opportunity for carers to access ENABLE Scotland’s additional services such as Welfare Rights and Family Connect. Family Connect is a national online community for family carers offering a helpline and weekly Zoom sessions on topics selected by families, featuring external speakers. The work we have carried out over the last year has directly benefitted 16 carers, contributing to their resilience and adding to their knowledge of available resources.
One family whose son usually attends our holiday club initially refused support when it was being offered at home. This was primarily because his dad has underlying health conditions and they were understandably apprehensive about footfall within their home. We had maintained contact with the family however were not providing any direct support to the child. The Team Facilitator received a call from someone within the social work team who suggested that the family could benefit from some support as their caring duties were having an impact on the family unit. The team facilitator got in touch with the family and they agreed that some home support would be beneficial. The young man displays autistic traits, can present with stressed and distressed behaviour, is full of energy and is always on the go. By staff supporting the young man at home it afforded mum, dad and his 2 siblings some respite time, during which they would often go for a drive and visit a park for some exercise and fresh air. The young man initially required 2 to 1 support, however this was risk assessed and later able to reduce to 1 to 1 support. The support for this young man has been mostly sensory play and active play, often in the garden so that the young man can bounce and run about. The family later called to thank the team, saying they had all been stuck in the house for so long. They really appreciated the opportunities created to get the rest of the family out to exercise, get fresh air and see some different scenery.
15 children attending PALS will be more able to access fun activities, relax and create friendships. 30 carers will experience improved personal wellbeing, identify a positive impact on their children and have increased support in their caring role.
Although we have been in regular contact with all of the families, some chose not to utilise PALS(FUNSHINE) holiday club during the pandemic for a variety of different reasons, meaning that there have been reduced numbers. The work we have carried out has benefitted 8 young people and 16 carers. We have kept in regular contact with all families and know that the numbers will increase again as we emerge from the pandemic. For those that we have been able to support, we have supported them to access fun activities that help them relax and learn. The families have benefitted from the support and have said that they have seen the benefit for their young people. We look forward to the next holidays where the numbers will increase, and PALS(FUNSHINE) will resume in a way where we can introduce a wider variety of activities and bring the young people together so that they can create peer friendships again.
One of the young ladies we support was very quiet and apprehensive when she came back to PALS during the October school holidays. We initially provided 2 to 1 support for her so that 1 member of staff could play alongside her and another could observe. The observer recorded her interactions and planned how to expand on the games and resources she might enjoy. The staff recognised that she likes cause and effect toys so expanded on this by introducing her to the kitchen play area where the microwave pings when you press the button and the toaster pops after being pressed. They enhanced her skills of playing, interacting and imagining by encouraging her to tell them what she was going to make for dinner, then working through getting the pots out and filling them with what she was going to make. There is an abundant resource of plastic fruits and vegetables for her to choose from, which led to a game of identifying the different foods. Her play then progressed to setting the table for dinner. This took some encouragement, but she mastered it and began to really enjoy the process. From here she progressed to making her own breakfast. A positive step was when she started to make pretend cups of tea for the staff as a way of connecting and interacting with people. She relaxed and had great fun throughout the week, learning skills, becoming more confident and building relationships with the team.