Peer Mentor Support Project
A story by Fairway Fife
Each week, young people with learning disabilities participated in activities that they have chosen, and they were supported throughout the activity by our peer mentor volunteers and staff.
Thus allowing their families to make the most of the respite opportunity this has provided.
What Peer Mentor Support Project did
Once an interest was received an initial meet up with the family was arranged to help us get to know them and their son/daughter and their individual needs as a family. A plan of activities/events that they enjoyed was then put in place at times and days to suit the family and volunteer mentors identified as the initial key person.
We receive a variety of referrals through our simple procedure which can be initiated by the person them selves with our easy read referral form or a simple telephone call by them, a family member, professional person or support service. The criteria required to become a beneficiary and member of Fairway Fife is that they have a desire to socialise with people of their own age and may be subject to isolation within their own community due to their support requirements and vulnerability.
Whilst we do not support parents/carers directly we always aim to build up a positive trusting relationship and make contact regularly, usually when the young adult is meeting up with us or leaving at the end of an event. It is extremely important to us and the parents to gain good channels of communication, this ensures they feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible to enable them to make the most of the respite opportunity, safe in the knowledge that their son/daughter is safe, cared for and enjoying themselves.
Given the reports that people with learning disabilities often have quite sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles, we have particularly focused on positive health choices, making 'exercise' fun, such as dance classes, visits to the gym, rock climbing, spa days and photography group which means they walk for ages taking amazing photos then get to have them featured in our annual calendar.
Our project has addressed Better Breaks priority areas, complex needs, sports and active leisure, Independence and transition to adulthood. One of the particular successes is the way in which we have engaged with parents/carers, gathering and recording feedback we are more able meet the needs of the families and be more flexible with our planned activities. We are continually building on our positive success and recognition within our local community.
What Fairway Fife has learned
We have learned that tailoring our service to meet the needs of individual families, especially those in crisis which may be a bit more chaotic and require a more robust service and communication strategies has far reaching benefits for the whole family. Giving parents/carers the break they need to recharge their batteries to continue their caring role. This also benefits the young adults as they can feel frustrated and isolated, often taking their frustrations on those they are closest too.
By having a 'key' member of staff to engage with the Young Adult and their family right from the initial home visit, then continue that involvement, we have created a positive familiarity that encourages confidence in the service provide and ultimately the confidence that their son/daughter is happy, safe and making friends, thus them being able to truly relax and make the most of the respite provided.
We will be looking at introducing a regular pattern of overnight stays which was extremely welcomed by both the young adults and their parents. Due to our increased awareness in the local community we are now starting to attract the support of other agencies and funding sources, such as the local co-op, and a local fundraising group 'Like Minds', although they are not large amounts that could cover core expenses, they do allow us to cover for unexpected expenses such as a wage increase given to our facilitators.
How Fairway Fife has benefitted from the funding
Our reputation continues to grow within our local area, where we are very highly recognised as being able to provide a flexible supportive service to those who would otherwise be very isolated and struggling. Better Breaks funding has enabled us to reach out to more young adults and their families. We have now also managed to secure funding to look at developing an overnight service where the young adults can enjoy a night away with the mentors. We have had two overnights so far which have been a great success, we have booked an apartment where they can all get ready together then go out and enjoy a film/show and a meal, this is something we will be looking to develop further. This has also helped staff better understand the young adults we support and meet their needs as well as their families to an even greater level. The four young adults that have been away with us so far have never been away overnight without parents/carers. Without Better Breaks funding we would have a very limited service, only being able to operate at about 25% of our service.
35 young people with disabilities in Fife will have made several new friends, will have participated in weekly group social activities over the course of the year and will have developed the know how to maintain those friendships, create new ones and independently participate in social activities.
We have engaged with 32 young adults on a regular basis, providing fun and stimulating activities. This has been achieved by careful consultation with families, young adults and mentors, finding out their likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations in order to put together a programme of activities to suit each individual. We have also introduced some new things they may never have done before, giving them the experience to allow for informed choice making. In doing this we have provided a vehicle for both young adults and mentors to have something in common on which to build a trusting friendship and have something to chat about. It also gives the opportunity for both parties to demonstrate their talents and skills, enabling the mentors and others to see beyond the young persons disability and as positive contributors to society and their local community. Most of our activities take place in the community such as bowling, crazy golf, cinema, shopping, football matches, keep fit classes.
Fairway Fife has been a godsend for both L and our family. Before we found out about Fairway Fife L would spend most of her time in her room, only leaving the house when I was going out. L loves her time with Fairway Fife no matter what you have planned. She is happier about life and happier in herself, which has been great for us. She still has her down days but not as much and that is all thanks to Fairway Fife.
Up to 70 carers in Fife will have benefited from weekly respite, have developed new support networks and have used their new free time to pursue opportunities and enjoy a break from caring.
Parents have noted that they have been able to focus a bit more on themselves and engage in social time that most other adults will take for granted. We tend to meet and have informal chats with parents as they drop their son/daughter off or when they pick them up. We often get comments that they have had a very relaxing couple of hours and met up with a friend or simply managed to get the shopping done on their own! We often get referrals from social work when a family is in crisis and this is regularly due to the pressure of the caring role with no breathing space. As the funded social work places are diminishing the pressure on parents/carers to fill that void is ever increasing. By allowing parents/carers to have 'guilt free' time to their selves is a godsend and enables them to be a retain their individual identity. Fairway has enabled parents to join regular classes which improve mental health and resilience, which was not available prior to Fairway's involvement.
QUOTES.... ‘Fairway Fife has been life changing not just for her but for us as a family’ ‘I no longer feel guilty if I do something on my own, as I know that my daughter has her own leisure to participate in. This is life changing for me’. 'I can pursue my own social life without feeling guilty and when I do spend time with my daughter (which is often) it’s because I want no – not because I have to!’ I work part time and when things were really bad I thought I might have to give up work. This is no longer an issue as I am free to go swimming, shopping and out with friends etc. on evenings and weekends’
Up to 70 carers will have established a relationship with an ongoing service that the can rely on for regular support, through that service they will meet other carers in similar circumstances and develop informal support for one another.
Due to the excellent open communication between parents/carers and staff, parents now feel comfortable asking for specific activities as well as certain days/times to allow them to access their own social and leisure interests, which 99% of the time we can accommodate. When the young adults are dropped off or picked up they meet up with other parents/carers, we encourage friendships to form by introducing them to each other. Parents now share transporting the young adults which relieves some of the burden of driving and also extends the respite period. It also allows for them to support each other in times of emergencies when may a parent/carer is ill and unable to drive and works extremely well in bringing the support network together. They will also often share information about other agencies/organisations that can be of help or who to go to with varying situations. It also gives the young adults the opportunity to introduce other friends and mentors.
Before my daughter’s involvement with Fairway Fife she was, by any measure, socially isolated. As an older mother it was very difficult, both mentally and physically, to meet her needs. Fairway has given both of us a real boost. She is able to interact and socialise safely with her peer group whereas before these had to be carefully planned and were very infrequent. This break allows M to feel like any other teenager and experience the independence she craves. This having a real positive effect on myself as her mother. When sons and daughters are over 16 we expect to have a bit more time to invest in our personal relationships and friendships but when the son or daughter has additional support needs this is virtually impossible and wouldn’t happen without the dedication of the volunteers and staff
35 young people with disabilities will be more confident, more independent, socially content, healthier and have improved prospects for the future. Up to 70 carers will be more rested, more supported and will benefit from a more balanced lifestyle.
After careful planning and consultation with parents, in October we trialled a night away with four of the young adults and four mentors. We booked an aparthotel in Edinburgh and had a night at the winter market then a takeaway where they all ate and watched a film. This was a fabulous experience, even the simple things like them all getting dressed up and helping each other with hair and make-up before going out was so natural and yet none of the young adults had never had a night away with friends, one of them had never stayed in a hotel and two had never been away without their parents carers. The parents/carers were so grateful for the opportunity to have a full night away from their caring role. We will be building this into our programme for the future. A big thumbs up!
S joined Fairway approximately two years ago. He was referred by his family after they had researched social opportunities for youngsters with learning disabilities. We carried out a home visit with S and the family (Mum, Dad and brother). The family were concerned that S spent a lot of time in his room, leaving him very isolated and lacking in confidence, this massively impacted on his ability to make friends and try new things. Mum told us that she was terminally ill and all she wanted before she was no longer here was for to see her son socialising and making new friends. We assured her that we would certainly support S and give him every opportunity to enhance his socialising skills and offer new and exciting opportunities that he could take part in. Shortly after the home visit Mum passed away, S kept his promise to his Mum and started to regularly attend events with Fairway once a fortnight. S continues to attend Fairway regularly and has made lots of new friends. Dad says he can’t believe the difference in his son and that without this service he fears his son may have continued to spend too much of his time in his room in isolation, this would have been very detrimental to him mentally, when having to cope with the grieving process also. By listening to S and his family we have been able to offer events and activities that S enjoys encouraging participation and involvement. Dad reports that S’s his confidence has grown tremendously and that his son now out and about a lot, trying new things directly due Fairway’s unique approach and support.