Peer Mentor Support Project
A story by Fairway Fife
We facilitated peer support activities for young people with disabilities. Each week young people with disabilities were broken up in to small groups and participated in activities that they chose.
They were supported throughout the activity by our peer support volunteers whilst their carers had a break.
What Peer Mentor Support Project did
Over the funding year we delivered activity regular sessions such as arts and crafts, outings to the cinema, bowling, crazy golf, walks, cycling, BBQ’s etc as well as one off/occasional events to the theatre, concerts, train trips to Newcastle shopping, days out to various community events, Bus Museum, Museum of Flight, Camera Obscura etc.
We have also piloted overnight trips away to Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which included a meal out and a visit to a show or the Winter Wonderland in Edinburgh. They were very well planned and with two members of staff and carefully chosen accommodation. The members who had been with Fairway the longest were the ones given the first opportunities, as well as Mentors who were very confident in their role and had established good relationships with the Young Adults.
Parents were consulted and given all the information before giving their consent. The nights away were a huge success, benefiting both the Young Adult of whom non had had a night away in a hotel with their friends, with the families and carers enjoying a full night’s break.
Another success story is the implementation of weekly drop-in sessions. These have been held every Wednesday evening from 3.30 until 6.30 pm. This allowed parents carers a regular opportunity to plan for themselves, these sessions are run by staff only (although Mentors can attend if the wish in order to allow more activities for the Young Adults without the need for volunteers).
The Young Adults plan and decide what they want to do with the nights, suggestions and examples of activities are given for them to choose from, again, Arts and Crafts are very popular, as well as simply putting on the music and having a sing-a-long, with a regular 10-12 attendees, Parents/carers use this regular session to allow them to plan in advance. With our service delivery we addressed priority areas, Complex Needs, Sports and Leisure, Independence and transition to Adulthood.
What Fairway Fife has learned
To enable us to target families most in need of support and engaging with new families we have found that by keeping our referral system simple by using easy read referral forms or a simple telephone call, then us completing the main of the paperwork at an informal home visit we break down barriers with families who are particularly struggling. This also give us an indication as to the methods of engagement that will work best for them, how they may manage re transport etc and the abilities of the Young person.
With regular contact and building up trusting relationships with families we can monitor how our families are coping and any particular struggles they may be experiencing. We have also learned that in order to maintain our unique volunteer Mentor model and involvement we need to encourage their personal development and offer good emotional and practical support, this could be simply helping them to fill in a CV, chats about personal problems they may be facing , or tailoring their training package to suit their needs.
How Fairway Fife has benefitted from the funding
Due to our Better Breaks funding we were able to pilot both the overnight stays and our weekly drop in sessions, both of which have proved to be a great success for both the Young Adults and their families, improving opportunities of new life experiences and respite. We have gained a greater recognition of the excellent service we offer which has increased our referrals and also funding from local organisations such as Amazon and FMC.
40 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 ho to maintain those friendships, create new ones and independently participate in social activities
We have continued to develop our Mentor method of Support by personalised training and growth programmes, ensuring our Volunteers are well equipped to carry out their roles of providing good trusting relationships with Young Adults and staff. By getting to know the Young Adults, we have been able to communicate effectively in order to allow them to steer the planned activities and events to suit their interests and needs. It also helps us to identify any situations that may arise that can cause stress or anxiety (e.g One Young Adult has a major fear of balloons, but doesn't have the capacity to understand the places they may be, so Mentors and Staff can monitor and asses if this could be an issue). As well as the weekly drop in session we have provided weekly outings to the cinema, bowling, go karts, swimming, spa days, football games, museum visits, allowing and supporting friendships to flourish.
A young Lady S joined us and came along for the first time with her Dad to one of the drop in sessions, during the evening Dad stayed (albeit at a distance) to ensure she settled in, they were doing sand art so although she was in a group it was individual work, she was able to join in without the pressure of having to talk to strangers. There was only the Young Adults at this session so it wasn't too overwhelming for her. Prior to joining Fairway S was very isolated and carved friends of her own age, Mum and Dad encouraged her independence as far as chores around the house, choice of clothes etc but was unable to be left unsupervised. S is now a regular attender and has made lots of friends with both Young Adults and Mentors, Mum and Dad are really enjoying having time together out with the caring role, and 'don't know what they would do without Fairway and the new opportunities it has opened up for both them and their daughter'
40 young people with disabilities will be more confident, more independent, socially content, healthier and have improved prospects for the future. Up to 80 carers will be more rested, more supported and will benefit from a more balanced lifestyle
Within our activities we try and focus on healthy lifestyles, whether this be in a physical capacity with healthy eating programmes and increased activity that is fun and engaging or healthy minds, working on ways to deal with stress and anxiety, with relaxation and positive attitudes. By organising activities and events that improve independence and social skills we are naturally improving our members confidence and self belief. This is one of the main differences both Young Adults and their families comment on seeing the biggest positive change. Our volunteer Mentors also see this as a positive change for them too. The improvement in independence skills also allows the parents to see their son/daughter as more of an individual young person rather than a dependent, releasing them from some of the perceived care giver role.
A family reported that there son is a lot more outspoken now, will challenge ideas and thoughts (in a respectful way) and offer his own thoughts on a situation, this doesn't have to be major family decisions, something as simple as what they are having for tea, or which film he would like to see. Due to his experiences with Fairway he is able to voice more informed choices and not just 'go with the flow'. This has altered the way his parents think of him, and now take a step back allowing him to develop into a more independent young man.
Up to 80 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.
We have carried out our regular drop in sessions, providing parents the opportunity to plan in advance for these nights, rather than the more adhoc activities/events that happen when a certain film or show etc may be on. We have consulted regularly with families and have built up good relationships allowing them to ask for specific times/dates that they may need respite due to commitments. We have been able to meet this request on almost every occasion. During our consultations with families we also update any changes in their circumstances for example transport etc so we can adapt our service to meet their needs. With the development of our overnights Parents/carers can also plan an evening out with their caring role, safe in the knowledge that their son/daughter is safe and having fun with their friends
One of the families we support only has Mum at home, Mum was unable to work as she struggled to fit in her caring role around work. We have been able to support mum to gain support at home for her son. We also facilitate transport when Mum is working to allow him to still attend the events he enjoys so much as well as meet up with his friends at Fairway which are very important to him.
Up to 80 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.
During our drop in sessions we have opened up the kitchen/cafe area next to our office. Whilst the Young Adults have enjoying their activity- Arts and Crafts, Sing a long, the parents/carers are given the opportunity to have a cuppa and chat with other families and staff, this is very informal and not all parents want to stay as they wish to use their respite in other ways.
One of the parents has been keen to meet up with staff and other parents, her daughter regularly attends events and activities. Mum is now a regular attender to board meetings and often comes up with suggestions of activities etc, she has also been instrumental in raising funds for Fairway. Mum will often stay and chat to the parents in a very informal way, helping others to feel more comfortable about staying . Prior to this initiative parents carers simply dropped their son/daughter off and went away.