Playdays and Awaydays
A story by Achievement Bute
To date, the project has delivered 8 trips to the mainland for children of primary school age, two supported volunteer trips, including a weekend team building trip, and two island-based playdays in which disabled and non-disabled children have participated in a range of inclusive play activities.
Our supported volunteers have in addition helped in our Victorian-themed drama event, 2 den-building weeks, 1 themed play-week, an archaeology week and several of our volunteers are currently helping with our Christmas pantomime preparations.
The activities take place during school holidays, weekends and during school in-service days. The project also provides opportunities for older children with disabilities aged 14+ to participate in supported volunteering at Achievement Bute events and other activities alongside their non-disabled peers, to develop confidence and skills as they move into adulthood.
Tip 1:Listen to children
Tip 2:Listen to parents/carers
Tip 3:Recruit the right staff and ensure they understand the ethos of support that puts the family at the heart.
Case Study 2. A parent's view: "I want to tell you how our family got on when Simon went on the young volunteers weekend. When I say "our family" I want to be clear that although Simon went on the trip, it did have benefits to all our family. His wee brother had for once our undivided attention. We love Simon and he has never been away from the family overnight ever, no sleep-overs with friends or cousins.... nothing! We waved goodbye with a tear in our eye, not because we were sad but because he was making a rite of passage. At last he was going to experience being with people his own age without us. He had a ball. When he came back he was tired, happy, excited to tell us what he had done with others his own age together; played pool, a quiz, outdoor activities. At last he ...BELONGED."
Case study 3. A parent's view. "Having my child at home all day every day for the entire summer is extremely challenging so the fact that I knew for certain that there would be these specific whole days when I wouldn't need to worry about what I could do to keep him amused just made me feel a lot less panicky than I used to feel about the holidays."
Case Study 4- A Carer's view. "Our son had been having a terrible year, and consequently I spent a lot of time worrying about him. The young volunteers weekend was a complete turning point for him, and us. I didn't have to worry about who he was with, because I knew he was being well supported, and when he came back he had made a new friend with whom he then spent virtually the whole summer, either doing volunteering activities or just hanging out. It was brilliant for him, and took a whole lot of pressure off us."
Case Study 6- A parent's view. "It was great that there was a range of different trips so every single one of my children could go on them. This gave me the opportunity to plan my time, knowing the kids would be having a great time away. Then when they came back I felt a lot more relaxed and able to cope."
Parents' comments included "knowing she was away for the whole day gave me enough time to also go off the island to go shopping without worrying about having to get back on a certain ferry."
Another mum said "it was great - we even managed to have a day out as a couple for a change, and a nice meal without the kids". Equally, the parents wanted the activities for the children to be interesting, exciting and fun.
One said "he's always climbing things, always on the go and was desperate to go to Go Ape. I'm scared of heights and wouldn't have had the nerve to take him myself, so it was a double benefit, he got to do the one thing I couldn't do, and I got a nice relaxing day with my feet on the ground!"
We base our programme of trips on all the suggestions made by the families, and we organise the timing of the trips so that they fit around the needs and availability of the families, rather than the other way around. We are able to do this because we have regular and ongoing contact with all of the families we support.
We work closely with the local Children with Disabilities Social Worker, who can refer families to us who do not meet their criteria for statutory support, but who still do need and would benefit from short breaks. This funding also allows us to be really flexible in our approach and respond to changing needs.
In addition, staff have commented that many of the younger children attending our trips have become noticeably more outgoing and self-confident. One child who at the start of the year was extremely reserved, shy, and uncomfortable around other children has "blossomed" and not only participates fully and happily in our activities, but has gone on to join a number of other groups in the community, something she would never have been able to do before.
Another challenge was in organising trips that had been chosen but which were to places we had not visited before. Living on an island it was not always possible to check personally in advance how fully suitable some of the destinations really were. Some venues understanding of what is "accessible" differed from our own.
However, we have learned that there is great benefit from networking with other organisations to pool this kind of knowledge. The biggest unanticipated benefit was the outcomes for our supported volunteers in terms of socialising, building relationships,and the gaining of independent living skills far beyond the scope of the project. New friendships were made, which will last longer than the project.
We also take photos and films and we use questionnaires and feedback books where people can write their comments. A word of caution though, collecting evidence is important, but it must not get in the way of actually doing the work.
Collecting the information is important, but of more importance is how this information is used to improve what is provided and to make the right, and sometimes subtle, changes to meet the evolving needs of the families we support.