Quarriers Chavey Chill Out Project
A story by Quarriers
The Chavey Chill Out has taken place largely as planned, taking into account the individual needs of carers and the children/young people. Due to high demand, a greater number of families have benefitted– 35 rather than 30.
The Chill Out has facilitated fun, stimulating activities for small groups of children/young people, based on their interests, abilities and any pre-existing friendships. Meals have promoted healthy eating, and outdoor play was popular during the warmer months.
Transport from school and then home from Chavey Down has been provided. This has ensured carers have had extended, meaningful mid-week breaks as planned.
Each session lasts 6 hours, with transport and evening meal provided, meaning carers receive an opportunity for meaningful breaks to relax, attend to their own needs and interests, and spend time with other family members. Improved wellbeing is an aim for both carers and cared-for.
Tip 1:Be open-minded about the service you are providing, so that you are primed to be flexible and accommodate needs and preferences of children/young people and carers.
Tip 2:Pay attention to the timing of the breaks, and aspects like transport and meals, so that you maximise their impact.
Tip 3:Enjoy what you are doing! Our staff love providing the Chill Out because of the impact they see it has for the children/young people and their families, and this makes for an even better service.
A, who has Down’s Syndrome, has just moved from mainstream primary school to a special secondary school. The Chill Out helped her get to know some of her peers, build relationships and explore imaginative play.
B, a 15-year-old boy with autism, is very attached to his mum. His anxiety has to date prevented him from accessing short breaks. The Chill Out introduced him to these, an important step as he approaches transition.
C is an only child, with few opportunities to mix with her peers. The Chill Out is the first service she has been introduced to. C has been getting to know her peers and making some new friends, and is now telling staff who she would like to see at the Chill Out.
D’s daughter requires full-time care due to ill-health and regular seizures. We built in sensory bathtime for her daughter, bringing her home in her pyjamas, relaxed and ready for bed. Mum said this extended her break and made her very happy!
E has autism, poor sight and challenging behaviour. His parents felt good about being able to devote attention to their other children while he was having fun at the Chill Out, taking them for dinner and helping with homework.
F has autism. His mum says the Chill Out is a great opportunity for him to enjoy himself after school, and for her and other family members to do things he would not enjoy. She also reported that his sleep is much better on the nights of the Chill Out.
While their children are at the Chill Out, two single parents have been getting together (sons have Down’s Syndrome and autism). They say this provides them with an opportunity to have fun and exchange peer support.
H is a single mum and the sole carer for her daughter. The Chill Out is the first service she has introduced her to. With the free time she now receives as a result, she catches up with her friends or just relaxes at home. She says this is the only free time she has.
For children/young people, care is taken to establish appropriate peer groups and find out which activities the participants would enjoy. Healthy eating and physical activity are also promoted.
For carers, provision of transport, meals and preparation of the children/young people for bed before they are taken home ensures they have a long mid-week break and a quieter night once it is over. The length of the break allows them to relax and pursue other needs and interests.
Carer: “The service is greatly appreciated by all – both child and family.”
Carers are consulted on their needs and preferences, eg around bathing and transport, while the project itself has been developed in consultation with carers.
For those families not already accessing residential respite, the project introduces them to the Chavey Down respite unit and provides them with greater understanding of the choices available to them.
For those children/young people with a care plan, staff are made fully aware of its contents and ensure that the Chavey Chill Out supports this.
For example, activities include outdoor play, arts and crafts, imaginative play, use of ICT equipment, use of sensory equipment, and shopping for and preparing healthy meals. Throughout, the children and young people are encouraged to make their own choices.
For those children/ young people who experience difficulties interacting with others, we have been successful in running smaller groups of 2, ensuring they also have access to social development opportunities.
The greatest challenge we have experienced is managing the high level of demand for the Chavey Chill Out. The Chill Out offers a unique service to children and young people with significant support needs, many of whom require 1:1 care at all times. The feedback we receive from families is overwhelmingly positive, and word has spread in the local area.
It is very difficult to prioritise one family over another, as the extent of needs among all is very high. For the same reason, it is not really an option for families to arrange additional social opportunities for their children/young people without professional support and a suitable venue.
As a result, we have involved more participants than planned. Although this means that each child/young person attends the Chill Out less frequently, it does mean that more families receive the opportunity for much-needed short breaks.
Moreover, in the coming period, we will be holding some larger sessions with up to 6 participants, based on feedback and assessment of what is appropriate for the children and young people involved. This will further enhance their access to the project and their experiences of socialising with their peers.
The project has an unintended benefit for staff, in that it provides them with an opportunity to support children/ young people without the routines of overnight respite. They have reported how much they enjoy the Chill Out sessions.
Although promotion of socialising is a planned aspect of the project, some particularly strong friendships have emerged among some of the young people. This encourages staff to take an even keener interest in thinking how groups could work when it comes to bringing together children/ young people.
As described above, the project has also been promoted via word of mouth by families who have benefited from the service.
We have taken a conscious decision not to advertise the service more publicly due to issues with demand described above. The promotion methods we use ensure that families most in need benefit from the service.
- Cerebral palsy, requiring all personal care, moving and handling, gastrostomy fed
- Profound autism, with challenging behavior, communication issues, and in some cases problems relating to siblings and other vulnerable children
- Down’s syndrome
- Various chromosomal disorders
- Global development delay.
Staff maintain logs of the sessions, noting what activities the children/young people attending have taken part in, how they have responded to these and one another, any issues that arose or positive results observed, and recommendations for future sessions.