Quarriers Play-Break Project
A story by Quarriers
Seven exclusive-use play sessions have been held for 47 children with disabilities and additional support needs over the past 8 months. These have included soft play (Playbarn), swimming, crafts and a nature walk, and cinema. For many children, this was the first time they had been able to experience these activities.
With support from Quarriers staff, 64 Carers have received both peer and professional support. They have also enjoyed pampering sessions and received training in first aid.
A number of families have been assisted each month to access local mainstream facilities, including the Playbarn and a local parents group.
By supervising their play, we aimed to give 35 Carers an opportunity to have a break, access support and get to know others in similar situations. We aimed to sustain this by supporting families to start accessing recreational facilities in their locality.
Tip 1:Be flexible with arrangements and willing to work around plans following Carer feedback.
Tip 2:Initial one-to-one work to engage with Carers and build relationships is crucial to building their confidence to come along to groups.
Tip 3:Invest time and resources in promotion and support so that families can identify themselves, or professionals refer them on.
D (7, cerebal palsy) had never visited the Playbarn soft play centre; J (5, autism) had tried, but had to leave because of the noise and number of people. Exclusive use of the centre meant they were able to play and learn to interact in a safe way.
K (10, global development delay, autism, difficult behavior) had never been to the cinema – his mother feared he would be disruptive. He enjoyed the project’s cinema outing, and his mother was astonished at his calm attitude. K has since been to the cinema during regular showings, and his mother is increasingly confident in his behaviour.
The Earthtime event allowed 8 children to have a picnic in the park, look for bugs and identify what they caught, and enjoy crafts and games using natural resources. Many children could later be found looking for bugs in their garden!
Confidence has grown in families to go to events as a unit. Children with multiple support needs often receive support from mainly one parent, with the other parent focusing on siblings. Feelings of guilt, inadequacy and jealousy were explored with the groups, resulting in better understanding between couples, improved family dynamics, and more attention being paid to all children by both parents.
M cares for her daughter (severe epilepsy, developmental delay, suspected autism). The family is new to the area, and M felt very isolated. She was asked to leave her local parents and toddlers group as her daughter’s fits panicked parents and frightened children. With our support, they attended group events. M met other parents and was supported to join their community group. M now has a social network, feels more comfortable in her community, and wants to support other Carers in her area.
Group work, peer support, provision of information and learning opportunites, Carers’ assessments and social work referrals have all helped Carers feel better supported to improve their wellbeing and opportunites outside their caring role.
Carers have also supported eachother through difficult periods and problems:
N cares for her daughter (Prader Willies Syndrome), who has now been to the Playbarn, swimming and cinema for the first time. The family has registered with Quarriers’ Carers’ service, and both siblings have been identified and supported as young carers. The family is Polish, and N is being supported by Quarriers to attend English classes. Through this project, they met another Polish family they now meet outwith the group. A Polish Crossroads worker was secured for group events, helping N feel more confident to leave her child in another’s care and integrate with the other Carers.
Playbarn: arrangements have been made with individual families to accommodate their needs, such as avoiding queuing and refunding ticket costs if the family has to leave shortly after entering. The last Playbarn session was held during public opening hours, with professional and peer support.
Cinema: during the exclusive use showing, the lights were only partially dimmed and the sound was lowered. Elgin Cinema is discussing links with Quarriers to arrange future showings for this client group and arrange autism-specific showings.
A local parents’ group adapted to include Carers of pre-school children with disabilities and multiple support needs. The group provides peer support with parenting and handling difficult behavior. Families involved in this project were supported by Quarriers to link in with the group.
Carers have received professional support, been linked with other families, and been signposted to other forms of support. The project has introduced them to facilities they had not tried in the past, opening up options for the future.
The inclusion of siblings has been beneficial for the whole family, making arrangements much easier for Carers, ensuring siblings are not left out, and providing opportunities for children of different abilities to play together.
The project has helped facilities adapt their approach and practice to the needs and preferences of this client group. Quarriers facilitated discussion between lifeguards and Carers, helping the former better understand children’s needs and their capability in the water. This allowed the children to access slides, equipment and play areas.
This project has complemented other services in that it has helped families understand what support is available, undergo assessment and feel more comfortable about accepting help. A number of families have gone on to receive breaks from the Family Fund and Take a Break, with support from Quarriers’ Carers’ service to apply.
The project has also increased their opportunities to spend time with other children and adults, supporting their social and emotional development – without this project, the children have few opportunities to socialise outside of school.
The children have adapted well to different environments, giving their parents the confidence to continue accessing activities and facilities that will further support their growth and development.
- The Playbarn venue was unable to provide exclusive use during weekends or school holidays, and since those are busy times for public use, we were restricted more than anticipated in when we could use the soft play centre. However, this gave us an opportunity to arrange a broader range of activities during school holidays, including Earthtime and the cinema. Both were very accommodating, and the contact has led to the development of longer-term links to better support this client group.
- Some Carers, though keen to participate, felt unable to on some occasions due to the stress of getting organised to leave the house. In these cases, we helped arrange for more intensive support, including additional respite in the home prior to organised events, so as to enable families to attend. Having done so once, they tended to feel more at ease about coming to further meetings.
- As Moray is a remote and rural area, with limited transport links, the journey to Elgin for organised events was in some cases difficult for families to manage. We have therefore developed the idea of arranging smaller events in local community centres, and discussed this with families. They are very keen on the idea, and feel it will allow them to take part more regularly in the project.
- Three Polish families who were previously very isolated have come together through this group, enabling them to support one another and engage better with services.
Their initial engagement was encouraged using Polish-language flyers, and phone line, and translation services. Home visits and regular contact was needed to develop a trusting relationship, and to fully understand and tease out their support needs. To encourage their engagement in the group events, we arranged translation services and for Polish support workers to be involved. This helped them participate and get to know the other Carers present.
These families have since engaged with Quarriers’ Carers’ services as a whole as a result of coming along to the group events.
- Many more Carers have accessed further support from Quarriers since attending the group events, including Carers’ assessments, counselling, training and occasional respite.
For many families that had not previously accepted Social Work or respite support, the introduction to Crossroads support workers provided by the project proved a natural and successful way of introducing them to the idea of accessing home-based respite. Meeting other Carers who use such services has also encouraged them to explore the support options available. Quarriers’ Carers’ service has been able to fund initial trial respite sessions, following which families have been supported to request more regular respite from Social Work.
The project has helped raise awareness of Quarriers’ Carer Support Service among families caring for a young child with disabilities and additional support needs, agencies and services. This has resulted in increased referrals, drop-ins and registration of Parent-Carers: as a direct result of this project, 17 Carers, 14 children and 4 Young Carers have registered with our service, meaning their needs can be better supported.
In addition, we asked health visitors, developmental and mainstream playgroups, and Children and Families social workers to promote the opportunity to families not already known to us that would meet the eligibility criteria. This was achieved through meetings and service presentations for professionals.
Flyers, posters, emails and newsletter updates were also used to promote the project widely.
Since the majority of events were for the exclusive use of these children, their Carers and siblings, we were able to control factors such as safety, numbers and sensory stimulation, and accommodate mobility issues and behavioural difficulties.
All venues/activities were selected to ensure those with mobility problems could participate, as well as those with learning or communication difficulties.
Carers were fully informed about the activities before the events took place, ensuring any extra support required could be provided, or alternative activity options included.
Breakout space was identified before each event, reassuring Carers and workers that a quiet area was available if needed.
Multiple support needs have included:
- Children with autism and no communication capabilities
- Children with cerebal palsy
- Prader Willies Syndrome
- Foetal Alcohol syndrome
- Angelmans syndrome
- Oesphageal disorder
- Severe unstable epilepsy.
Many of these children have significant behavioural difficulties, little communication, require continence and feeding aids, or are unable to mobilise. Some of the support required has included keeping their environment safe, preventing them from self harming, or from eating unsafe or unsuitable foods.
This has led to the development of a new application to Better Breaks, seeking funding for a project establishing community-based groups in 4 locations across Moray. These groups will enable children with disabilities and additional support needs to have opportunities for stimulating play and socialising, and allow Carers to access peer support and breaks from caring. We plan to support the Carers involved to take an active role in developing, organising and sustaining these groups.
- Verbal and written feedback at events from both Carers and children, using various forms of feedback (sticky notes, smiley faces and staff note-taking).
- Consultation with parents by phone if they are unable to make events, discussing timings and venues to ensure events are arranged to benefit all.
- Support plans initiated by Quarriers Support Workers as part of their remit include this project, with peer support, short breaks and increased confidence identified as desired outcomes. Progress towards achieveing these is updated on an individual basis.