RASCALS (FUNSHINE) Holiday Club
A story by ENABLE Scotland
We delivered RASCALS (FUNSHINE) a school holiday programme that supports children with a Learning Disability and/or other complex support needs. It enables children to participate in a variety of exciting activities, interact with others, whilst having fun and achieving outcomes.
What RASCALS (FUNSHINE) Holiday Club did
The pandemic has required us to adapt our usual service delivery for RASCALS(FUNSHINE) programme and approach to supporting the children during the Easter, Summer, October and February school holidays in 2020/2021. The ongoing situation with the pandemic meant we had no access to our usual building base. We responded quickly to offer alternative solutions to ensure that the children, their families and our staff team remained safe and connected.
This meant we provided 1:1 support to children and young people with consistent staff members. Initially at Easter 2020 the support was provided in each child’s home due to the lockdown at that time. During the summer where there was a lifting of some restrictions this allowed for more community based activities like visiting parks for a picnic, woodland walkways to explore local wildlife and birdlife, Five sisters zoo, playing ball games and exercising in the fresh air.
This has provided parents/carers with time to spend with other siblings, do daily shopping, collect medication, exercise their dogs, all of which would be difficult without this support. These children and families have been struggling with the impact of Covid-19, in particular social isolation, the lack of support as well as the lack of familiar routine. We have ensured that staff support the same family regularly so that different staff are not going in and out of people’s homes thus reducing the chance of infection. The children have benefitted from having contact with their regular Personal Assistant during a time when they have not seen many other people.
The project did not go to plan and had to continually adapt to meet government guidelines and the changing needs of families and children. Reflecting on the last year, the highlight has been our ability to adapt to meet these changing needs and continue to safely deliver a service.
What ENABLE Scotland has learned
Continuing to provide short breaks during a pandemic proved challenging at times for everyone, some families who were clearly struggling had to make difficult decisions about not accessing short breaks due to understandable concerns about the uncertainty of Covid-19. We respected these choices and continued to offer moral support and kept in touch with families, keeping them informed with all relevant Covid-19 information and signposting them to other avenues of support and information. We learned how to safely adapt to meet the various needs of the young people, their parents/carers and our staff team throughout the various government restrictions levels.
The benefits of short breaks for children and young people cannot be underestimated, and it provides valuable support to parents and carers as well. These short breaks fulfil an important role in offering children and young people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy social interaction through play, leisure and recreational activities. This was highlighted even more so as the children and young people had disrupted school attendance throughout the year and missed out on their regular routines and meeting their friends on a daily basis.
We had to introduce new risk assessments for the Personal Assistants working in the homes of children and at times had to provide 2 Personal Assistants if a child was known to be having some challenges. The decreased numbers of children accessing RASCALS(FUNSHINE) afforded us the opportunity to increase staffing ratios where it was deemed necessary. We learned how to adapt support to the home setting and so huge benefits in this as we were able to see the children in a different environment. The opportunity that this created was for stronger relationships to be built, both between the Personal Assistant and the child, and between the Personal Assistant and the parents/carers. The Personal Assistants were able to do more focussed work with the children, which was beneficial due to the impact that the pandemic had on some of them.
Many of the outcomes for children had to be adapted due to the changing needs of the children. Some children had their progress hindered due to the pandemic and outcomes became focussed on reducing anxiety. We will continue adapting support to meet the various requirements of the children as we emerge from the pandemic.
We are now looking forward to RASCALS(FUNSHINE) being able to resume in a more ‘normal’ way and are beginning to plan for new and exciting activities that the children can participate in.
How ENABLE Scotland has benefitted from the funding
This funding has allowed us to be flexible in our response to need and shape our service around the specific needs of children, young people and their families and carers and make use of our expertise. Positive feedback we receive from parents and carers is shared with local carers networks and this creates valuable partnership opportunities for us as an organisation and enhances our reputation and gives us a platform to provide more opportunities for individual families By offering short breaks during school holidays it has created partnership opportunities we may not have otherwise had. We were approached by North Lanarkshire Council to support children and young people in inclusive environments in three local community hubs, Cumbernauld, Airdrie and Wishaw. This was challenging at times but overall, very positive and provided opportunities for young people to meet with their peers and have structured activities.
Children attending the club will be more able to build positive relationships and identify activities they enjoy.
RASCALS(FUNSHINE) provides opportunities for disabled children to enjoy activities and outings they may not otherwise be able to do. Through our matching process we take young people’s preferences and look for a suitable Personal Assistant who has similar interests and/or knowledge of a particular subject that the child has an interest in. By doing this it helps make the children more at ease and have a more successful outing or activity. This also gives the children and the Personal Assistant more confidence in each other’s company and makes planning for activities and outings more exciting for the young person. Unfortunately due to social distancing this year, relationship building has mostly been between children and staff rather than with peers. This has been vital though as often the children were only seeing close family. Through evaluation we know that the outcome of children having fun and engaging in activities they enjoy has been met.
A is a young man who has struggled throughout the pandemic with the ongoing uncertainty around schools being open for attendance. He really enjoys and needs the routine of school and also his school holiday support at RASCALS(FUNSHINE). Although his school attendance has been disrupted due to the change of guidance, we have been able to continue his school holiday support on a 1:1 basis with predominately the same staff member and this has been a huge benefit to A. He enjoys walks to local woodland areas to look at all the different wildlife and birds and takes a note of everything he has seen and loves going back to tell his parents what he saw that day, especially if it is a new bird or animal. His Mum said “The continued school holiday support has been so vital for A, he really enjoys his time with his staff member and looks forward to her coming , this has also allowed me to have time to attend to other things I would struggle to do without this support”.
30 carers will report respite received through RASCALS(FUNSHINE) has enabled them to explore and access person centred activities and opportunities around their individual needs.
Having their child attend RASCALS(FUNSHINE) has provided parents and carers with time to spend with other siblings, do daily shopping, collect medication, exercise their dogs, go to work or work from home, all which would be difficult without this support. These children and families have been struggling with the impact of Covid-19, in particular; social isolation; the lack of support; and the lack of familiar routine. We have been providing consistent respite to the children and we have been able to respond flexibly to this need. The families have been extremely appreciative of the support and have reported on the emotional, physical and psychological benefits of having it in place. The team have received letters and cards of thanks from parents and carers. From the positive feedback we know that we have met this outcome; it has been met for 22 carers as opposed to the estimated 30.
A & B are two young siblings we support at RASCALS(FUNSHINE) who have additional support needs. They both attend a local primary school and have found lockdown particularly difficult with the school being closed. They have an older sibling who lives with them and their parents. The family rely on some additional support to help both boys enjoy the activities they like, both together and on their own. The support provided also allows for their older sibling to enjoy some time on his own with his mum and/or dad. We have been able to continue supporting both A & B during the school holidays and this has been a great success and a big help to the family and wider family members. Here is a direct quote from mum: “Support from ENABLE changed the lives of our whole family for the better. My two disabled children receive great support and love the experiences they have while the rest of the family can have much needed time out. Without FUNSHINE, I would be unable to work. We were so fortunate in finding good support and it is vital for families who care for a disabled family member that the whole family is considered as well as the needs and development of the person being supported”.
30 carers will report feeling more resilient and have awareness and access to other sources of support.
The additional hours respite that RASCALS(FUNSHINE) gives the parents and carers provides many benefits for families. Caring for a child or young person with a disability can sometimes be stressful and exhausting, and the few hours a day that RASCALS(FUNSHINE) provides gives carers an opportunity to take a break and recharge themselves. We find many of our families have limited other options of support at the best of times, however this has been accentuated during the past year when restrictions were in place. We have heard from the families that by having consistent staff to support their child during school holidays it has made a significant difference to their resilience. We therefore know that we have met this outcome. As well as providing support from the staff, we have been able to signpost carers to additional resources. We have also provided the opportunity for carers to access ENABLE Scotland’s additional services such as Welfare Rights and Family Connect.
D is a young person we support at RASCALS(FUNSHINE). He has additional support needs and attends a local primary school. His Mum is a single parent and relies on her parents to provide additional support with D. During the pandemic, D has not been able to attend his school as normal due to various restrictions and his grandparents during the first lockdown could not provide any additional support due to them shielding. Support from RASCALS(FUNSHINE) staff gave D the opportunity to continue with some of the activities he enjoys and provided Mum with some respite, which gave her the opportunity to go shopping, exercise herself and the family pet and collect medication. Mum has said she would not have coped without this support and is very thankful. D’s grandparents have also expressed how this has helped them to cope better especially when they could not support D and his Mum.
30 carers will experience improved personal wellbeing, identify a positive impact on their children and have increased support in their caring role.
Parents/carers have told us that having a son or daughter with additional support needs can lead to many complex and stressful life situations that can have significant consequences. RASCALS(FUNSHINE) allows for children and young people to take a break from home life for a few hours a day and enjoy time away experiencing fun and outings they love. At the same time the carer can take a break and be reassured that their child is well supported and having fun. The children and young people look forward to their time away from their carers but are equally happy to be reunited with them at the end of the day. More than ever given what everyone has experienced over the past year, the break that RASCALS(FUNSHINE) provides both children and parents/carers has been very well received by everyone. We have seen first hand the positive impact that RASCALS(FUNSHINE) has had on the children and their parents/carers.
We recently began supported J again during the February half term. The family had chosen not to take support at home however over the last year, they have progressively struggled with lockdown home life. The family agreed to receive support as both mum and son were reaching a point of crisis. We were able to offer immediate support to the family. During that week it was evident the positive impact this additional support had on J and more so, his mum. J visited several parks and was supported socially, to play basketball with staff and go for drives for ice cream. J’s anxiety had increased over lockdown, but with support his anxiety decreased. Being outside allowed him to regain more independence, which directly increased his confidence. Also being able to go for long walks helped both his mental and physical health. J’s mum also greatly benefitted from the support being introduced again. Mum had been struggling mentally with the increased pressure of supporting J over lockdown. She had also been dealing with ill health and taking care of her own mother through illness, all of which was a massive strain on her. When speaking with her to arrange appropriate support which she felt comfortable with in line with restrictions, she expressed her gratitude to the Team Facilitator for the support being provided. Due to the support, she was able to do small things again independently such as going food shopping, visiting her mum to provide essential support and she was even able to take a few hours for herself to do things she enjoys or just have a cup of tea and relax. Although some of these tasks may seem trivial, they were of great significance to mum resulting in an improvement to her own health.