A story by ENABLE Scotland
A school holiday club providing specialist support, play and learning opportunities to young people with a disability, whilst providing short break/respite time to parents/carers. Young people are encouraged to participate, have fun and engage with peers whilst achieving their individual outcomes.
What RASCALS (FUNSHINE) did
We delivered RASCALS(FUNSHINE) holiday club throughout Easter, Summer and October school holidays. The club was impacted again by the pandemic, with various restrictions and staff shortages due to isolation rules. We are yet to regain access to our original building base and have been unsuccessful in sourcing an alternative building to use. The staff have responded positively and creatively to not having access to the building base and activities have continued to take place in the homes and local communities of the young people, as well as having day trips and outings.
Supporting the young people at FUNSHINE has provided parents/carers with the opportunity to continue employment and spend time with their other children. It has also given some much needed respite time to do things important to them such as shopping and leisure activities. Parents have said that this time has helped to sustain them in their caring role.
Staff recruitment and retention has been an issue across the sector due to many contributing factors. We have invested in our staff to ensure that they are paid competitively above the sector average to encourage more applicants. Although it has been a challenge, we have employed several new staff who have proven to be very successful. The young people have responded well to some of the younger staff, seeing them more as peers. The project has been recently impacted by some changes in Senior Management. Both the Team Facilitator and Services Manager left ENABLE Scotland, which left a knowledge gap. A new Services Manager has been appointed and is working diligently to make improvements to FUNSHINE.
We have met the 4 Better Breaks priority areas, though have not had as great an impact with the project as we would have hoped due to the various difficulties experienced throughout the year. This year’s success has been our ability to continue delivering FUNSHINE despite the many challenges that we have faced. Although FUNSHINE has not been delivered to its fullest extent, the young people and their carers have benefitted from the support throughout the holidays.
What ENABLE Scotland has learned
1. Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities
Delivering FUNSHINE throughout another year impacted by the pandemic has brought about continued challenges that we have had to negotiate around and learn from. There have been staff shortages (similar to the experiences across the sector) which led to ENABLE Scotland implementing Reward to Retain whereby we significantly invested in staff salary uplifts so that all of our frontline workers are paid competitively above the sector average. This has proven to be a successful initiative that has assisted in us seeing improved trends in recruitment and retention.
2. Targeting families most in need of support
Throughout the pandemic the FUNSHINE has adapted our service delivery to try and maximise access for young people and families. We have reached out to families who have been struggling and provided varying levels of support to alleviate these pressures. Support has led to a greater understanding of the abilities of the young people in a non-domestic setting. Such communication and supports are key to ensuring the service makes a positive difference to families during the holiday periods.
3. Providing support in the community
As we have not had access to a building base we have had to think creatively about how support can be delivered within the community. Many of the activities we have provided have never been experienced by the young people we support, thus required careful planning and risk assessing. Families have been eager to hear how the young people coped in different environments and have reported that it has given them the confidence to try different activities with their young people.
Through recent engagement with Families and staff, the Services Manager has a good understanding of how everyone would like to see FUNSHINE develop. We look forward to further learning and development of FUNSHINE throughout the next school holidays.
How ENABLE Scotland has benefitted from the funding
The funding from Better Breaks has allowed us to deliver this much needed service in the North Lanarkshire area. As we deliver a term time after school club to many of the young people who attend FUNSHINE we understand the difficulties that some of the young people and their families experience during the school holidays. Many of the young people we support struggle with a lack of structure and routine during the holidays and their parents struggle to find appropriate resources to fill their time. Other holiday clubs do not have staff with the right knowledge and training or have sufficient staffing ratios to safely support the young people who attend FUNSHINE. We continue to have strong links with the local schools and social work department to ensure the service is known to any prospective new referrals. Word of mouth continues to prove a positive source of feedback and ongoing referral enquiries. This means that we are in a young person’s life from an early age and can support them and their family through different phases of their lives, such as transitioning from Children to Adult services. In some form or another at a time when it has never been more needed, the funding has allowed us to be flexible in our response. With a new year of funding ahead we are planning how to build on the success of FUNSHINE and develop the service further for the benefit of the young people and families who access it.
The children and young people will have benefitted from their fun experience of RASCALS(FUNSHINE) holiday club throughout each school holiday and will have developed friendships along the way. As a result, they will be more able to build positive relationships and identify activities they enjoy.
The pandemic has continued to have an impact on the services being delivered, however the staff have worked to develop a broad range of activities to provide choice and development for the young people receiving FUNSHINE support. Through review of past activities including feedback from the young people, we were able to build on successful outings such as trips to the Safari Park, Bowling, Indoor Sledging, Millport, Edinburgh, Parks, Fairgrounds and the Cinema. Earlier in the year young people had less opportunities to come together as support was provided on a 1:1 basis, however throughout the summer and October holidays the young people have had opportunities to partake in activities together to share the experience and build friendships. We look forward to building on activities that bring the young people together so that they continue developing their friendships.
One of the young men we support had been struggling to get out and about due to the pandemic and had become very insular, spending a lot of time on his computer. He did not interact with others and often any engagement had to be done through the use of his favourite computer game. He had never instigated communication with any of the other young people and chose to stay on the periphery. During a FUNSHINE trip to Millport he turned round to one of the other young men and said ‘do you like boats? I like boats’. This was a huge breakthrough which everyone was delighted to see and overwhelming for his parents to hear. We also support another young man who has built an excellent relationship with his Personal Assistant over the last 18 months. The young man is 16 and has a diagnosis of Autism. He has several triggers that can cause him to become very anxious. When he is anxious, he can become unpredictable and try to run away or hit out at those around him. He has been especially fearful of Covid and does not like to hear people coughing. He also does not like babies and small children. He does however enjoy travelling and especially loves trains. His Personal Assistant has been working with him to be less anxious in the community. Always being mindful of the environment, the Personal Assistant has been able to support the young man with strategies so that he is less stressed and can do more activities. The young man has chosen day trips to Edinburgh so that he could ride on the tram. These have been a big success and both the young man and his Personal Assistant have enjoyed the experience.
The carers of the children who attend RASCALS(FUNSHINE) holiday club will be able to report on how these periods of respite have had a positive impact on them pursuing their own hobbies and interests.
We recognise that for many parents and carers respite allows activities that many people take for granted, with many seeing respite as something that is there just to improve the quality of life for their child, rather than they, themselves. Over the last year the communication and feedback we have had from parents and carers presents a picture of positive supports and developments. Not only within their children, but also in their own lives. Being able to take time away from their important caring role knowing that their child is in a supportive, encouraging and safe environment allows them to spend their reclaimed time to carry out, to quote one parent, “normal everyday things”. Activities include: Being able to do things around the house Gardening Working or pursuing learning Spending time with other children Spending time for self-care and relaxation Pursuing their own hobbies and interests Looking after pets/walking dogs.
The Services Manager has been engaging with families and some of the mums said that they have been delighted to have some time to themselves. A couple of the mums have used their time to go for a massage to relax. One of the mums who is the main carer for her son said that it has been a great relief for her, knowing that he is out socialising and having fun. Her son is a young man with a Learning Disability and Cerebral Palsy. Although he can move around his home, he uses a wheelchair when out and about. He is a young man who is full of fun and likes to get up to mischief. He requires a lot of support to keep him safe. Mum doesn’t get much free time so has recently used her time for socialising and visiting friends who she doesn’t get to see often. She said that she really enjoyed having the opportunity to go out for lunch with her friends. She also said appreciated being able to take her dog to the vet without having to worry about her son as well.
The carers of the children who attend RASCALS(FUNSHINE) holiday club will report feeling more resilient. They will have been supported by ENABLE Scotland to gain knowledge and access to other sources of support.
FUNSHINE has provided opportunities for carers to have periods of respite that have made positive impacts on their lives. Although the direct impact of the pandemic has lessened, parents still report of the stresses of their caring role and the impact that this causes them and their family. Parents have reported that the FUNSHINE sessions have enabled them, for example to have focused time to spend with their other children and continue to work during holiday periods. We continued to encourage carers to use Family Connect, our service to help support family members and loved ones of people with a disability. We continue to gather feedback from parents and carers to influence how we further develop service to best meet the needs of parents/carers.
One mum who has 2 sons with disabilities has reported the significant help that FUNSHINE has provided her. During periods when her partner works away she takes care of her sons herself. One of her sons had been experiencing heightened behaviours as a result of the world opening back up following pandemic restrictions. His raised anxiety had significantly affected his sleep, which was having a detrimental effect to the whole family. Mum had to take time off work and the family had been reaching a point of crisis. FUNSHINE was able to support both sons during the holidays, meaning that mum could get 6 hours of uninterrupted respite a day. Mum has used this for self-care, including catching up with sleep, and attending to housework and shopping, which she reports has been extremely beneficial for recharging her batteries.
The children attending RASCALS(FUNSHINE) will be able to access fun activities, relax and create friendships. The carers will experience improved personal wellbeing, identify a positive impact on their children and have increased support in their caring role.
Throughout the course of delivery we have gathered evidence of the positive experiences that the young people had at FUNSHINE, which enabled staff to develop new activities. Providing a good mix of fun and rewarding activities, we were able to support the development of young people whilst supporting them in community settings. Listening to families/carers and working closely with the young people, we were able to tailor the activities to the individual needs and interests of the young people via 1:1 support and small group activities. Parents and carers provide verbal feedback on how FUNSHINE has provided support during the school holidays, providing time for them to support other family members, having time to work, and seeing development in their children not realising the things they can do for themselves and building on these back at home.
An example of a successful trip where young people accessed fun activities, relaxed and created friendships was a day out to Braehead. Through conversations with the young people and their families it was determined that 5 of the young men might like to go sledging. They all got on the snow with the support of Personal Assistants and loved the experience of sledging down the slope. One of the older boys took on the role of helping the younger ones back up the hill so that they could have more shots of sledging. They all had a great time and got plenty of exercise from the experience. After this activity they moved on to bowling. The 2 younger boys found this environment over stimulating due to the noise, lights, games and distractions around them. The two older boys took on the role of helping them to set up their shots and keep focussed on the game. The younger boys responded well to this peer support and the older boys were praised for how well they supported the younger boys. Two of the young men we support have an interest in amusements and fairground rides, so trips were arranged to M&Ds and the carnival at Silverburn, which they loved. Another young man with similar needs and interests has never been on rides, however through discussions with his mum, everyone is confident that he will enjoy this type of experience so will attend the next trip like this. Mum was hesitant due to his mobility issues however staff have supported her to understand how we will risk assess this safely.