Residential Breaks for Young Carers
A story by Edinburgh Young Carers
We delivered short residential breaks for young carers aged 5-18 at various venues across Scotland, mainly during 2022/3 school holidays. These breaks help to ensure that Young Carers have some of the same opportunities as their peers by taking a short break away from their caring responsibilities.
What Residential Breaks for Young Carers did
In the funding period, we delivered 15 short breaks, enabling 134 young carers (YCs) to enjoy a much-needed break from their caring responsibilities. The breaks took place mainly in school holidays during the 2022/3 school year.
The venues included: PGL Adventures (Berwick) Bonaly Scout Camp (Edinburgh) Dynamic Earth (Edinburgh) City Arts Centre (Edinburgh) Abernethy Barcaple (Castle Douglas). Stanemuir House (Carnwath) Glasgow Science Centre and Hopscotch (Ardvullin)
• 2 breaks for aged 11 and under
• 6 breaks for 9–12-year-olds
• 1 break for 13–15-year-olds
• 4 breaks for aged 16+
• 2 Breaks for YCs affected by parental addiction
We prioritised Young Carers with the most demanding caring responsibilities and those who would not have access to any other break or holiday.
Some of the breaks were delivered in partnership with specialist third party providers including PGL Adventures, and the Green Team. The Young Carer's were able to participate in new activities including archery, paddle boarding and kayaking. They also learned about the environment and (at Dynamic Earth) science and nature, and benefited from Edinburgh Young Carers and peer support around issues including family, school and mental health.
The project went more or less according to the plan in our application, with slight variation in the plans for older Young Carers (13+) and Young Adult Carers. We found that this group were less inclined to spend time away from home, due to other demands on their time (e.g. exams, wider social life). For this group, we delivered 4 shorter (one night) breaks which allowed them some respite without detracting from their other priorities.
What Edinburgh Young Carers has learned
Our vision of post-Covid support differed from that of some of the young people, particularly in the older age group. We had assumed, for example, that YCs aged 13-15 and YACs would prefer longer breaks to compensate for their lack of respite during Covid. In fact they told that shorter one day/night breaks fitted better with their lives, so we accommodated that.
New partnerships have increased the potential for an expanded residential breaks programme in future years. The Green Team, for example, covered some of the activity costs that we would have expected to incur, enabling us to support more young people across the project.
Allowing young people to share experience with others in the same age group and/or with shared experience (e.g. parental addiction) remains key to the success of the project. We have used this experience to start planning other breaks for young people with specific experience, e.g. sibling carers.
How Edinburgh Young Carers has benefitted from the funding
Creative Breaks were the sole funder of residential breaks during the funding period. This reduced pressure on our finances and capacity. Knowing that we would not need to source other funding enabled us to direct unrestricted funding and fundraising resource to other projects. The flexibility of the funding allowed us to deliver a wider programme which was more suited to the Young Carers needs than the original plan. The fact that we had funding secured for the year gave us the confidence to apply to a competitive community fund for the 2024 programme, and we were awarded funding following a successful presentation.
80 young carers will have had access to a break allowing them complete respite from their caring responsibilities by trying activities not normally accessible to them, and form new friendships.
This was fully achieved, with a higher than anticipated number of Young Carers supported. Many attending the breaks had never had a holiday either due to their caring responsibilities, or their families’ financial situation. The breaks gave them an opportunity to meet with peers previously unknown to them and to enjoy activities and see sights which were new to them, including fencing, orienteering and a trip to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Young Carers received support to build their confidence and improve their social interaction by working in teams with peers of a similar age and/or life experience. 87% reported reduced loneliness and that they had made new friends.
Child B (11) lives with her mum and brother- her Dad died two years ago. Child B was referred to Edinburgh Young Carers due to the deterioration in her Mum’s mental health since then. Her older brother also struggles with his mental health and is receiving Counselling. Child B was left feeling extremely anxious about her Mum’s health, and really struggled with leaving her at home. Child B started to attend the respite group support to engage in new activities, learn new skills, socialize with others, get peer support. She grew in confidence to the point that she felt able to attend several overnight residential stays away. She would not have been able to do this before due to her anxiety and feelings of isolation. Child B being able to experience breaks away from home and feel comfortable and relaxed has taken a huge stress away from the family. She has been able to make memories for herself, learn new skills and really build upon her peer friendships, all while being reassured by staff that her Mum is OK at home. All of this has significantly reduced her anxiety around her caring responsibilities. Her Mum also feels more supported, knowing that Child B is experiencing new activities and feeling less anxious and lonely.
80 young carers will strengthen their relationship with Edinburgh Young Carers and have improved understanding of other support available.
All of the Young Carers supported will continue receiving support from Edinburgh Young Carers either through referral to one of our peer support groups or via our recently established Advice and Information Service, designed to provide ongoing support for Young Carers needing less intensive support. Signposting to other agencies, and discussions on support available for transitions into further education and employment was a key component of all activities for Young Adult Carers. 90% said they felt more supported in their caring role and 87% better able to cope.
Child A (10) lives with her mum who has a number of long-term medical conditions. Theirs is a low income household, meaning that Child A’s is rarely able to participate in social activities. She has said she doesn’t mind this as she would rather spend time with her Mum and know that she is OK. This was having a negative effect on Child A’s ability to socialise and form friendships. Child A was offered a space on a 5-day residential break in Fort William, run by Edinburgh Young Carers in partnership with Hopscotch, a specialist charity providing respite for vulnerable young people. Despite her Mum’s encouragement, Child A was very reluctant to come along as she didn’t want to leave mum. Edinburgh Young Carers provided one-to-one support to help address Child A’s anxieties and supported her to attend group sessions as preparation for the holiday. She was able to make new friends while continuing to challenge her anxieties and becoming involved in planning the break. On the day of the holiday Child A’s anxieties where heightened as this was the first time she had left mum, but the strategies put in place appeared to help. During the break, Child A participated in all the activities including tubing and a Sea Safari. She only once mentioned being homesick and towards the end of the holiday she said she didn’t want to go home as she was having too much fun! On her return she told her mum that she wants to go back next year. Her mum told us she has never seen her so excited and happy. Child A has especially benefited from her respite break by making new friends. She has maintained her new friendships with the other young people who took part in the break, which has had a real impact on her confidence and social skills.
80 young carers have improved mental health and wellbeing by developing the confidence and resilience they need to address their caring responsibilities
This was fully achieved, with a higher than anticipated number of YCs supported. For many, this was their first time away from home which led to anxiety, especially for the younger children. Some were worried about whether their cared-for parent or sibling would manage without them. During the breaks, they were able to participate in team-based activities like paddle boarding and orienteering aimed at building their confidence and resilience and improving their overall wellbeing. 91% of YCs felt more confident and 85% felt better about themselves.
Child C (11) looks after his disabled mother and his 4 younger siblings. His father has no contact with the family, so Child C has taken on some of that role and does his best to support them all. This means that he worries constantly about finances and his mother’s health and has taken a lot of time off school recently. His family circumstances prevent him from going out and having fun with his friends- he worries that his father might appear while he is out, or that his mum might fall and hurt herself. On referral to Edinburgh Young Carers, Child C was offered respite support within one of our peer support groups. He was reluctant to engage with the support, but he managed to build a positive relationship with his keyworker and to start engaging with the group. He took part in activities he had never tried before, which allowed him to just enjoy being a child without worrying about what was happening at home. Over time Child C was offered the opportunity to participate in a two-night residential break. This caused him a great deal of anxiety, but with much encouragement from his mum and his keyworker, he reluctantly agreed. During the residential it was noticeable that Child C was struggling to be away from home but this changed over the course of the weekend. His confidence grew when trying new experiences such as archery, climbing wall, assault courses etc and having a sense of accomplishment by the end of the weekend. Child C was the first to ask if he could come on another residential with us as he had so much fun!