SHIP Holiday Club Respite
A story by Support Help and Integration in Perthshire (SCIO)
We delivered SHIP Holiday club supporting young people (5-18yrs) with additional support needs, sensory & physical disabilities & their families. The clubs promote social inclusion and life skills for the children while giving families get a well-needed break.
What SHIP Holiday Club Respite did
The holiday club ran in Summer (4weeks) and October (1 week). The summer sessions ran for 2.5 hours morning & afternoon and in October this was increased to 3 hours. These sessions were held over two venues to reduce the number of children in 'bubbles,' in line with current government guidance.
Throughout July, Aug and September we also ran 'pop up in the park' sessions. These sessions allowed parents/carers to drop off the children at the park and have a break. The sessions were 2 hours long.
What Support Help and Integration in Perthshire (SCIO) has learned
Dealing with unexpected challenges
We have learned that communication is the key when encountering unexpected challenges. In March when Covid-19 lockdown was announced we communicated a lot with families. This helped to ensure we were doing enough to help them, keeping everyone connected and helping with future planning of groups.
We found that local authorities were also looking for better working relationships to ensure the most vulnerable families received respite. SHIP as a charity adapted quickly to the ever-changing guidance, looking forward to supporting as many families as possible. We also now have a much better relationship with the care inspectorate, as they were easier to get in contact with and gave some good advice.
Reaching out and engaging with families -
From the start, we engaged with families over Seesaw with group and private messages to families. These helped everyone stay connected with each other and SHIP to help reduce the social isolation and shock everyone was feeling at the time. We posted fun activities/videos for the children, that they could do themselves to give parents a short break. The videos stared staff and volunteers singing songs, stories, art activities, sports activities and some mindfulness activities, which allowed the young people to see familiar faces. We contacted families by phone on regular basis, which families said really helped them to feel connected to the outside world, giving them someone to speak to about any issues they were having.
With Government guidance that changed every few weeks in the beginning we had to be as flexible as possible. Staff were flexible and patient when changing and canceling shifts at late notice. The staff and volunteers did lots of online learning to ensure they were keeping up their skills and additional more in-depth training on infection control, health and safety and new SHIP Covid policies.
The staff embraced a new way of running the groups with social distancing, PPE, taking temperatures, greeting children outside, additional cleaning, no sharing of toys, restricted resources (all resources needed to be washable) and majority of play outside and made it feel ‘normal’ to the young people.
Also, staff, volunteers, children and families embracing online clubs and meetings. This was very challenging for some to make this change but was embraced with positivity and flexibility.
How Support Help and Integration in Perthshire (SCIO) has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding has allowed SHIP to continue to support families in Perth and Kinross through school holidays. Families have really struggled with social isolation and mental wellbeing this year, having no opportunity for any respite with schools being shut. These clubs have been described by parents/carers as a ‘lifeline and feels like a family we have joined’ and without the support for Better breaks funding, this would not have been possible. With continued support, we are building our knowledge and skills which is allowing us to support more families within Perth and Kinross.
All 135 children will have enjoyed planned fun activities, made friends and accessed the local community.
We supported 65 families over the holiday clubs ensuring that the young people who attended had fun activities to participate in, spent time with their friends and when guidance allowed visited the local park. The number of children we supported was lower than anticipated due to families shielding and families being anxious about children getting together. We also worked closely with Perth Autism Support to ensure that we were not supporting the same families so more people were being supported overall. The children participated in active outdoor games, sensory play, Lego, Storytime's, drama, dance sessions, yoga and art. Unfortunately, the local trips were all canceled due to Covid-19 but we did access local parks and go for walks. All the children reported they enjoyed seeing their friends, playing games and felt less isolated. The clubs ran 5 days a week for 4 weeks in the summer and 1 week in October school holidays.
M has been mostly in isolation since lockdown, as he doesn't understand the safety needs for space. It was safer to keep him home as if he'd seen someone he knew, his default is to run over and give them a cuddle - obviously not appropriate with covid-19 around. He has enjoyed not having to deal with the outside world mostly, but I worried a lot about how it would affect his transition to high school after so much time without experiencing having any others around him. With the SHIP sessions, he was able to get used to a similar setup to how his new school base operates, and a reminder of how to cope with the uncertainties of other people around him. He has had a chance to play with others, be active and have fun. This has been a huge help for my nerves, and he had a blast - waking up at the crack of dawn each day asking "time for SHIP?", and counting down the days in between! I feel it's had a really positive impact on what I suppose you could say was reintroducing M into being around others, including getting used to people wearing masks and taking other precautions. Thank you SHIP!
The children and young people with disabilities will have experienced a wide variety of activities that will improve their life skills, social, emotional and physical wellbeing. Their parents/carers and siblings will report less stress within their caring role.
All our registered families have reported they have been isolated, anxious, physically and mentally drained/exhausted this year. They have reported their children have struggled with not seeing their friends, homeschooling, sleep and anxiety because they are confused about why things have changed. Although the groups had to change due to covid-19 ie, length of session, number of children attending at any one time, activities on offer, 100% of families reported that the time the children spent at SHIP improved their physical & mental wellbeing and helped them to get back into a routine of seeing other people. The children all coped well with staff wearing masks and getting their temperature checked. This helped with the transition back to school as they were already used to this new routine. 100% of families reported being less stressed as a result of their children attending SHIP holiday club.
‘As a family we really struggled over lockdown. Our daughter is profoundly disabled and we suddenly had no support from school and carers weren’t allowed to come in. We struggled with caring for her, home schooling our other daughter and both working from home. Normally if schools were off it was the holidays and we could rely on SHIP to offer care & respite, however due to Covid-19 this wasn’t possible either. Our daughter was bored and cried a lot and we struggled as a family to cope. When SHIP announced they could offer some support over the summer period I was so delighted that I cried! The sessions were only short but gave us the opportunity to breath and M some much needed social interaction. We went for some walks but mostly just tried to switch off and relax. When she came home, she was happy, relaxed and most importantly slept through the night. These sessions massively helped us as a family to carry on and be more positive that this is not going to last forever.’
We will have supported 405 parents/carers and siblings by giving them a break to enjoy life outside their caring role by offering flexible hours for Holiday club.
We supported 195 parents/carers across the holiday clubs. To ensure we were meeting the needs of the families we made regular calls to families and sent out surveys to families. All registered families (135) were supported through calls, online activities and virtual groups through out lockdown. Over the holiday club sessions, we achieved 2245 hours of respite. This was lower than expected due to Covid-19 restrictions. The length of sessions had to be reduced to reduce the risk of infection and also to offer morning & afternoon sessions thus supporting more families. We had planned to have a Winter holiday club over the Christmas break and had 25 children booked in, however, with the second full lockdown this had to be canceled. 100% of families stated that the sessions improved their mental wellbeing and gave them some breathing space to relax.
‘SHIP has really helped my relationship with my son. Before SHIP it was him and me, he didn’t have any friends, could not go out and play with anyone in the street. It could get very intense sometimes. When school shut it was even worse as I then had to do schoolwork with him too. He did not understand why he had to do it at home. Lisa from SHIP called me every week to see how I was getting on and it was great to have someone else to talk to. In the summer SHIP ran some clubs and I was lucky enough to get my child a space every day. The time he was there meant I could sit with my feet up or take to dog out for a walk, without a fight about going out. I did not realize how tired I really was. When he came home we had things to talk about and he was tired from running about playing games for hours. He was happy to have seen friends and had a chance to play. If he is happy then it makes my life a lot earlier. Thank you.’
Parents/carers will have been involved in the planning process to ensure that they are receiving respite when most needed and will set life skills targets for their children that will be of assistance in their caring role.
To ensure families were receiving the services that most supported them to sustain their caring roles we sent out surveys and made regular calls to families. With Covid-19 we could not have face-to-face meetings and families were struggling to find time for themselves. We had to ensure that all contact was done that didn’t take too much time and when was convenient to the family. Some families requested weekly calls, others were happy with the occasional text to keep in contact. Before the summer groups, we collated information from families & schools regarding the children about how we could move the young people’s social & life skills forward and what would be the most helpful to the families. This year most families wanted their young people to be active, see their friends to reduce social isolation and get used to routines/transitions again before their return to school. 100% of families said they were happy with the support they received and it really helped over lockdown
‘On dropping off H I received a call telling her that my mum had suddenly died so the time that H was at SHIP, on the Tuesday, meant I was able to absorb this news. The staff were very supportive and managed to get H into a few more sessions. This helped me to make arrangements for my mum and take time to absorb everything. I don’t know what I would have done without that help.’ ‘Having a new born and other siblings to care for, holidays can be very tricky trying to keep everyone happy. This seems an impossible task but having B at holiday club meant that we got to spend time with our other son & daughters without having to give all our time to B. We managed to treat the other children to lunch out, day away and friends over.’ 'Having calls helped me de-stress because I was talking to someone that really knows my child and our challenges. In the calls, we had a chance to talk about holiday clubs and activities that would be best. I felt included & listened to, it was refreshing a group wanting my opinion.'