Short Break to Caravan Park in Blackpool
A story by CCLASP SCIO
We provided two breaks for groups of children with cancer and leukaemia and their families, one to Haggerston Castle Family Caravan Park and another to Hilton Coylumbridge near Aviemore.
This allowed them to relax and have fun as a family but also to meet others in the same situation as them.
What Short Break to Caravan Park in Blackpool did
We took 12 families caring for children with cancer and leukaemia (complex needs) on a four day break to Haggerston Castle Caravan park near Berwick where they enjoyed activities such as crazy golf, horse riding, bungee trampolining and a water park. Initially we had planned on taking 19 families to caravan park in Blackpool but many families said they would prefer to stay closer to home in case of an emergency - Blackpool is quite a long drive and you must change trains if travelling by rail.
After 6 months we found that several families were more interested in a break at the Hilton Coylumbridge Hotel in Aviemore rather than a caravan park. We have sent families there in the past and they all really enjoyed it and as a result many other families expressed a desire to go. As we still had more of the Better Breaks grant left over than expected (a result of Haggerston Castle being cheaper than Blackpool and incurring fewer transport costs) we decided to send 20 families to Aviemore. We have a strong working relationship with the hotel who regularly offer us a large discount on rooms and meals.
Families were able to enjoy some much needed tranquillity and took part in activities such as walks, cycles and trips to nearby attractions like Loch Morlich, the Highland Wildlife Park and Landmark Forest Adventure Park.
For both breaks we prioritised families who had not been on a break before or had a terminally ill child and therefore limited opportunities to enjoy a family holiday.
'We had a brilliant time. The hotel was perfect, very family friendly, loads to do or chill out...Time together with other families in the same boat is therapy for me and my family. Just not having to think about cooking, cleaning and hospital appointments was great and it gave us the time to enjoy each other and the lovely folk on the same journey. Thank you. - parent
What CCLASP SCIO has learned
We have developed our flexibility by listening to what families wanted and changing the breaks accordingly, so that both carers and cared for children could enjoy themselves as much as possible and that the breaks catered to their individual needs better. It was also important that we kept the breaks as similar as possible to the Blackpool break outlined in our initial application as we needed to strike a balance between what had been approve by Better Breaks and what our families wanted.
Our project budgeting skills have improved. Initially, we created a projected budget based on the cost of Blackpool, but we were able to save money by sending families to Haggerston Castle at their request instead. This meant we had to create a new budget in line with the altered breaks but maintaining similar costs to those originally proposed so that we could still send a similar number of families on breaks with the total grant.
We have found that by listening to families and tailoring breaks to their individual situations, we built our reputation for providing special breaks to others, meaning that more families will come to us for support in future. We are always eager to engage with new families.
How CCLASP SCIO has benefitted from the funding
Receiving funding from Better Breaks meant that we could offer breaks to more families than ever before there is a constant demand for this kind of activity and the funding helped us to address this. We are in the process of fitting out our new support centre, which has proved to be a lengthy and expensive process, so it was helpful to know that we had the financial support in place to be able to send families on breaks and that we did not need to sacrifice this popular service for the sake of funding the centre. Parents and carers often recommend our breaks to others, for example those that they have met in the hospital, therefore cementing our positive reputation and increasing the number of families, children and young people who come to us for support.
Disabled children and young people especially those with multiple support needs will have taken part in our short group break to Blackpool caravan park.
We sent 12 families to Haggerston Park as it was closer and therefore more accessible than Blackpool. Here the children took part in activities such as crazy golf, horse riding, bungee trampolining and swimming at the water park. We then sent 20 families to the Hilton hotel in Aviemore, where children enjoyed visits to Lake Morlich, the Highland Wildlife Park and Landmark Forest Adventure Park.
'I really liked the crazy golf at the caravan park even though I wasn't very good at it. I also liked when we went to the beach for the day because I've not been since before I had to go to hospital all the time. Some of my friends I met at the caravan park came too and our mums and dads even bought us fish and chips!'
Carers will report improved well-being during and following our trip to Blackpool.
91 carers went on short breaks and unanimously agreed that they provided the perfect opportunity to relax with family, make new memories and take their mind off the trauma of caring for a child with cancer.
'We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to go on a group holiday with CCLASP after the loss of our oldest boy. At first I was rather anxious for my kids as I wasn't sure how they react to again seeing children who were undergoing treatment (such as kids with NG tubes, loss of hair etc.,) - would stir up memories they would rather forget? Would it make them sadder to think of their brother not being here anymore? I also worried about how people would react to us. We were their worst nightmare - our child hadn't survived the horrible disease! However I couldn't have been more wrong and there was certainly no need for any anxieties. The boys had a ball. They had lots of freedom to explore and it was such a safe environment for them. We spent quality time together, away from all the struggles and reminders of how we were adjusting to our 'new lives' without our son. The boys could just be boys. No one knew they were the wee brothers of the boy who had just died. They got to do 'normal' things that had been so difficult before. The holiday provided us with exactly what was needed, quality family time and the opportunity to make more memories.'
Carers will have had the opportunity to have a break from their caring role.
91 carers enjoyed having a break from the stress of everyday life. Of the 41 parents and other adult carers, many stated that they enjoyed being able to forget about mundane tasks like cooking, cleaning and taking their sick children to hospital appointments. The majority of families on these breaks had not enjoyed a family holiday since their child's diagnosis, and a few reported that they had 'forgotten' what it felt like to go on holiday and have fun, as their lives had become so consumed by caring.
'We had a brilliant time. The hotel was perfect, very family friendly, loads to do or chill out...time together with other families in the same boat is therapy for me and my family. Just not having to think about cooking, cleaning and hospital appointments was great and it gave us the time to enjoy each other and the lovely folk on the same journey. Thank you CCLASP '
Carers will have felt that they were able to relate to and speak with other carers in order to bolster their community of support to sustain their caring role after the trip.
91 carers enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends on these breaks. 41 parents and other adult carers were able to seek practical and emotional support from others in the same position, while the 50 siblings of the sick children (considered young carers) were able to make friends and enjoy acting like children in a relaxing setting. Many of these families are still in touch with one another.
'To get away from it all and forget about what your going through for a few days is amazing! The whole family gets to enjoy a break and you get to make some amazing memories that don't include hospital appointments. It was lovely to also spend time with other families we had met in the hospital and see how the kids are doing now. To be able to talk about what you have all been through and know that the person you are talking to understands is a massive bonus. CCLASP have given us so much joy, support and amazing memories!'
More young people and their families will have had a break to enjoy some leisure time with each other.
12 families went on a break to Haggerston Castle Caravan Park and 20 went on a break to Hilton Coylumbridge in Aviemore - both locations had extensive leisure facilities and nearby attractions, both liaised with CCLASP to ensure that the additional support needs of these families were accommodated.
'Since my child got ill, I never thought we would enjoy a proper family holiday again - at least not for a few years. I heard someone mention going on a CCLASP break to Aviemore last year and she said it was amazing. I was sceptical at first, because I wasn't sure how well a posh hotel would respond to so many kids, many with cancer or other additional support needs, coming to them all at once. However the staff at CCLASP reassured me that they were very accommodating so we decided to take a chance. I'm so glad we did!. The hotel and CCLASP obviously have a really good relationship as all the staff were really helpful and gave us tips on things we could do in the local area that would be manageable for my child who gets tired very quickly because of his treatment and his wee sister. We ended up having a lovely day out at the Highland Wildlife Park where we could hire a wheelchair for him..
CCLASP WILL HAVE LEARNED MORE ABOUT THE ROLE OF SHORT BREAKS IN SUPPORTING CARING RELATIONSHIPS AND HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE SHORT BREAK NEEDS OF DISABLED CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE, AND THEIR CARERS.
We learnt more about flexibility and how to tailor short breaks in line with the wants and needs of children and young people with cancer and leukaemia and their families, by listening to feedback and changing the breaks accordingly. This meant that the breaks we offered were more accessible (as they were closer to home) and that we could off the breaks to a greater number of families.
'Thank you so much CCLASP for helping us out with a trip to Aviemore - we had originally been down for a trip to Blackpool but unfortunately my child's condition started deteriorating so we thought it would be better to stay in Scotland. CCLASP were extremely accommodating and we had a great time. The hotel totally serene, just what we needed. If you're on the fence about going on a short break, I'd totally say go for it, even if you've got any reservations, let CCLASP know and they will be more than happy to adjust things to suit your needs.