A story by Outfit Moray
The project was to create Outdoor Learning and Adventure opportunities for disabled young people in Moray, who often do not get the opportunity to participate in outdoor learning and adventure due to their complex access requirements, and their young carers.
What Short Breaks did
The project delivered four programmes of six activity sessions taking place during the school holidays and at weekends, at various locations across Moray. The programmes were multi-activity, enabling the young participants the opportunity to try a range of activities, so that they could identify activities that suited their particular needs and desires, with a view to being able to participate in the future. Activities included Canoeing, Kayaking, Paddle Boarding, Bushcraft, Tyrolean Traverse, Cycling, Walking and Archery.
The participants were a mix of male and female across a range of ages including primary school age and secondary school age. To identify participants, we took referrals from charity partners, the local authority social work and youth work departments, school ASN departments and self referral through advertising the opportunities across our social media feeds and mailing lists. The programmes were open to disabled children and young people and associated young carers.
To make the programmes successful, we invested in additional equipment to ensure we could cater for as wide a range of needs as possible and additional training for instructional staff and volunteers on delivering enabled adventure, through a partner charity Able2Adventure. The training and equipment ensured we were able to tailor activities to suit the needs of the participants to achieve the best possible outcomes. The project sought to address the Better Break priority of Sports and Active Leisure.
There were many challenges along the planning journey, principally due to the Covid pandemic and the impact that had on engaging with referral partners and programming the sessions, due to availability of staff and the number of programming changes to other projects we were running concurrently. However, once the programming challenges were overcome the programmes ran smoothly. Through longitudinal feedback from parents/guardians the overriding successful outcome for the participants has been an increase in confidence to try new things, particularly outdoor activities.
What Outfit Moray has learned
We have learned that trying to plan, programme and execute a project during the many and varied challenges caused by a pandemic and its aftermath is tricky, with everything from sourcing equipment, to arranging training, to engaging with referral agencies taking much longer than planned.
With particular regard to engagement with referral agencies, we were led to try out self referral, which was not something we had tried before. There was a degree of scepticism that it would not work effectively and people other than the target audience would try to refer, but in reality it worked successfully and enabled us to reach children and young people who had not been involved with us previously.
As a result of running the project, we have learned which of our activities work best with different types of disability and have been able to offer further opportunities for enabled adventure, as part of our summer holiday programme and in partnership with the local authority's social work department, Xcite programme.
How Outfit Moray has benefitted from the funding
As a direct result of running the project, we have upskilled staff and developed ways of working that mean we can offer further opportunity for enabled adventure. The project has also strengthened links with the local authority social work department and led to the creation of opportunity for social work referred children and young people to participate in enabled adventure during the school summer holidays and hopefully beyond. Undoubtedly, new initiatives such as this strengthen our reputation as a charity and through the power of social media, we reach more children and young people who have barriers to participation, which we can help them overcome.
The disabled young people who participate in the programmes will have made lasting friendships and will still be enjoying outdoor activities.
The follow up surveys sent to parents/guardians three months after the activities revealed that 50% of respondents intended to participate in outdoor learning and adventure activities again and the other 50% had already booked onto further opportunities that we have been providing during the school summer holidays. Whilst there has been no specific feedback on lasting friendships being formed, there has been feedback that the young participants all enjoyed meeting other young people who were 'like them' and the opportunity to socialise in small groups, during and around the activities.
AC has Down Syndrome and is non-verbal and as a result normally finds interaction and fun with others difficult, because of their lack of speech. At the start of the sessions, AC was not confident in their ability to take part in the activities and in the case of the Tyrolean Traverse activity they even refused to get involved initially. However, with encouragement AC found that they could manage the activities and soon discovered a new-found enthusiasm to try new things. AC reportedly loved all the activities, particularly spending time in the fresh air, getting exercise and spending time away from their games console. Since taking part in the programme, AC has developed more confidence to attempt new things and intends to book onto more activities in the future. The activities also benefitted AC's wellbeing; returning from each activity happy.
The carers of the disabled young people will be able to continue enjoying free time as the young person develops skills and enthusiasm for outdoor adventure.
The young carers of the disabled children and young people who participated, were able to join in the activity sessions, benefitting from not having caring responsibilities during the sessions and getting to enjoy the activities independently. The freedom to relax and enjoy the activity sessions with other young people and not feel that they 'stood out' as being different because they help care for disabled siblings.
FB has caring responsibilities for Mum, as well as two siblings with very significant additional support needs, in addition to their own diagnosed autism and anxiety. FB thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities, specifically because they were activities they never got the chance to do, due to the level of disability in the family group. A particular highlight was meeting other young people with additional support needs and being able to take a break from caring responsibilities to just simply enjoy the activities. Since the programme, FB has become more outgoing, has new confidence to go off on their own and has been asking to do more outdoor learning and adventure activities. FB has already booked onto further activities that we are offering during the school summer holidays.
Programme participants will be more active than prior to attending the activity sessions.
The follow up surveys sent to parents/guardians three months after the activities revealed that 50% of respondents intended to participate in outdoor learning and adventure activities again and the other 50% had already booked onto further opportunities that we have been providing during the school summer holidays, increasing their level of physical activity.
RS has autism and requires support for self harm and anxiety. RS was not able to complete the full programme as they broke their arm (outside of the sessions), but RS 'loved' the sessions they attended and were disappointed the opportunity ended prematurely. RS felt 'included' and 'understood' and their wellbeing was noticeably improved on return home. Since the programme, RS has become more willing to try and engage more with activities, as they feel like people have finally understood them and helped them learn to cope. RS has already booked onto more activities we have offered, during the school summer holidays and their parent/guardians have reported that the opportunity was invaluable to RS and the rest of the family.