Short Breaks for our Children and Young People 2020-21
A story by SNAP Special Needs Action Project
We provided short breaks for Carers, offering children and young people (aged 20 & under) with substantial special needs regular, planned breaks.
This allowed SNAP to provide leisure, recreational and socialisation opportunities for young people and provide valued respite to their parent carers.
What Short Breaks for our Children and Young People 2020-21 did
The COVID Pandemic seriously disrupted our plans for short breaks this year. Our service had to close and most staff members were furloughed right at the start of the project in April. With so many guidelines changing, sometimes daily basis, it was extremely challenging to keep up to date with what we could and couldn't do, or when we may be able to restart. We finally were able to reopen in July, albeit in different premises as the school we usually held our activities in was not allowing lets (still isn't in May 2021).
However, with some covid specific funding we were able to run a health and wellbeing project with volunteers who checked in with families during lockdown and this gave us the advantage of being able to be very specific in targeting the type of support we gave to children and their carers. Some families were shielding, so weekly zoom calls were quickly arranged with planned activities, fun, laughter and connection.
This gave many parents an hour to do other things and reminded the children that SNAP were still there for them. We also took some children on a run on our popular Snappie bus (requested by families). The numbers we could take were obviously very limited, but again, the break was invaluable to children and carers alike. We also were able to incorporate additional "Snappy Suppers" - where children stay on at our after school clubs and have dinner with SNAP.
This gives valuable time to carers, time for a more relaxed meal time at home (if not for covid a meal out would have been an option) and a sociable experience for the child. We were also able to offer additional short breaks for children who were being schooled online, and this gave carers a break from the frustrations home schooling brings.
In the end, we were able to deliver:- 13x6 hours breaks, accessed by an average of 8 children per session. Activities included crazy golf, beach trip, go-karting, a Magical day with a visit from a princess and a unicorn, and so much more. 12x 2 hour breaks on our snappie bus, getting out for a change of scene and perhaps a hot chocolate, 23x 3 hour breaks attended by 4 on average 1x48 hours weekend break with 7 children
What SNAP Special Needs Action Project has learned
I'm sure most organisations' No 1 learning this year will have been "Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities."! It has been some year but we have lived to tell the tale and feel that we have been in a good position thanks to our Better Breaks Funding to have been able to adapt our short break services - they weren't quite what we planned but they key thing is that we did give our children and their families some short breaks at a time when they were so very much needed.
We feel we always learn, year on year, and are always on the lookout for new short break activities - as stated in one of our case studies, we discovered snow tubing this year, an outdoor activity that was enjoyed by all and revisited by families on their own. Project planning and budgeting - we have learned that we need to implement some more training for new staff with regards to planning and budgets - our newer staff were not aware of the importance of good record keeping and keeping to a budget, so this has been added to our Team Leader training
How SNAP Special Needs Action Project has benefitted from the funding
We are fortunate to have benefitted from Better Breaks funding for a number of years. However, this year in particular, we feel that it has allowed us to strengthen SNAPs reputation - we increased our social media content and this really showed to the wider public just what it is that makes SNAP so special to our families. Our short breaks form such a huge part of the experience for our children and we've built up such a reputation - every single family has as their goal a SNAP sleepover and the benefit to them and their child is massive - its a huge stepping stone for them and their development, let alone the respite it gives to families. In turn, these short breaks allow us to build our staff and volunteers skills and knowledge which not only allows us to better support the children, but for many of our volunteers, it gives them a good grounding in this field of work and beyond with some of our volunteers telling us they have changed the course of their future study choices or career to incorporate additional support needs - teachers, doctors, business students - which is amazing and something we are very proud of.
50 children aged under 20 will continue to attend outings of 6 hours, enabling them to have fun and socialise. They will have had access to a variety of activities and outings which they will have had input in choosing and which will have enriched their social experiences. 5 new children attended.
Our activities were curtailed due to COVID, but it made us more inventive with what we could do. We weren't able to start the 5 new children we had planned to-it wouldn't have been fair to start them at a time when everything could change at the drop of a hat. However, through our various re-jigged services, we feel that we were able to provide the children with access to a variety of activities. Whether online, or in person, 6 hours or 2 hours, it proved a valuable and much appreciated break for their carers, and children had a fun time whilst with us (again, whether virtually or in person). When we were able to restart face to face services and 6 hour breaks, we made up for it with activities we either knew the children would love or that they asked for - eg go karting, magical day as previously stated.
Planning our 6 hour breaks has had its challenges over the past year with all the Covid-19 restrictions in place but we have been creative and ensured the young people have still managed to have fun with their friends while following government guidelines. A real highlight for us was trying out a new activity, Tubing. This is an outdoor sport where you go down a dry ski slope in a rubber ring. We took all our age groups (from 5years-19years) to this activity and they all had the best time- including those with complex needs and mobility issues. One of our young people said "It was brilliant!! It was my first time tubing and mum didn't think I would do it but I did!” Parents and carers needed this respite time more than ever with so many other services having to close
By having had planned breaks from the caring role, parents and carers have improved wellbeing. Children will have had more access to leisure and social opportunities, also resulting in increased wellbeing. 5 children and their carers will have experienced a short break for the first time.
Access to regular activities, planned with the children’s choices of activities give children a sense of fulfilment which leads to increased wellbeing. Despite of Covid, this was achieved. Regular, planned short breaks enable carers to plan in advance their “free” time and improve their wellbeing as a result. By redesigning some of our short breaks, this was also achieved, even with the COVID restrictions.
With our families having the extra pressure of home schooling this year and us not being able to plan as many weekend breaks. We decided to run additional services during the day to help parents receive some much needed respite. These were 3 hour sessions that we ran during school hours to help keep our young people in a routine with a positive mind-set. We also extended our Snappysuppers services which is where we extend our after school clubs by an hour so the children and staff can have dinner together. These are a great social time for the young people to just take time out and sit and blether with friends. This also provided parents and carers with more time to either relax, catch up on housework or go for shopping etc. Simple tasks like going food shopping can be a challenge for many of our families- even more so when one way systems, queuing and Covid precautions were put in place. One family in particular were just not able to take their young person shopping with these restrictions in place so we arranged for a member of staff to stay with the young person (outside the car) in the supermarket carpark, where the staff member would chat to them through the window, read stories etc while mum did her shopping. When restrictions eased, we started providing two hour bus runs weekly which allowed us to take this person and many others out for a run on the bus and get some ice cream or a hot chocolate. The young people loved the runs but they were extremely valuable to parents. Feeling overwhelmed and under pressure can affect your mental health dramatically so providing families with this regular time to catch up with other things eased that pressure.
105 carers will have a 6 hour break, relaxed in the knowledge their child is in safe hands with SNAP. If they so desire, they can access activities which take them outside their caring role or just relax, and take time to recharge
105 parents and carers of children with substantial special needs will have time to themselves on a Saturday or Sunday while their charges attend a 6 hour break. Whilst not able to achieve our target of 105 carers, the breaks that we were able to provide did give carers valued, planned time outside of their caring role and this was needed more so than ever this year. 105 parents and carers will have regular planned breaks which will give them time to pursue their hobbies, socialise with their friends and give time to their other children. As above, as much as covdi curtailed everyones social activities, carers used their time off from their caring role as they so wished, whether a zoom call with family and friends, or a walk or exercise - everyone had to change the way in which they used their time and planned activities this year.
This year was tougher than ever for families with a child or children with additional needs. Our young people depend on routines and structure so with all this taken away, many young people struggled. One of our young people very quickly turned day in to night without the daily structure of school in place. This meant their mum had to stay up all night with them but then had to home school her other children through the day. With dad working away for a few weeks at a time, their mum was the only carer a lot of the time. When we were able to provide these breaks, mum was able to spend quality time with her other children or catch up on some much needed sleep.
105 parents and carers of children who attend SNAP will have a 28 or 48 hour break whilst their children go on a “Sleepover” break with their peers and SNAP staff. 5 children will access a sleepover for the first time, allowing their parents/carers the chance to have a proper break for the 1st time.
Due to covid and the restriction in place throughout the whole period of funding, we only managed to go on one weekend break, just before Christmas. We targeted some of the younger children and took away 7 of them for a 48 hour break. 2 of the children had not attended a SNAP sleepover before and it was a huge success. We planned our next weekend breaks so that we would be ready to "go" as soon as restrictions were lifted, but unfortunately this was not the case and this was the reason who we took the decision to incorporate other short breaks such as descried above - during the day for 3 hours, bus runs, extra snappy suppers and without better breaks funding we would not have been able to do this.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we were only able to run 1x 48 hour sleepover but it was just incredible!! Having being in lockdown for most of the year, this was the first time they had being away from home in such a long time- one had never been away from home before at all. This made it even more special than normal and the buzz from the young people, parents and staff when getting ready to leave was just electric. Two of the young people that came with us (both who have autism), has a younger sibling with Complex medical needs so has had to stay in hospital, with their mum, for many months now. Dad has had to be the main carer for the older two siblings while also juggling work full time. With us being able to take them away for the weekend, we were able to give them a fantastic time away with friends where they just laughed non-stop and didn’t have to worry about anything. Mum also got her first proper rest in months because dad stayed in the hospital with the younger sibling so she was able to spend the weekend in her own home. It took a huge amount of pressure of the family but was made even better seeing how much fun they were having.