A story by SNAP
SNAP provided short breaks of 6 hours at weekends and weekend breaks of 48 and 28 hours to young people aged 5 to 20 years with substantial support needs. This allowed the young people to increase their social skills, have fun with their friends and try new activities, while their parents and carers had time to themselves.
What SNAPPIE Breaks did
Staff and volunteer recruitment, at present we have 12 volunteers. Staff recruited, 2 Relief Team workers. Our Team Leader also returned to work after maternity leave.
Various things inform our decision as to who comes on what break these include, the needs of families, is anyone in crisis situations? Has it been a while since they last got a break? If particular children have asked to do a particular activity, or would benefit greatly from the activity. The make up of the group, it needs to be a positive social experience so balancing the needs and personalities of the group is key. The type of activity or accommodation we are staying in or taking part for example, some children will benefit from a relaxed atmosphere where they can just “chill out” with their friends, whilst others like to be more active and can take part in more physical activities or visit busier places such as cities.
This year our 6 hour breaks included the following activities, trip to Snow White on Ice, the Cinema, Landmark, the Singing Kettle, activity trips such as Rock pooling, laser tag, cycling, bowling and Sports days. Specialist days where we explored such things as wildlife, had visits to see exotic animals, found out about other cultures and traditions by hosting Japanese, Polish and Mexican days. Other types of breaks included Easter, Halloween and Christmas themed activities.
28 hour breaks took place at Nethybridge Station and Osprey Cottage in Grantown on Spey, 48 hour breaks took place at Lagganlia, Grantown on Spey, Rothiemurchus and Badaguish.
Carers told us some of the activities they got up to during these breaks, most took the advantage of this to spend it with other children, family or friends. One parent attended a Ceilidh, something that they love doing but haven't been able to go to for a long time, one family had visitors to stay, something that would have been unimaginable if their child was there that weekend and one carer spent quality uninterrupted time with their other child, being able to give complete focus to them.
Professionals involved were unclear what the issues actually were, the carer felt frustrated at the inactivity and was becoming increasingly stressed and concerned about the situation. We stepped in and were able to take 'A' away with us for 48 hours to give her carer a much needed break and we were staying close enough to the parental home and hospital that mum relaxed everything was in place. In that 48 hours we could observe and document A's behaviours, seizure activity, what medications she received, what she ate, how much she slept, how much she was able to participate in activities etc.
We relayed all this information back to mum and with her permission to other health professionals concerned. A meeting was called that week and common patterns of behaviour were established across a number of different services that supported this child, her medication was changed and she is a very different girl now and importantly mum is also in a very different state of mind and able to cope with her caring role better
We realised that since she had had surgery we had not been able to take her away for a sleepover and the time was fast approaching where she would be leaving our After School Clubs and moving on to our other service. So we first approached her mum to see if she was happy for us to take away B she was delighted and was in no doubt B would be too and that it would be a lovely ending/moving on transition for her.
We arranged the weekend around B and included others in her After School Club day, they went for a 48 hour break to Badaguish and they all had a fantastic time, where the emphasis was on socialising and being together, it gave B independence from her family and her family a weekend break
We reassured mum that we would deal with that and she let him come away with us. When other parents were waving their children off on our minibus and discussing their plans for the weekend this mum said she was going home to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time and couldn't wait, even at the prospect of this she looked more energised. We found out she also went out for a cycle ride with her husband that weekend, something she hadn't had the energy to do for a long time.
What SNAP has learnedSNAP is grateful to Better Breaks for giving us the opportunity to provide more short breaks for our young people and their carers. Our grant has given us the means to provide and sustain a range of services which suit the varied needs of our children such as 6 hour breaks, 28 and 48 hour breaks. This has energised our organisation as we witness the difference it makes to individuals. We gain insight with each break, a clearer picture of the needs of our children and the stress areas for carers.
Challenges to our services continue to be last minute withdrawals to planned breaks. Often these are due to illness as some of our children have high medical needs. We always attempt to source replacements but this is not always possible if a child pulls out at the last minute. Our staff do make strenuous efforts to do this as far as possible.
SNAP always tries to mould our services to fit with our families and their needs. One example is that we held a 48 hour sleepover to cover an In service break, as it transpired that a number of parents were quite stressed at the thought of covering this time off from school. SNAP staff always consider similar requests and attempt to help parents and carers as much as possible. SNAP staff work hard to build up the relationships with families so that we get to know them well and recognise when they may be getting into difficulties and may need support.
We have a sizeable waiting list but succeeded in giving 6 children on our waiting list access to our services which we were delighted to and new children means a new energy dynamic in our groups and different challenges.