Summer Sports Camp
A story by Scottish Disability Sport
Up to 70 children and young people will be given the opportunity to experience sport and physical activity with peers of similar ages and disabilities. The aim would be to encourage independence, find social groups and gain confidence to keep active.
What Summer Sports Camp did
Activities included canoeing, sailing, cycling, bushcraft, orienteering, den building, archery and many more outdoor pursuits. Young people travelled to various national locations - Lothian, Grampian, Fife, Highland, Tayside, Renfrewshire.
Participants took part with a range of disabilities and were invited using our Regional Network Team of managers who identify young people who would benefit from sport and activity who may otherwise struggle to access these opportunities or perhaps lack confidence to engage.
There were a range of support for carers to take the opportunity for respite. Many carers and siblings were offered tickets to local attractions eg museum or showground so they could enjoy some time with away. Others took the opportunity to take some relaxing time with a coffee with other carers and others invited siblings to join in the fun of the sporting activities so everyone was involved in a safe and supported environment.
Success was also shown in young people who have came through our engagement sessions now returning as volunteers showing the young people the opportunities they can have as a result of engagement and also developing themselves further. Also partnerships with local authorities and active schools.
With COVID the numbers did reduce unfortunately as this was the first big event since COVID where we were asking families to come together. We adapted by using the opportunity of the spaces available to encourage siblings to take part and see the how everyone can be involved together. One particular success was a family who fosters young people and this was the first time they had the opportunity where one son was able to fully engage in a whole day camp, whilst his sibling was taken by his foster family to a nearby theme park and given a full day out which would otherwise be inaccessible if both children were there together.
What Scottish Disability Sport has learned
Covid certainly made us learn to quickly adapt to unexpected challenges. Dealing with working around last minute cancellations due to COVID but quickly adapting to providing alternative solutions. Supporting challenges outside of the disability - ie anxiety around COVID and the continual changing environment, putting safe practices into place to allow a safe activity.
The camps this time around were at various locations throughout Scotland so Partnership working was essential to allow us to hold these simultaneously. Being adaptable to each location's strengths ie one location was great for water sport, another didn't have that opportunity. Being able to communicate that between everyone involved whilst trying to ensure everyone had a similar experience.
Reaching out and engaging with all and new families. During COVID we considered the mental health of carers and young people with a disability. Pre COVID they may have been active and independent but fear of COVID impacted that and therefore they now needed encouragement to return to that activity. We also had to consider those who have never engaged in activity and how to support them coming out for the first time. We learned everyone needs reaching out and engagement for a variety of reasons and no one is the same.
How Scottish Disability Sport has benefitted from the funding
The summer camps have always had a huge impact on volunteers, carers and participants. In 2021 we adapted to provide a level of respite that supported both the participants and the pandemic at the time. The camps are something that stay in the memory and heart of our young people due to the huge impact they have and as a result many of our previous campers have become volunteers themselves. Volunteers that go on to become young ambassadors, volunteers at events or continue to return to future summer camps offering their experience to the new younger people experiencing the camp for the first time. The funding helps us provide this continual cycle of new young people coming in for the first time, whilst previous campers becoming active volunteers and continuing to develop their own skills that take them into their adult life.
Up to 70 more children and young people will feel more included and confident in accessing sport and physical activity. Wider social networks will be improved.
64 children received access to multiple outdoor and adventure activities around Scotland. After 2 years of lockdown, children with various disabilities had the opportunity to socialise with peers face to face in a safe outdoor environment. The opportunity allowed them to overcome various fears and anxieties with the changing environment, to gain confidence in becoming active and to see peers face to face allowing them to step back into social and sporting activities with increased confidence. For some people it was the first time engaging in activities and helped improve independence after 2 years of lockdown and for carers to see their young person can achieve and therefor seek further opportunities to continue staying active.
We have had very positive feedback from all parents and carers whose children were involved in the sessions. Some of the equipment we provided ensured accessible and inclusive sessions were able to be provided in certain areas for the first time. They have also acted as catalysts to ensure ongoing activity was possible to ensure positive engagement on a longer-term basis. Especially in some of our more rural communities in the Highlands.
Carers of our participants will feel more supported in their role and will have witnessed positive impacts of the project.
During lockdown many carers became isolated due to lack of opportunities and socialisation away from the household. Carers arrived at these events and had the opportunity to meet with other people in the same situation, share stories and feel part of a network. They were able to take some time away for a coffee allowing both the individual and the carer to get an opportunity to take time for themselves and see other people. During the camps the individuals gain further skills eg Wheelchair skills, or independence skills which the carer ultimately gains from as their young person develops and wants to maybe do that little bit more on their own. All families are also put in touch with an SDS Regional Manager and/or Branch where they may be directed to further activity opportunities in their area that would be suitable for their young person giving further opportunities for respite for carers whilst young person is engaging other available club or social environments.
Direct quote from one of our parent carers as her son attended our sessions and we provided funding for respite opportunities for the parent/ carer and or the siblings... "Thank you so much. This is so nice of you all and means so much to us all. (NAME REDACTED) functions really well but there are things my other foster son and my own daughter don’t do as (NAME REDACTED) would struggle with them so this is great to give me the opportunity to do stuff for them without guilt as (NAME REDACTED) will also be having a great time. The fact all of this has been provided for free is really overwhelming as keeping 2 fasd boys busy during the holidays has been costly, tiring for me as a single mum / carer so this has been so much help to me in more ways than you can know. Thanks again and I will most definitely send some pictures to you tomorrow and Thursday. Thanks again for the amazing work you do and for letting my little family benefit from your work.
Youngsters are involved in regular sport and physical activity and have made a wider network of friends.
58% of young people who attended summer camp days returned to SDS within 12 months to participate in another sporting or physical activity event. This engagement shows confidence in physical activity achieved at summer camp and the support from SDS after to continue that journey. Repeat engagement allows for more relationships between peers to develop and for carers to meet more people in similar situations.
NAME REDACTED is now swimming 5 sessions a week and 1 gym session. He struggles socially with peers but finds a safe place to practice these skills at the camps and his swim sessions. He came along for the first time in 2021 without his brother and at an age where he was a camper but also old enough to help out. This really tested him but given him some confidence that he now wants to help volunteer at school. He doesn’t have a large friendship group outside of sport but had the courage to return to the residential camp again on his own in 2022 and would like to get more involved in volunteering at future camps which is a massive thing for him. Sport has given him confidence and this environment is his safe place where he jokes within his group and is very social with his team mates. He doesn’t have that level of social skills outside of this area at all and can’t even speak to anyone he doesn’t feel comfortable with. Physically sport has kept him active and social. Without it he would not have any other place to find his social peers and would be locked in his room. His CP is less prominent due to the level of sport he undertakes and the style of sport ie swimming as it is perfect physio. He loves to compete and was losing his interest during covid. Over a year with no interaction set him back massively as he reverted to his comfort zone of no socialising. The camp was the first thing after covid and this helped ease him back to sport where he has gone from strength to strength.
Carers witness a positive impact in the youngster’s physical, social and emotional well-being as a result of the camp which eases some of the strains involved in caring.
95% of those carers and parents who completed the evaluation confirmed the summer activity camps had a positive impact on their child. 58% as per above have since returned to SDS to continue their experience at other events. Feedback from one parent - "Nice to see everyone have a fabulous time in the fresh air doing varied activities. One very tired but extremely happy boy which has a positive impact on all the family."
Another parental quote: My son has complex needs. The activities he has been included in previously have been few and far between. These activities were adapted to suit then and we loved him having these new experiences as each activity was adapted to suit his needs and everyone was so welcoming, knowledgeable and friendly.
Additional project outcome
Carers and youngsters from less visible and underserved communities access the camp.
Many young people with disabilities are under represented in activity or sport. Only 20% of people with disabilities take the recommended level of physical activity compared to 52% of non-disabled people. During lockdown more people with disabilities had to isolate due to underlying health conditions or inability to access additional support. The outdoor opportunity of a camp aimed at those with a physical or sensory disability allowed a safe healthy environment with volunteers who were experienced in sport and disability. Getting people to feel more engaged in activity, feel the benefits from the activity and the confidence to return to sport after a period of uncertainty and anxiety.