Down Syndrome Scotland - Keys to Life Time for You
A story by Down's Syndrome Scotland
We provided grants directly to carers who care for a child who has Down’s Syndrome and who live with them.
What Down Syndrome Scotland - Keys to Life Time for You did
Carers were asked to complete an application form which asked for details of their caring role and any support they have. Also details of their health and that of the individual they care for. Applicants were also asked to complete a questionnaire asking them to evaluate the impact of their caring role on their wellbeing, their health, their work/education and their social life. It also asked what they would like to get out of a break.
The application asked for details of the break they are applying for and in cases where the carer is not known to Down’s Syndrome Scotland we asked for a referee whom the applicant knew in a professional capacity. Our decision making grants panel consisted of Down’s Syndrome Scotland’s Family Support Service Manager, A Social Worker from City of Edinburgh Council’s Children and Families Department and a member of our charity who is a parent of an adult with Down’s syndrome.
The panel met monthly to consider applications and was organised by an administrator. The launch of the Fund was communicated by e-bulletin and on our website as well as being publicised in social media, i.e facebook and twitter. Application packs were available for download from our website or calling our National Office.
Our team of Family Support Service Officers who operate across all 32 local authority areas of Scotland carried stocks of the application packs and passed these out to eligible families they came in contact with. Families were offered support if required to complete these forms.
What Down's Syndrome Scotland has learned
A high proportion of parents/carers who applied to the Keys to Life Fund were already in contact with the organisation through our Family Support Service or our Achieving Better Communications Programme. However, the availability of the Fund created a very positive environment within the organisation as a whole and in particular amongst our membership who benefited from the Fund.
Our relationships with the families who benefited has been strengthened, allowing our Family Support Team to continue to provide help in all aspects of family life for those caring for a child with Down’s syndrome. We have noted that many of the families who benefited have given positive feedback on the management and flexibility of the process and have consequently asked if future funding is likely to be available.
This was the first year that Down Syndrome Scotland had managed a Fund offering breaks for carers of children with Down’s Syndrome. Although not entirely unexpected, the number of applications received in the first few months of the fund opening was extremely high. As many of the applications were for financial support to have a family break during school holidays there were time constraints on reaching decisions and paying grants to carers.
he fact that the payment of many grants was time critical meant that panel meetings in the first half of the year were longer than expected and the time required by DS Scotland staff to manage the project was considerably higher than expected.
Down’s Syndrome Scotland has six branches across Scotland which are organised by parent and family volunteers. They run social activities regularly. This builds a sense of community among our membership and creates an environment where word of mouth is a particularly effective communication tool.
We found that many carers who were aware of our charity but had not made contact with our Family Support Team in the past became aware of the Keys To Life Fund on the community grapevine and looked at the Down’s Syndrome Scotland website or called our national office for more information. This has given us the opportunity to discuss the support services we provide.
Carers who are new to our organisation are much more receptive to offers of support when they can see a relatively quick and really tangible benefit for them in potentially receiving financial support to take a break from their day to day routine.