TEENS+ Short Breaks
A story by Sleep Scotland (TEENS+)
TEENS+ short breaks scheme started in 2012, for students associated with the TEENS+ programme and prospective students.
We provide fun, age-appropriate short breaks of 4 – 6 hours with an emphasis on developing independence to help young people with severe and complex learning difficulties make the transition to adulthood. We help parents to use this time to have fun too.
What TEENS+ Short Breaks did
We ran a short break service for 11 young people with severe & complex learning difficulties. We took on our first student requiring 2:1 support & initiated a Better Breaks section within our TEENS+ newsletter with students contributing articles. We recruited additional befriender staff to support this service selecting individuals with experience in complex needs. Some of the new staff were sessional in order to flexibly accommodate the short break timings requested.
We offered 1,716 hours of short breaks over the year focusing on 1:1 & small group sessions enabling us to closely meet the needs of the young people & their carers. It also ensured less anxiety for students by offering continuity of befriender to student & the ability to put like-minded individuals together.
The young people & their carers selected activities which interested them most, e.g. trips to the cinema, shops, restaurants, museums, swimming, train & bus journeys, walks. Short breaks also included support within the home, helping students with morning & evening routines. During this break the young people’s carers took part in domestic, leisure or work activities which they found hard to do during their caring role, e.g. gardening, housework, shopping, socialising with friends & family, day trips.
The project has been great fun for students, carers & befrienders alike. We have seen marked developments in students’ skills and abilities, health & well-being, confidence, decision-making & independence. The project plays a big part in helping them with the transition to adulthood & for some has achieved independent living.
For carers it has eased pressure, enabling them much needed respite & helped focus on their child’s positive developments rather than challenges. It has reduced feelings of isolation, exhaustion, frustration, anxiety & helplessness. Feedback from carers includes; “His outings have hugely increased his confidence & broadened his experiences. His ability to cope with prepared change & also with noise has improved. He always comes home with a smile on his face”. “I really love the service offered. It gives us a bit of breathing space. I wish we could have more of it!”
What Sleep Scotland (TEENS+) has learned
The project has enabled us to give young people some structure and stimulation in their leisure time. They have been able to experience situations which they couldn’t have experienced without the support of the trained befriender staff. These experiences and life skill opportunities compliment their educational learning on the TEENS+ project, helping develop their independence further.
It has also given carers leisure time back in their lives to carry out pursuits they have never had time to do before and much needed respite from the challenges they face daily. The project has attracted carers of young people currently utilising the TEENS+ daily education project, who have never had the opportunity to take a short break themselves.
An unexpected challenge has been to meet demand within our own capacities. The project has been incredibly well received by the young people and their carers to the extent that requests for short breaks have greatly exceeded our initial expectations. We forecasted for 1,541 hours of short break activities, however 1,716 hours was the actual activity total over the year.
As a result we recruited additional sessional workers to cope with this demand. The young people have clearly benefitted from gaining good friendships outwith the TEENS+ daily education project which has had a very positive influence on the atmosphere and development within the TEENS+ project as a whole.