The Butterfly Club
A story by The Butterfly Club
We organised and ran a summer club for children and young people aged 5-18 with severe and complex learning difficulties. Working closely in partnership with a third sector organisation to deliver stimulating actives and provide opportunities which may not otherwise be available, in a fun and safe
What The Butterfly Club did
Over the last year we have held monthly committee and steering group meetings with Cornerstone to plan staffing, training, outings and risk assessments, home visits, school visits and transport to make sure the club ran smoothly. Adverts went out in local papers, colleges and recruitment websites to find staff who were then interviewed by both Cornerstone and the committee. Chosen staff were then allocated a child and conducted both school and home visits to enable them to complete a care plan.
Staff worked closely with both school staff and parents and also attended core and child specific training. Each Butterfly was offered 8 days, 9:30-3:30, throughout the summer period at a cost of £10 per day which gave carers/parents time to do their normal daily tasks as well as get a much needed break from their caring role.
Activities included country parks with guided nature walks, Heads of Ayr farm park, all ability bikes, Ice skating and Castle Semple speed boats. Children/young people also had access to the therapy pool, sensory studio and outdoor spaces available at James Macfarlane school where the club was held.
On the final day of the club all children and young people attended a fun day with their families which was held at the school. There was lunch provided, the fire service came for the day and there was bouncy castles to play on inside. We all had fun getting our faces painted and and hair sprayed funny colours. The "Butterflies" also put on a short show for their families and were each presented with a certificate and photo book keepsake of their summer. A total of 31 children/young people with ASN attended the 2019 club with a team leader, a project worker, 21 support staff and 2 volunteers.
What The Butterfly Club has learned
Pre book larger activities early to secure placements eg speed boats
An initial information evening could be arranged by the commissioned organisation. Parents may benefit from meeting the management and staff team. Parents may have questions and anxieties that if addressed may increase childrens attendance at the club.
Children who attend the club could be introduced into the recruitment process to ensure the best staff are recruited to meet the individual needs of the children – making the Butterfly Club purposeful, meaningful and safe.
Visit the toy library May/June to gather resources.
Children attending the club must be finalised in May to aid recruitment, training and the matching process.
Staff need to be employed May/June to allow for references and PVG’s and to get to know the children better.
Questionnaires for parents should be handed out on the last day of the club to ensure a larger response.
Parents who’s children who did not attend the Butterfly Club could be consulted/included in the evaluation process.
How The Butterfly Club has benefitted from the funding
Your funding is vitally important to us, we literally apply to everything that we can in order to run our club and without your funding I'm not sure what other avenues there are left to explore. There is very strict criteria which we do not always meet for some funders and others only allow funding bi-yearly or even less regularly. Never the less we continue to apply for everything we can and continually fund raise to ensure the future of our club. Being such a big name certainly helps us to attain funding from other sources and the fact we are mentioned on your website and publications really helps to strengthen our reputation and cement our foundations.
Butterflies will enjoy activities with their peers in a fun and safe environment.
We split our Butterflies into 3 age appropriate groups to allow time to be spent with peers to develop both new and existing friendships. We also put together a full activity plan of activities we have enjoyed in the past and also some new ones to try out which had been requested. New activities included Heads of Ayr Farm Park and ice skating and previously enjoyed activities included swimming, speed boats and all ability bikes. All activities were fully risk assessed for each child and deemed suitable from previous feedback. By ensuring activities are safe and suitable we allow more time to be spent having fun and socially interacting. Weekly reports from team leaders showed how many Butterflies had participated in each activity and plenty of pictures were taken to show their enjoyment. And daily diaries informed parents of how their Child's day had went.
"Hope loves The Butterfly Club and has been going for over 8 years now. We all benefit from her time there. Hope gets to enjoy herself with her friends from school during the holidays which she wouldn't be able to if it wasn't for the club. it also gives Mum and brother Brodie time to do things that we can't access without Hope."
Carers will have 11 full days (9:30-3:30) of respite over the summer months to enjoy a break or days out outwith their caring role.
Parental feedback forms were handed out at the end of the club with a range of qualitative and quantitative questions resulting to all aspects of the club some comments include "Harry had great fun while we got a wee break! it made time together better!" We received many positive comments and suggestions of activities for next years club which is great. Also 100% of forms said they would use the service again which is amazing! We provided as many physical activities as possible to keep our Butterflies fit and healthy and fully engaged, we had wheelchairs on the ice rink and in speed boats and took many pictures for our Butterflies to show off what they had been up to. By keeping our Butterflies active and engaged we were able to send them home tired and ready to relax.
"The summer holidays have always been one of the highlights of the year for a child, usually on par to Christmas and their birthday. As the bell rings for the final time, children buzz with excitement as they plan their adventures to come, if that’s through summer camps, holidays, playing out with their friends, exhilarating day trips, or even all of above. The memories that are formed throughout the summer holidays last a lifetime. However, for a child with complex needs this is not always the case, as many are faced with 7 weeks of exclusion, rather than inclusion. Often, they cannot join in with the mainstream summer camps, most cannot just say ‘hey mum, I’m going to knock on my friends and go to the park’ although these are some of the fondest memories for many of us. These children cannot go out without their parents, although most other children their age can. As an adult 7 weeks flies by, but 7 weeks through a child’s eyes in a very long time. The summer holidays can become a lonely place as all the interactions, familiarises and the routine of school life ceases to an end. Our children come from all around Ayrshire, so many of our children do not live close by to each other, so as soon as summer is upon us the friendships and bonds that they make at school can be tremendously hard to keep. For most parents and carers of multiple children it is almost a military operation to try and orchestrate day trips that will benefit all of the family as all kids have different likes and dislikes; that’s the reality for most parents, even without any additional or complex needs. Nevertheless, it is increasingly hard if the child has medical needs, or/and challenging behaviour. This can make it impossible for some to even get access out in to the community at all. Not only does this effect the well-being for the young person with complex needs, but the well-being for the whole family unit. My son, Liam, enjoys swimming, but I cannot just nip to the local pool with him; the water is too cold, he is too vulnerable and is likely to catch an infection, and I cannot take him while his brother is still learning to swim. Liam needs to have at least one to one attention in the pool as he needs someone to hold him up, and if I give him that attention, then I cannot possibly supervise his brother. This is only one of the smaller struggles that we face. Any planned day trips need to be customised. When arranging trips I need to make sure that it is somewhere that offers activities that he can take part in, and as he is very sensitive to sound, it is somewhere not too loud. I also need to make sure that he can access with his wheelchair, then I need arrange stops to make sure there is a suitable place to carry out his personal care as a child who cannot sit up and wears pads I’m usually faced with the choice of changing him on the floor in a disabled toilet, or simply not going somewhere. Over last summer with the Butterfly Club Liam enjoyed swimming on more than one occasion. Not only did he enjoy this, the hydro pool had a profound benefit to his physical health and mental well-being. He also took trips to places such as Heads of Ayr, the ice-skating rink and the Science centre. The activities that Liam took part in where tailored to his individual needs, and the staff where amazing at building a proper meaningful bond with him. Not only did the club entertain him over the summer, Liam gained the freedom and independence of being out without a parent. The Butterfly Club is an exclusive inclusive club that tailors to the child’s individual needs, just like a butterfly, all the children are individuals, and this club allows their differences to shine through and helps them to meet their individual targets and goals. There is a saying I’ve seen many times on sentimental gifts, often in the shape of a butterfly; ‘follow your dreams, until you spread you wings, you’ll never know how far you can fly’. This really does ring true to the butterflies that use this amazing club, so thank you to everyone involved for the opportunities you have given my son, and every other child within the club."
Carers will have 11 full days (9:30-3:30) of respite over the summer months to enjoy a break or days out outwith their caring role.
We made up robust carer plans by consulting with parents/carers, school staff, north Ayrshire and Arran health board, respite centres and social work families with disabilities team. By doing this carers can have piece of mind that their child is receiving the best possible care and is getting the most out of their time at the club. We also provided a full 7 day training programme for staff which includes both core and child specific. This gives parents confidence that their Child's support worker is also confident in their ability to care. We also provided meet and greet sessions and both school and home visits which all lead to our Butterflies spending as much time as possible with their support workers to allow for a smooth transition into the club. one parent/carer says " it was great to meet her workers before hand, made a huge difference for us all" This allowed carers to be able to relax and enjoy their break, knowing that their child is happy with their support workers.
"Louisa has a fantastic time at the Butterfly Club and we her family feel confident that she is safe and happy so that makes us feel relaxed too. She sees her friends, makes new ones and looks forward to going every time. Makes ALL of us less stressed and gives her the freedom to socialise without parents, which she, at her age, should have. She is always happy at the clubbed we could not get this service anywhere else because of her special needs"
By having a much needed break from their caring role, parents/carers will be much better placed both emotionally and physically to sustain their demanding caring role.
We provided daily feedback diaries which were filed in by both the support worker and returned by the parent from home. These consisted of essential information like medication dosages and timings, toileting , moods and how they participated/enjoyed activities. By doing this we helped the changeover at both pick up and drop off times and allowed the carers to leave their child knowing they had all the necessary information in a clearly laid out format. We also set up a meet and greet night where both families, Butterflies and staff all got to meet up and interact creating positive interactions and relationships. When parents/carers know their child is safe and happy it makes it easier to relax and enjoy their time away from their child, this in turn puts them in a much better position both emotionally and physically to continue in their caring role. By offering carers 6 full hours per session, this allows them time to do things which need to be done and also time to relax.
"Jack has been attending the club for 7 years and has always had a fear of boats/water. this year he overcame his feared went on the speedboats and actually steered the boat! this was a massive step for Jack and it was all down to the staff who made him feel safe, he totally trusted them and loved it. it also let us get some time to relax and do normal everyday chores, shopping etc. Jack was very excited every time he went to the club, he enjoys going and loves the company"
Additional project outcome
Staff will have more employment opportunities through attending our full training course.
"I have loved my time working at the club and feel very confident in the skills I have learned to be able to forward my career and continue my studies. I found the training at the beginning of the club brilliant as it was tailored to the child I was supporting. I also got to meet both the family and my child before we started which meant we already knew each other when the club started. Once the club had finished I was asked by the family if I wanted to work with their child outwit the club, this really suited me as I love the work and can do it alongside my studies. I've had a great summer and made some friends for life and I hope to return again next year."