The Container - Spaces on Trips for the Most Vulnerable
A story by theGKexperience
We provided residential short breaks for young people with disabilities, and who live in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire.
Places on these residential and day trips across Scotland, enabled he young people to get outdoors, develop their confidence, life skills, benefiting both them and their carer.
What The Container - Spaces on Trips for the Most Vulnerable did
We delivered 5 short break experiences, 3 residential breaks involved a trip to the Camas centre on the Isle of Mull, a 3 night camping expedition on Mull and a week long arts residential at Glen Kin near Dunoon. 2 day trips were made up of a trip to Troon Beach and a trip to the Endura Lifecycle trust for Mountain Biking. With 10 spaces funded for these trips by Better Breaks, and the participants were identified and chosen through our weekly work and contact with these young people and their carers.
These trips allowed their carers to do a number of things while their child was away, some went on holiday, some enjoyed respite during the long summer break and took the time to tidy their flat/house, some met up with friends that they don’t see very often which helps reduce isolation. In order to deliver these activities we have regular training for our amazing volunteers, who help create an incredibly welcoming community for the young people. Our training ensures that a therapeutic understanding underpins our interactions with young people.
The priority areas that our project addressed were sports and active leisure, Independence and Diversity. Examples of success included 2 boys who had never ridden a bike before, learn how to do so at our Mountain biking day trip and the patience of our volunteers and the instructor ensured that these boys had a great day learning a new skill that helped them integrate better and give them freedom to travel.
On the arts residential, we had a girl who isolated herself and refused to join in. As we have a deliberately high ratio of leaders to young people at our events, 2 leaders were able to step out and spend time with her. With gentle encouragement, she ended up helping out in the kitchen preparing dinner. We thanked her as a whole group, giving her confidence which enabled her to integrate better and ended up making friends, with whom she still keeps in contact with after the trip.
What theGKexperience has learned
The GKexperience has learned that time away for carers from the young people they look after is invaluable and that we would look to be more intentional in supporting carers and helping them flourish whilst they have this time. It was useful to understand more about budgeting and how to compromise on what was initially requested against what we received.
We have also become more aware about what short break activities suit certain individuals and what they might want to continue an interest in, in order to develop a further quality of life. For example some excelled at Mountain Biking and this could be something that we support them to do more of.
How theGKexperience has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding allowed us to strengthen our reputation of working alongside brilliant young people who often miss out on opportunities to succeed. As a result of the activities we were able to deliver thanks to the funding, the relationships that began to develop with carers, school teachers and social work have deepened and we are now well established at being a first contact if support is needed for a young person. As a result of this we have been able to build skills and knowledge across our team in these areas in order to provide the best support we can.
Through our residential programme the young people we work alongside will grow and develop in confidence, self-belief and resilience through succeeding in new and positive experiences throughout the year. They will make new friends from across Glasgow, meeting them at the residential and day trips.
This outcome was achieved as all 10 said that they had had fun on the trips and that they enjoyed being able to get away, as they don’t usually get these kinds of opportunities. The outdoor settings that they went to enabled them to feel stimulated as well as relaxed, not having to worry about the challenges they face at home. For those on the expedition trip, spending a day on a boat, fishing for dinner and then camping on a beautiful secluded beach that is only accessible by boat or 3 mile hike was a real highlight. The results of this trip were a development of resilience and recognition that hard work pays off. Across all the short breaks, the 10 young people made friends with each other and with other young people they encountered. They remain friends and with other activities that we provide are able to meet up regularly.
Kim 16, is looked after by her Gran and Grandpa and is diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD and an additional mental health disorder. Her Mum suffers from addiction and her Dad recently passed away as a result of addiction. They separated when Kim was very young and she has lived with her Gran and Grandpa from an early age as she was born addicted to drugs. Her home life is chaotic and she has never settled in School or in her community, often displaying very challenging behaviour. For Kim, the opportunity to go out and meet new people, to experience fun and rewarding activities is something she struggles with. As a result of her participation in the residential programme, Kim was able get away, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. To go on a trip with leaders she has grown to trust and respect, who she knows will encourage her as well as keep her boundaried is an attractive prospect. 3 Home visits took place to help the family understand what she will be undertaking and to help her Gran and Grandpa become familiar with staff and volunteers. These visits helped to ease all their concerns about Kim coming away which she duly did and had an amazing time. The Camas Centre on the Isle of Mull is an incredible place where community living is a real focus and team work is required. These challenges helped to focus Kim’s mind on the skills and talents she has and during the week she became more confident in using these. As she became more confident she also had no problem in making friends with the other young people that were on the trip. After the trip, her Gran and Grandpa said they have noticed a real difference in Kim. She is more confident, happier and is contact with a number of the young people she met at Camas. She has now decided to leave school and has taken a place at college which she is loving. We are still involved on a regular basis with Kim, and she now participates in one of our weekly groups adding real value with her ideas and humour. She is still in need of support but we believe that her aspirations are now much more positive and she has a much greater self-worth.
Success will be measured through carers and young people having improved relationships with each other, with others in the community, having confidence to try new activities and for young people to take initiative in looking after themselves and supporting others around them.
Spending time away from each other on the trips has been helpful to both carers and young people. With our experienced leaders we have been able to have conversations with young people about how they are managing at home and school etc, and having strong trusting relationships built up over time, people value our opinion and listen. This has resulted in young people recognising how valuable their parent/carer is and taking on renewed efforts to help out at home, or with suggestions on coping strategies, they have found it easier to manage at school. The trips that they participated in have also allowed them to have something exciting to share either at home or with other friends and has bred confidence to their aspirations.
Tyler is 15 and has been looked after by Gran and Grandpa from an early age as a result of chaotic circumstances affecting his parents which included addiction and domestic violence. Diagnosed with ADHD and on a strong dosage of medication, Tyler’s ability to focus, pay attention and to understand boundaries are poor. His Gran and Grandpa really struggle with his behaviour, his lack of respect around the house and care for possessions. Their relationship is often fractured as he likes to make things up or lie about his actions. It can be very difficult to get to the truth of a situation that has occurred. He is frequently in trouble at school and often is picked on and made a scapegoat by other young people around him. What we discovered after the short breaks project was that with the right activity and encouragement Tyler would jump all in and show true leadership skills. As a result of witnessing this we chatted with Tyler about opportunities back in his community where he could embrace these talents. He talked about wanting to help out at school as a football coach for the first year pupils, but that he wouldn’t be allowed because of his relationship with certain teachers. After a home visit with his Gran and Grandpa, we came up with a plan to contact the school, arrange a meeting and see if there was something that could be done. The meeting was successful and on a trial basis of 1 month, Tyler was allowed to help afterschool with coaching for the first year football team. He has now been coaching for 8 months, has increased his own fitness as a result, as developed an excellent relationship with the PE department teachers and is looking in to football coaching badges. His behaviour has calmed down and he keeps himself away from those that would scapegoat him. Recognising this leadership ability, we have taken him on as a young leader volunteer, where he now helps out a regular weekly club. His Gran and Grandpa are seeing the benefits, as he now looks after his belongings with more care, shows greater respect and consideration of their needs. Where before he would be quite selfish, he now is willing to come away with us, not just for his own sake but also so his Gran and Grandpa can get a week to themselves in the caravan.
Carers of particularly vulnerable young people from across a number of communities will have significantly improved support through regular home visits and identifying areas of particular need. The young people will become more settled in school and home life, with less stress evident for all.
The short breaks that the young people came on were a lifeline for the carers. With the wraparound support on top of the trips themselves, carers have expressed how much they value the people and activities of theGKexperience. Home visits have been valuable for carers to express what is going on for them and their child and having someone that will listen to them has helped them feel less isolated in dealing with the challenging issues they face. We have been able to either support carers directly or have been able to signpost to other services more able to meet their needs.
Kieran is 14 and is looked after with his brother by his Gran since he was 5. His Mum has struggled with addiction issues all her life and ended up in prison for attempted murder a few years ago. Having been released and moved in with him and his Gran she seemingly was starting to get her life back on track, only for her struggle with addiction to resurface. She has since moved out and is staying somewhere within in the same area. Kieran is unsure about how to deal with his relationship with his mum and displays violent anxiety episodes when stressed. This has happened in school and he has been on a reduced timetable as well as having refused to attend for around 2 years. He is a very curios individual and asks questions all the time, seemingly his life experience hasn’t been able to provide any answers for him and he is quite stunted in his development of self. His time away with us to Camas was perfect. Camas is a centre on the edge of the sea on the Isle of Mull. It has no electricity for the guests, is a vegetarian centre and shares its space with the wildlife of Scotland. It is a peaceful place where Kieran thrived. Away from all the worries and cares of his home life, we saw Kieran blossom into an individual who was kind, considerate, keen to share and help out. With the encouragement of leaders, he was able to take on the challenges that face anyone staying at Camas, including doing the dishes, picking vegetables and fruit, cleaning the toilets and cutting the grass. One of the important therapeutic practical aspects that we encourage young people to do is around sleep hygiene. Ensuring that their bed space is tidy, that they know where there clothes are, that if they have any wet clothes from activities that they are in the drying room. This was a huge benefit to Kieran, who for the first night had his stuff everywhere. Helping him to tidy and get himself organised was a revelation, as he became fully into the idea and helped others in his room too. Going back to his community, we offered him additional support in the form of a mentor. His Gran had really struggled to know how best to support Kieran and was at her wits end about his lack of attendance at school. We worked closely with her around the sleep hygiene idea, which seems to have been a real positive in encouraging him to get up in a morning. We also coordinated with her around his school attendance as part of his mentoring, and it is amazing to say that he has now been regularly attending school for the last 8 months, his anxiety induced episodes have reduced and he has joined a football team in his local area. All of this has allowed his Gran to feel supported and encouraged. She now sees him engaging with life rather than stepping back and letting it pass him by.