The Me To Project
A story by Cosgrove Care
The Me 2 project brought children and young people with additional needs together to take part in a range of themed activity days and short breaks which have built skills,confidence and friendships and provided a break for parents and carers.
The children and young people taking part made friends and gained skills and confidence trying new activities.
What The Me To Project did
Me to delivered a Family Day during Learning Disability Week in June 201 providing a range of activities for all the family at Rouken Glen Park. Over 100 families took part and came together to have fun, learn about local resources and try new activities. We will delivered three x 4-day short break holidays at Calvert Lakes and the Rings, Fife during July and August 2019 and a mid week break in October 2019 in Ayr. Each break will supported 10 children and proved to be very successful for families and for children, providing them with new experiences and building strong friendships.
We delivered two festive fun days in December 2019 and adapted our two spring days to online sessions with children, young people and families following the pandemic so that we could still create fun activities but safely. The focus was on delivering a range of activities which allow children to learn, try new things and find out about other local activities. The families who took part were encouraged by social workers and self referrals following extensive promotion.
We focused on families in most need. Carers played an active part, keeping in touch with young people, taking a break themselves and recharging their batteries. Carers reported that they had been able to take a break from their caring responsibilities. They reported positive changes in their cared for children and young people.
We worked closely with other organisations and shared resources- Calvert Lakes, Young Enterprise, Sense Scotland sensatronic lab. We recruited 20 new volunteers who wanted to gain skills and experience in social care. We developed a personalised holiday planner allowing us to co-produce with carers and work in a child centred way. We purchased sensory equipment that was mobile and allowed us to expand the range of activities available and linked with local arts facilitators to expand activities and build skills.
Me 2 covered children and young people with disabilities will have more opportunities to have fun, develop friendships and do activities they enjoy, carers and children and young people will have opportunities to enjoy life outside their caring role,carers better supported to sustain their caring role. All went to plan, holidays a highlight and great success
What Cosgrove Care has learned
It is vital to work in partnership with others- we can do more with less, share experience and resources and reach those most in need quicker and more effectively.
Being flexible and adaptive to change has been vital, allowed us to respond to the immediate challenges faced by families at lockdown who were in need, we knew where families were and could reach out, adapt activities and sustain them. This provided opportunities to build the natural networks we have too for families and work locally.
Effective project planning and budgeting is vital as is having other funders. We did not receive further funding from Better Breaks this year and have had to work in a very different way to support families, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
How Cosgrove Care has benefitted from the funding
We have developed and sustained new partnerships with other organisations. We have built a reputation for delivering quality short breaks for children with the most complex needs, ensuring their families get a break from their caring responsibilities. The organisation is 60 this year and has consolidated its reputation by being able to offer a wider range of support to families and celebrate innovation. We have been able to expand the funding sources we receive support from at what is a very challenging time for the third sector. The skills, knowledge and online training has been a critical feature for our volunteers and staff.
Children and young people with complex needs/ learning disabilities and their families will have accessed a more diverse range of short breaks in 2019/20, will have built new circles of friends and supports, gained confidence and skills and experienced new activities.
Families have been able to access a diverse range of activity days together as families and also for the children and young people themselves. Many have built new friendships, gained skills and confidence and tried new activities which has enhanced their lives and helped them grow. The short breaks allowed children to develop friendships, have a break away and a new experience. The two final activity days were converted to online sessions where activity packs were delivered to families and online sessions delivered via zoom. This was very positive in providing a different experience and break together, learning together. Being able to combine activity and fun days, short breaks and latterly outreach allowed us to be successful in achieving this outcome.
A is a 16 year old boy with multiple complex needs and autism who lives at home with his extended family and 4 brothers and sisters. A was part of a group who went on a short break to Calvert Lakes. His complex needs meant that the family were anxious about his support and how he might respond away from home. We worked intensively to provide a short break holiday plan which allowed us to work on what A liked, his routine, his medication regime and communication. This helped the team make sure that A had fun and allowed the family to feel confident that the environment, staff and approach met his needs. The careful planning meant that A had a great break and regular Whatsapp messages to his family gave them confidence, allowing them to relax and enjoy a break from their caring responsibilities. A tried many new activities, made friends and came home relaxed. the family now have confidence for A to go on further breaks and have now connected with outreach support. The family feel sustained in their caring roles.
This was an unintended outcome for Me 2. Families have reported that they have been able to take a break whilst their disabled children have been on a short break to re-charge their batteries and also to have a holiday themselves. They reported a sense of well-being derived from a genuine break.
Families have felt confident and relaxed due to the approach taken with a trusted provider, families and carers have connected into wellbeing sessions at activity days where they have learned about relaxation and mindfulness to help them cope better with the stresses and strains of their caring role. Children and Young People have had opportunities to relax and have fun improving their mental health and well-being. Families have reported positive changes to behaviour in their children and young people following a short break.
Z's family were under pressure with Z's behaviour affecting family life and placing strain on relationships with his siblings. The family felt that they were not coping and mum's mental health was being impacted by juggling her job and her caring role. Z went on a short break at a point when the family was in danger of breaking down. They were able to make necessary changes to the home environment to better meet Z's needs.The break helped the family re-asses their support needs and reach out to social work to make changes which have had a positive impact. Z came back relaxed from his break having made a new friend who he now meets regularly through structured support.
Carers whose children and young people participated in one of our 4 short breaks will have experienced a positive break from their caring role, safe in the knowledge that their young person has had a great and fun holiday that has been planned and individualised. Carers will enjoy a short break.
Me 2 has been able to deliver all the planned short breaks and activity days which have provided 420 carers with access to advice, support, activities and resources which have enabled them to enjoy life outwith their caring role. Festive fun days allowed opportunities to do Christmas Shopping, short breaks allowed families to have a much needed break, activity days allowed access to other local resources and support. Family Forums have allowed families to connect with each other and learn more about their rights and availability of other forms of support, empowering them and giving them the resources and tools to help themselves as well as take charge of their own well-being. Family sessions in advance of short breaks have been positive for sharing information, creating alliances and ensuring families and carers get individualised information to take part in and get access to activities outwith their caring role.
Mr T is a single parent who cares for his disabled daughter who is 9 years old. He has limited opportunities to connect with others and often feels isolated. He came along to the family forum which allowed him to have access to support for his daughter, meet other parents and carers and share the challenges he faces. As a result Mr T learned about support he could receive through the Carers Centre who Cosgrove invited along. The result is that he now attends support sessions their as well as having benefited from a break funded through Me 2.
Carers will have participated in the Ideas Sessions, Family Forums and Pow Wow sessions and will have had opportunities to connect with other families, the wider network of support available to them and have had a say in shaping the activities and supports that are delivered and that they will need.
Carers and Families had their say in shaping many elements of the next bids to support the development of the offer provided by Cosgrove Care. They became better informed, more confident, better supported and better connected. Families and carers have greater knowledge of what is available for them and how they can exercise their rights and express their needs. Families have reported that they feel better informed and better supported as a result.
Mr and Mrs F have moved to Glasgow from England. They have two children with additional needs and have struggled to understand the Scottish system and how to access support. They have no immediate family and a very narrow circle of friends and felt they were at breaking point. The family came along to an activity day that they had seen advertised on social media. They met other families, other local provide organisations, their children got to participate in activities and they learned about where to go for support. They reported feeling positive for the first time and feeling that they had a wider network of support, positive connections and happier children.
Additional project outcome
Improved well-being for children, young people and their family members which supported families through the lockdown where they were shielding very vulnerable children. This connected them to local volunteers who delivered food, anti boredom packs, pen pals and online support.