The Yard Youth Clubs
A story by The Yard
We delivered The Yards Youth Clubs which are three youth clubs for disabled teenagers between 14-18 yrs.
The clubs meet on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings for 2.5 hours and work with a maximum of 16 teens to help friendships form, enable positive wellbeing and give the opportunity of independence.
What The Yard Youth Clubs did
Our Yard Youth Clubs for disabled teenagers (14-18 yrs) were delivered on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings either in The Yard main centre or at an external venue e.g. Gravity Trampoline Park, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the cinema. Each youth club lasts for 2.5 hours and are for disabled teenagers to attend independently of their parents/carers.
All the young people who attend the clubs have a disability and either they or their parents/carers sign them up to join one of our clubs to help them make friends, gain independence and learn life skills whilst gaining in confidence. The clubs do not work directly with carers; however they provide carers with dedicated respite time where they are able to relinquish their caring responsibilities whilst having peace of mind that their children are safe.
To make the clubs a success we ensure that they are largely child-led, with the young people debating what activities they would like to do each week. In addition, we ensure that our staff and volunteers are all trained to a high standard and that there is a core member of staff for each club who is there every week to provide stability.
The clubs worked on three of the Better Breaks priorities: transition to adulthood, complex needs and independence. We believed the club would address these priorities as they work with teenagers with complex needs to be independent whilst being at a stage of life where they are transitioning into adulthood.
We have had many successes in these three clubs, from improving the metal health of hundreds of disabled teens to helping families have better wellbeing due to the consistent weekly respite. As well, we know that for every individual case our child-led method ensures that each teen is able to benefit from their club.
What The Yard has learned
The Yard has run our youth clubs for a number of years, however we do still learn things every year. This year we have learnt that although we are a dynamic organisation who was able to very quickly adapt to the children who attend the sessions we were not as fast at adapting to national issues such as COVID-19. However, this has been rectified and our virtual platform is now occurring.
We have also learnt that we need to make sure that we are constantly making sure that our clubs are being advertised outwith our member families to make sure we are helping families who are in harder to reach communities.
Lastly, we have worked hard on making sure that we are placing our disabled children in the clubs that benefit them and their carers to make sure that the whole family are fully benefiting from the service. The young person from the dynamics and other young people in the club, and the carer from the day they are able to gain respite.
How The Yard has benefitted from the funding
The Yard has been fortunate to have been funded by Better Breaks for many years to help us continue to facilitate our youth clubs for disabled teenagers. This has allowed us to strengthen our reputation as we are known as a good project to work with, as well as helping us to secure other funding from funders such as BBC Children in Need. The continued funding has also allowed us to develop our clubs, and ensure that we are present in the lives for families for as long as they need us (between the ages of 14-18 yrs) which means that carers and young people get the best experience.
Over the course of a year 52 disabled young people between 14-18 will have had the opportunity to participate in activities they enjoy, make friends and have fun.
We believe we have been successful with this outcome as we have observed over the year all of our young people having fun with their fellow youth club members. Many of our young people now socialise outwith the clubs, and it has given the young people an opportunity to take part in activities they wouldn’t have been able to without the club. As we are a child-led organisation, we also know that all the activities the young people do stem from their own ideas, so every member is getting the chance to have their opinions heard and their ideas to come to fruition.
Thursday teen club, written by his mum. I took my son to The Yard for open play sessions when he was younger. This is when they are supervised by their parent, family member or carer. I had never been able to leave my son in unsupervised play ever. During these sessions I was able to speak to the play workers who ensured me that he was able to play with others, but needed support. He was then put on a waiting list for a club that I was able to leave him for 2.5 hours. When I got the call for him to attend the teen club I was so scared and thought he would be unable to cope. He had been out of school twice for 3 months in 2 years once expelled and once withdrawn. He was so anxious about school, leaving his house and interacting with others. His confidence was at an all-time low but his key play worker Danielle worked carefully and with such understanding with him during his first few months. At times he missed his club but she was on the phone encouraging and just talking to him. Over the last 3 months he is there every week and for the first time in his life he feels happy to play with others and has learned names of other children in his group. I can't ask for anything else as all we want for our children is to be happy and accepted.
52 disabled children and 82 carers will have improved wellbeing due to them having access to The Yards Youth Clubs. The young people and the carers will have had access to free time where they can participate in activities they like to independently of each other, aiding in better family dynamics.
Our youth clubs run 48 weeks of the year for 2.5 hours, this consistency means that carers have dedicated respite time, where they know their children are well cared for. This allows the whole family to relax and de-stress. Many of our carers take this time to do something for themselves, for example, one dad goes to the local pool and another mum reads in a coffee shop. Additionally, as we are helping our young people transition into adulthood, this time apart means that families are experiencing the first steps towards the young person gaining fuller independence which will help with overall good well-being in the future.
Case study written by a mum whose daughter attends one of our teen clubs. “The Yard has been both life-saving and life-changing – we feel like we belong here. It meant I was able to cope when my child was younger. Now that she is a bit older, she loves coming to the Thursday Teen Club and socialising with her peers. On the way home she beams from ear to ear. The club also gives me some time to myself which is always important.” “The Yard has given me so much over the years. Other parents/carers who use or used The Yard became my best friends. The clubs gave us time to sit together and laugh – there was so much humour and we learnt to laugh at ourselves. As mainly single parents, we couldn’t meet up any other way - The Yard gave us the unique and wonderful opportunity to spend a time together whilst the kids enjoyed themselves in such an accepting environment. It also meant my daughter could play independently and didn’t need me to be involved which was great for her.” “The Yard is a home. It is a place where you can be yourself and where you are accepted, a place where you can forget about diagnosis. I will never forget what The Yard meant to me when she was younger, and what it still means to me today.
In 12 months time 82 carers will have had 120 hours of respite where they can enjoy life outside a caring role.
As mentioned in outcome 2, the clubs give carers 120 hours of respite where carers can do something outside of their caring role. Our play staff regularly chat with our carers to find out how they are using their respite time, and they use it in a varied way, some take part in sports, others take the time to spend with their other children or their partner. You will see an example of one of our Thursday teen club member’s parents using their respite to gain valuable one on one time with other members of her family.
“We first heard about The Yard through friends and other parents but never used it regularly until he started attending a club. The Yard’s Thursday Teen Club came at such a good time as I was looking for more social groups for him to attend. We tried to access respite services through social work but after going through a huge procedure we found out we weren’t eligible. I was so relieved when he started coming to the Teen Club, and he now comes every week and doesn’t like to miss it. On the way here tonight, he spontaneously said “I love The Yard!” “He loves hanging out with his friends at the Teen Club. It has such a relaxed, welcoming and friendly atmosphere – he really feels part of something. It gives me peace of mind to know that he has something social to go to during the week. There aren’t many other clubs he can attend and he doesn’t have friends coming round to the house unless it is organised through parents. But at The Yard he has a group of friends. We have recently been matched with another member of the club, and we all live close by each other. We share lifts to The Yard and the friendship has grown stronger because of the club –and they even attended a birthday party together recently.” “I used to get sad thinking about his lack of social life but The Yard has been a real lifesaver and has made me feel much better. The club gives me time to do other things and since we have been sharing lifts with other parents, I have even more respite time. The Yard has also helped the whole family. When he first started the club, his sister was still living at home and it meant we could spend more quality time just with her. It is also good just having space for ourselves a couple of hours a week and as he is very happy at the club and seeing him happy helps everyone in our family!”
Over the year 82 carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role as we help with signposting, advice on behavioural techniques and aid in supporting difficult dynamics.
For our carers the respite they gain from their children accessing our clubs is invaluable. It is time where they can recharge their batteries and work on their positive well-being, which is desperately needed, especially for those carers who are looking after children with multiple complex needs. As well as giving them a break, our playteam are also available to support carers 1.2.1 with behavioural techniques and methods of working with individual members to help stimulate them or calm them. For example, one of our dedicated youth club playworkers was able to successfully aid one of our members with their communication, which she was then able to help the carers with to ease pressures in the family home.
Case study – mum of a new member of our Monday teen club for teens with very complex needs. “We as a family love The Yard. It has helped us in so many ways as we all feel welcome. All the staff are amazing with him when he is having a difficult day. The kids love The Yard and he loves his youth club, they also enjoy the Christmas parties during family session but there is no pressure to join in. As he usually doesn’t cope with Christmas parties but the staff took the pressure away, they were so encouraging and understanding and he was able to enjoy himself. He especially loved Santa, he was so understanding! I love that The Yard clubs happen every week as it can be frustrating to be stuck in the house all the time. We find it hard to access places as he doesn’t deal with waiting, crowds and noises. If he is finding things difficult other facilities don’t have the knowledge or understand of his needs, and we get awkward stares from other parents, which then puts pressure on us as parents. Having a club just for him to attend is brilliant, its so good for him and its amazing for us as a family.”