The Yard Youth Clubs
A story by The Yard
We delivered three youth clubs for disabled teenagers between 14-18yrs. The clubs meet on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings in person or online 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 (14-18yrs) were delivered on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings online due to the Scottish Government guidelines surrounding CV-19. Each youth club lasts for 2.5hrs 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.
Although due to the clubs being held online we have done more work with parents/carers to maximise their respite opportunities during this time e.g. working on activities with them to ensure the young people can take part independently in their home. 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
We have learnt more this year than we have in many years due to the extensive adaptations our team has had to make to the clubs. The playteam have spoken about the need to always be able to innovate and turn a young persons ideas into reality but also to be able to do it virtually. As well as this our team have had to build up confidence in technology and facilitating youth services via Zoom, which many had never done before.
It has also built up stronger relationships with carers and families, a number of whom had issues managing the CV-19 pandemic and the uncertainty and isolation it brought.
Mainly, it forced us into a situation we had to adapt to quickly that was out of our comfort zone and the success we have had has really given our team a boost of confidence that was well earnt!
How The Yard has benefitted from the funding
The Yard has found Better Breaks funding very beneficial particularly with the CV-19 pandemic and the negative effects it has had on the charity landscape, funding, for our families and other organisations. It allowed us to maintain our services and it was very open to the changes we had to make to continue to run our clubs.
Disabled young people between 14-18 years will have had more opportunities to have fun, develop friendships and do activities they enjoy.
We believe that even though we were at a time where CV-19 made socialising virtually impossible, our online Youth Clubs gave an essential lifeline to disabled young people whose routines had been incredibly disrupted. Throughout our online services we have maintained our child-led ethos and have had the young people decide what activities they wished to do and have made accessible opportunities for them that they could do at home, so everyone could feel involved. We also worked with families to make sure they had access to the relevant equipment.
"My son was very nervous about the move of his youth club onto Zoom, but his main playworker worked really closely with him to build up his confidence. Even though he spent the first few months mainly watching what was going on, he all of a sudden one session just joined in! It was really exciting to hear him from the other room shouting out some of the answers to the quiz they had set up. I am so grateful that The Yard managed to keep some sort of activity available for him, he loves it and even though he wants to go back to The Yard building he is so excited whenever Thursday evening comes."
48 disabled children and young people and 72 carers will have improved well-being, resulting from access to time to be independent of each other, allowing for opportunities to experience new things, gain respite and socialise, thus improving their self-confidence and self-esteem.
By providing disabled young people with a consistent independent outlet during the subsequent CV-19 lockdowns we know that carers and the young people were able to gain more positive well-being. This was due to having some stability during a very different chaotic year. Many of our families expressed that even though the service had changed, with it being held online, the fact it still happened was the main achievement as it gave families some routine. This routine therefore allowed friendships that had previously been made at the in person clubs keep growing, and families to be slightly more relaxed in their homes when the clubs were occurring, especially as our playworkers were doing more Keep In Touch calls with carers to ensure they knew what was happening on the club calls.
"We really benefitted from the more frequent calls Darcie (playteam lead) was making to us as parents, as I was able to sit in the other room and watch the TV leaving XXXX in her room with the Ipad. We could set up an activity that The Yard had sent in her room and then she could log into the call independently and i have rarely had to go in and help. This has been great as it is a lot more difficult to switch off and not try to check on her when she is as close as the next room. Also she has been having some calls with her friends from the clubs outside of club time which she has really really loved."
In 12 month’s time 72 carers will have had 120 hours of respite where they had been given the opportunity to enjoy a life outside of their caring role.
This is quite a difficult outcome to measure, as we were always confident when the clubs were held at The Yard that parents were given a substantial amount of time to do an activity for themselves, or maybe with one of their other children. However, the online clubs have meant that the sessions have to occur in the family home, to try to make it as restful a time as possible for the parents/carers we have made sure to involve them in picking activities, have sent them emails listing upcoming activities, and often send materials. In addition, we have increased our calls to parents/carers to ensure they feel supported and have someone to talk to who may be able to give useful advice as well as talking about their young persons club. We are confident that these activities have ensured that carers have been able to gain as much respite as possible during this tricky time.
"At first my husband and I were very skeptical about the online club, especially when I knew about all the activities that the clubs did at The Yard. I couldn't work out how they would be able to replicate the service virtually, but they have done a brilliant job. They have even managed to do some cooking activities that XXX has been able to do independently, although the mug cakes have become a bit of a staple now in XXX's life, which isn't the healthiest snack! XXX's main playworker gives us a ring or sends us an email frequently to make sure we know what he will be doing and we come up with a way for him to do it mainly on his own. There have been some activities that he hasn't been able to fully participate in but he really enjoys watching the other young people and shouts along. I do feel happier and even though I haven't been able to keep up with coffee with friends (which I couldn't have done anyway with Corona Virus) I have been able to read in the living room quite a bit which has been great."
Over the course of the year 72 carers will feel better supported and as a result of the respite they will have the opportunity to relax and improve their mental well-being, thus ensuring they are better supported and equipped to sustain their caring role.
As we said in Outcome 3, this has been a difficult period of time to facilitate services for disabled young people which have the knock on effect of providing better mental well-being for their parents/carers. However, it is our belief that by facilitating the youth clubs quickly after the initial CV-19 lockdown and working directly with carers to make sure they were fully understanding of the online service, had the right equipment and knew we were at the end of the phone or an email for support we think that this has been a great success.
"My husband, older children and I all take it in turns to supervise XXX on her Tuesday call, she is pretty independent but knowing one of us is keeping an ear out makes us all feel better. She loves her club, and we love the club because of this :) As a family we love listening to her laughing away with 'her girls', it really is a lovely thing to hear and it makes us all feel very happy."