A story by Teens+
We ran a monthly social event, each with a different themed activity. This was open to the carers and families of our TEENS+ students, as well as the students themselves. We offered flexible options for attendance/participation.
What Time Out did
We successfully managed to run 5 sessions face to face before the pandemic hit. These were a Halloween party, arts and crafts session, pizza and movie night, mini zoo and a Zumba disco. These took place at our Ravenscroft Centre 1 Saturday a month at varying times. We reached out and invited all our students and their carers/family along.
Most of the time the carers chose to participate in the activity while staff worked with our students. Those who didn't, quite often took the time to get things done such as shopping or catching up with a friend. Of course the pandemic hit so the project didn't go to plan for most of the year. We did manage to run 3 sessions over zoom and these were Bingo, Disco and magic show and Zumba. These sessions offered them a fun activity to take part in and gave them a chance to talk to familiar faces.
What Teens+ has learned
Our organisation has learnt that there is always a way to offer support and respite even during a lockdown. This was definitely an unexpected challenge and we worked hard to find suitable activities we could offer via video call. This lead to students and carers joining us that wouldn't normally. This was all down to it being easier for them to access it straight from their home. These calls offered some relief from everything going on and gave them (and us) something to enjoy. Because of this, we will definitely take advantage of technology in the future to reach out to even more of our students/carers who might be a bit further away or would rather stay at home.
We had carers and students participating who wouldn't normally take part in any of our events that happened previously so it was amazing to reach out to them and give them a voice to say what they would like to do or try. This has taught us that giving carers an opportunity to open up about their interests and their feelings is so important. If we hadn't have asked , I don't think we would have been able to run such a successful project.
A lot of our students have Autism so routine and structure is a big thing for them so this project gave them an opportunity to break out of that in a safe space with people they know well. During this we saw that students participated in things that they wouldn't have usually. Seeing the interest of their peers seemed to spark an interest in them too. With the students and parents/carers taking control it meant that they could share things they enjoy with others. From this, we learnt that person centred activities have been amazing for helping our students get out of their comfort zone.
Something that unexpectedly came out of this project was we learnt that there are a lot of great people and companies locally. All of our activities were run by local businesses and we now have a list of people we can rely on for future events. Each and every one of them was kind, patient and took the time to get to know our students and their families.
How Teens+ has benefitted from the funding
We have benefited massively from this project. We have learnt that there is great interest in this kind of project amongst our carers and students and the funding helped us pilot this idea. We would love to organise and run more of these events. We have definitely considered a few options for this now that we know it has been helpful and enjoyable for all those involved. The core group of people who attended have really seen a benefit and we would like to keep the momentum going. This is something that we think could be parent let with us as an organisation supporting and helping. It has given us a good partnership with the people /companies running the activities so we now have a list of people we can call upon if ever needed again. On a personal level, I have learnt so much. Learning all about the process of applying for the funding, planning and running new project has been eye opening. I have gained new skills and built upon others such as leadership, organisation and communication. These are skills that I am now keen to keep using and keep working on.
Carers will actively participate in the planning of future TEENS+ Time Out events.
This outcome was achieved well as we had lots of amazing suggestions from our carers after each event which meant they were actively participating in the planning of future events. The questionnaire before the project was filled out by the majority of carers so from the beginning, we could see what activities they would be interested in trying. This was to make sure we could cater for as many people as possible. We were able able to run 50% of the sessions as planned and 25% over Zoom due to the Covid restrictions though so unfortunately we didn't get to use all the wonderful suggestions. Even though this was the case, we are proud that we managed to adapt our events to fit in with the restrictions.
A great example of was our Zumba sessions. After the positive feedback we received from the first session we ran, we knew we would like to run another session in the future. We were able to recreate this over zoom during the first lockdown which was just as successful. A lot of the feedback we had was that the carers and their family members wouldn't usually have the chance to attend any exercise classes for a number of reasons. It was said that having a class that was inclusive made a big difference.
Carers feel part of an active, social community of people experiencing similar circumstances to their own.
This was achieved as we had a core group of carers and students who came along to each event. The carers don't tend to get much of an opportunity to meet up and socialise so we had a lot lovely feedback about people getting that time to talk to people in similar circumstances.
As a result of this project, the carers have formed a closer bond to each other and to the people who work with their relative/service user. This has had a positive impact on them as they now feel they can talk to people who understand what the are going through which I have been told is very important to them and their mental health. This would not have happened if it wasn't for time out events.
Carers will feel more relaxed and positive knowing they and their cared for person can enjoy regular, varied and flexible social interaction.
Whilst we were able to run the sessions in person, I would definitely say this this was achieved. This is because each event was different and tended to be something that carers and our students might not get the opportunity to take part in due to caring responsibilities or lack of options for those with learning disabilities. The carers could be social at the event or use the time to catch up and socialise with their friends or family outwith the event. We received feedback from carers about how great they felt after each event and how much they were looking forward to the next one.
A great case study for this was during our Cinema night. Carers who are parents of 2 of our students attended with their children who are both students at Teens+. They told me that they had never had an opportunity to watch the film all the way through despite many attempts. One of their children has complex needs and behaviours which means she needs constant attention and support. They could relax knowing that staff would support any disruptions and because they weren't in a public place, they felt there would be no judgement or embarrassment if anything was to happen. They were so grateful to just be able to see the end of the film and it was amazing to have been able to give them that. Another example was from when the pandemic hit. I was contacted by a family member asking if there was any way we could keep the project going with the restrictions. They told me that it had such a positive impact on them and they were really missing the regular events and all the laughter and fun that was had. When we had our first event over Zoom, their mood had dramatically improved and they were already looking forward to the next one. They felt like it was a weight off their shoulders to be able to see familiar faces and for them and the student to be able to interact with different people during the lockdown.