Weekly Clubs & Activity Days for Children and Young People with Disabilities
A story by Include Me 2 Club SCIO
We delivered an adapted programme of digital activities, outdoor education/play, themed workshops, and more for Cared-for children/Young People with disabilities, which helped improve the wellbeing, resilience, and quality of life of children with disabilities and their Carers.
What Weekly Clubs & Activity Days for Children and Young People with Disabilities did
We required to make several key changes to our project plan as a result of the on-going health crisis that are proud of our ability to quickly adapt and diversify our services to better meet the needs of disabled children/young people and their Parents/Carers.
This included launching a new online portal via which we ran 625 weekly digital sessions for disabled children/young people as a safe alternative to our weekly clubs. These included both themed daily sessions in which children/young people took part in a focused activity, e.g., pottery-making, sand-art kits, etc., and general social sessions in which children/young people could simply be themselves, socialise and build relationships with their peers: helping them cope with the increased challenges faced.
We also developed/ran regular Parent/Carer digital sessions that provided a safe space for them to connect and share their stresses, experiences, and peer support. 1,220 at-home activity packs were distributed, helping keep children stimulated/entertained whilst stuck at home and giving their Parents/Carers some additional much-needed at-home respite.
We also ran 78 outdoor Pop Up Play sessions where possible and in line with government guidelines, with more sessions provided to smaller groups of children/YP and incl., physically-engaging games/sports, messy play, outdoor education, nature crafts, etc., run using a ‘circuit-style’ activity model to support health/safety. Families have also been supported to engage in “Weekend Wellness Walks.” Given the unique challenges of the pandemic, we expanded our remit so that able-bodied siblings, many of whom have had to help care for their siblings during the pandemic, could engage in positive integrated activities with their siblings and peers, giving Parents/Carers additional respite and supporting the wellbeing and relationships of each family unit.
28 themed activity sessions were also run where possible for small groups of 6-8 disabled children/YP each, enabling them to safely socialise/connect with their peers and engage in various activities, e.g, gaming, animation, sensory Lego, etc.
Overall our services supported 129 disabled children, 55 able-bodied siblings, and 146 Parents
What Include Me 2 Club SCIO has learned
This year was very difficult for our clients and also impacted our own organisation, with the biggest challenge being the significant and changing guidelines/restrictions put in place by the government to help reduce the spread of coronavirus as this significantly restricted the number/types of face-to-face services we could run including our initial project plan as funded by the Better Breaks Fund.
We are, however, very pleased with how quickly we were able to adapt and diversify our services to help them better cope with the existing challenges already faced as well as those exacerbated/created by the on-going health crisis. In this connection, we launched a new online portal and ran several weekly digital sessions each week from late April 2020 which have provided a safe alternative to our face-to-face clubs and enabled isolated, disabled children/young people to safely reconnect with their peer/group groups and engage in a range of positive activities from the safety of their own home.
We also organised and ran Parent/Carer digital sessions in partnership with our Parent/Carer Committee which gave them a safe space to share their stresses, experiences and peer support. Based on the overwhelming success and popularity of this service, positive feedback received, and easy accessibility, we fully expect that this will continue to have a place in our overall service provision/the community even after the health crisis ends.
We also delivered regular activity packs which helped keep children stimulated/entertained whilst stuck at home; this, in turn, gave parents/Carers some additional in-home respite. We also ran a significant number of outdoor activities where possible and in line with the changing government guidelines/restrictions which enabled children to get outdoors and safely engage in fun, positive activities whilst providing their parents/Carers with essential respite: helping improve the overall wellbeing of both the disabled children and their parents/Carers.
Families benefitting from the programme funded by Better Breaks were also encouraged to engage in the ‘Weekend Wellness Walks’ we set up in Autumn 2020, enabling families to get outdoors and explore local parks and nature walks.
Due to the unique challenges presented by the health crisis, we expanded our remit and also supported able-bodied siblings of the disabled children supported, especially as so many were thrust in a position of helping to care for their siblings, especially where Parents/Carers were working from home (with several even becoming young carers). This helped to further provide respite to the Parents/Carers supported, reduce overall stress levels, and improved their overall wellbeing and relationships within the family unit: helping them make it through this difficult period.
We also developed new initiatives to provide additional support for families with disabled children/young people above/beyond the activity programme funded by the Better Breaks Fund. As part of this, we regularly distributed food and utility vouchers, funded from another source to help ensure that the disadvantaged families we support could afford nutritional food and the additional energy costs required as a result of spending so much time stuck at home.
As we know from experience that Parents/Carers are often too proud to ask for help, we provided this support equally across the Board to benefit all of the families with disabled children/young people. We also provided Christmas presents and Easter Hampers for disabled children/young people as we knew so many families were struggling financially and couldn’t provide these additional luxuries. Additionally, it became quickly apparent that there were families that either lacked tech devices and/or internet connection within the home which prevented the children/young people from accessing the digital sessions run, with many Parents/Carers advising that the only computer they had was being used to work from home and they couldn’t afford any others.
To help families overcome this barrier, we applied/secured additional funding which enabled us to distribute laptops/tablets, MiFis, etc., so that they could engage in the services run. We also picked-up/delivered monthly prescriptions for clients with long-term medical problems that had to shield and distributed healthy meal parcels for families that were really struggling to access healthy food during lockdown periods, especially the first lockdown, which caused so many immediate challenges, e.g., single Parents that were unable to take all of their children to the shop.
Admittedly, all of the additional services/support we provided during the year increased the overall costs of our services. We were, however, very fortunate to secure additional funding as well as establish strong new links in the community within which local businesses and community organisations kindly provided in-kind support to help us meet our overall targets.
How Include Me 2 Club SCIO has benefitted from the funding
Funding kindly awarded by the Better Breaks Fund enabled Include Me 2 Club to build upon our previous successes and provide an adapted programme of services to meet the needs of the communities we support and help them better cope with both the existing challenges they already faced as well as those exacerbated/created as a result of the on-going health crisis. As part of this, we developed several new services, the largest of which is the new online portal created via which we’ve provided several weekly digital sessions as a safe alternative to our weekly clubs so that our clients could safely stay connected to their peer/social groups, which supported their overall health/wellbeing, especially as those developed in our Project are often the only networks/links they have in the community because of their disabilities. The pandemic also led us to develop/run a wider range of outdoor services, where possible and in line with the changing government guidelines/restrictions. Evaluation Support Scotland helped us create additional links with other grant holders and instigated both internal and external discussions, which further helped us better meet the needs of those we support. We also took part in learning and support programmes run by the R S Macdonald Charitable Trust, who currently fund the new part-time Children’s Worker role mentioned in our End of Grant Report for the previous award kindly given by Better Breaks Fund. These programmes enabled us to further create links with other grant holders in similar fields and sector areas and share knowledge, experiences, and resources to further improve our services. The unique challenges presented by the pandemic also enabled us to build strong links with local businesses and community organisations which whom we worked to provide community-wide support to ensure no vulnerable people fell through gaps in service provision. For example, we worked with lock activists to make/distribute 1,200+ packs of 2 high-quality handmade masks to local community members, equating to 2,400 masks overall, and also distributed nearly 200 lanyards and mask exemption cards for those with significant medical conditions that are unable to wear masks but whom, despite previously shielding, needed these when retuning to school/work. The increased visibility experienced as a result of these new community ties also helped us to recruit additional Trustees and new volunteers, with all of our volunteers undergoing online training workshops to support their roles. We’ve also implemented an additional subgroup that will improve the communication between our growing staff team, Trustees, volunteers, and service users.
100 children/YP with disabilities/multiple additional support needs will have engaged in recreational/sport activities they can’t typically access but via which they’ll gain key life skills, friendships, and improved confidence and resilience. As a result, children/young people will feel less isolated and happier/more positive
129 children/young people with disabilities engaged in 625 digital activity sessions and received 1,200 at-home activity packs, helping them safely connect with their peers and engage in positive activities during lockdowns. 78 outdoor Pop Up Play sessions enabled children/young people to engage in physically-engaging games/sports, outdoor education, nature crafts, etc. 28 themed indoor workshops enabled children/young people engaged in gaming, animation, sensory Lego, etc. 55 able-bodied siblings also benefitted from key activities. By engaging in activities within a safe, encouraging space, exploring/taking on new challenges independently, and building new friendships/networks, children/young people with disabilities developed confidence and increased independence and improved their inclusion, resilience, physical health, and wellbeing. This helped them better cope with existing challenges and those exacerbated/created by the pandemic: helping children/young people feel stronger, less isolated, and more positive/resilient.
LB and her 3 disabled daughters have been engaging in activities for 2 years: the eldest is now 18 though the other 2 are much younger. LB told us that the pandemic had heavily impacted all of their mental health and strained overall family relationships. LB’s youngest child really enjoyed and regularly engaged in the digital activity sessions we’ve run, helping keep her stimulated and positively engaging with the friends she’s made, which in turn, has massively supported her overall wellbeing and helped keep her spirits/hope up during this difficult period. LB’s middle daughter, on the other hand, simply couldn’t engage with the online activities nor even with the online learning modules set up by her school, causing additional frustration and strain. Both of the kids, however, engaged in the Pop Up Play activities run during which they truly thrived and enjoyed being able to get outside, play with their friends, and simply have fun. We also provided the kids with regularly activity packs and gave the family food and utility vouchers to help them feed their kids and cover the costs of the additional energy needed due to being at home for an extended period of time. The entire family also engaged in the Weekend Wellness Walks set up in Autumn, which enabled them to get outdoors, explore, and engage in positive activities together away from the stress at home. LB said “Include Me 2 Club has been a massive help for us, from running activities for the kids and even giving us vouchers. The activity packs received at Christmas were absolutely amazing – just knowing that there are people out there thinking about you and your family is fantastic and helps keep me positive. It’s also been great receiving all the phone calls from Include Me 2 Club where they’re checking in to make sure we are doing ok, if we need anything, and/or telling us about some fun new activities planned. It’s so touching to know that the club is there for us. All of the opportunities you’ve given us have made me so grateful for the charity. Thank you so much for everything.”
100 children/YP with disabilities/multiple additional support needs and their 120 Parents/Carers will have been supported to re-engage in the community, engage in opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible, and develop new skills/support networks: improving their health, happiness, resilience, and overall wellbeing
Despite the challenges created by the pandemic/restrictions, we provided an adapted programme of fun activities for 129 children/young people with disabilities during which their 146 x Parents/Carers accessed regular respite breaks and their own digital group sessions, helping them de-stress, engage with their peers and share experiences/support, and better cope with/continue carrying out their caring responsibilities. By providing unique opportunities for disabled children and their Parents/Carers to independently access support, focus on their own wellbeing, and build new friendships/networks, families were able to better cope with existing challenges and those exacerbated/created by the health crisis, developed stronger relationships, improved resilience, and felt happier/more positive about the future. 55 able-bodied siblings, many of whom had to help care for their siblings, were also supported to engage in key activities, further improving each family's wellbeing and relationships
K and her son L joined the Club just as the pandemic began. During lockdown, K and her son really struggled, with L having regular meltdowns as a result of the changes to his structured routine, especially as he could not go swimming or to school which had been his only outlets prior to coming to us. K said “Include Me 2 Club has had a massive impact on L during lockdown – the activity packs have really keep him going. He has only recently started to talk properly and express himself due to his disabilities but these activity packs have really helped him to break out of his shell. The day we received the Easter packs, his face just lit up and he spent the day painting with the arts and crafts and playing with the sensory toys included in the pack. He’s really enjoyed this. and, I am in a good place.” The improvement in L’s mental health has given K a sense of relief and helped her own wellbeing and she’s been more able to simply enjoy time with L rather than constantly trying to resolve meltdowns and find new things to do at home. L’s also regularly engaged in our Pop Up Play activities at Haghill in Glasgow’s East End. With this, K added: “I find it really difficult to find clubs for L to attend and that he likes. I felt such a relief when I found the street play project because it means he can play with a big mix of other children with autism, learning disabilities, and additional support needs. He’s absolutely loved the sessions and has even made several new friends. This has just been fantastic.” OTHER QUOTES Carer 1- “You’ve made this situation so much more bearable for not only my daughter and myself but for so many other people too! We feel so privileged and grateful to be part of the Include Me 2 Club family. Thank you.” Carer 2- “It’s been so crazy and so hard to get used to. The impact on the kids has been so bad, from no school, clubs, friends, family…! Everything changed overnight and if it wasn’t for you all, I don’t even want to think what it would have looked like. This feels more like a community or an extended family rather than just a social group. We are so grateful for your phenomenal support. Thank you so much.” Carer 3- “It’s been so hard. We’re so restricted, being able to get out, get shopping whilst keeping the kids safe and entertained has been so difficult and there is days we just can’t cope or manage. Trying to explain the reasons for these restrictions to our wee boy is simply impossible. Your support has been such a godsend for us. Our kids have loved the different crafts and sensory toys included in the activity packs given which have let them independently play and stay entertained, giving us some respite. Thank you so much.” Carer 4- “As a single parent it’s been very difficult - even getting out for shopping is such a challenge with my three kids, some supermarkets won’t even let me in and even when I can, getting around the shops with my two kids who have autism and who don’t understand social distancing is so difficult. There’s days that we can’t leave the house even when we need food, electricity cards to top up, etc., and I just cry. Your support has been great, especially the activity packs, which have helped keep the kids more entertained and happier – helping us all better cope.”
120 Parents/Carers will have receive regular, much-needed respite breaks and time to focus on their own wellbeing and engage in activities previously inaccessible due to their 24/7 caring role. Parents/Carers will report feeling less isolated and more resilient/positive about their caring future.
This year was very difficult for families and we required to quickly adapt to meet their increased needs. The enforced isolation in particular led to increased stress, relationship strain/breakdown, and poor wellbeing. The activities and activity packs we provided for disabled children enabled 146 Parents/Carers to access much-needed respite breaks and focus on themselves. We also ran Parent/Carer digital sessions that enabled them to connect and share experiences/support with their peers. This vital support helped Parents/Carers feel less stressed/hopeless, stronger and more confident in their own caring abilities, better able to cope with/continue carrying out their 24/7 caring responsibilities and the increased challenged faced due to the pandemic, and build positive peer friendships/networks. These outcomes, in turn, positively impacted each family unit: improving their communication, relationships, and overall wellbeing and quality of life.
KJ has 3 daughters, two of whom have multiple additional support needs and one suffers from serious mental health issues along with their father, the overall combination of which placed additional strain on KJ during the pandemic, especially with all the additional/increased challenges they faced as a result of the pandemic. Although KJ’s 2 disabled daughters engaged in some of the digital activity sessions, they struggled to stay engaged with the online format. They did however love the activity packs and the outdoor Pop Up Play sessions when we were able to provide these in line with the government guidelines/restrictions. The girls and their father even came out to the Weekend Wellness Walks we started running in Autumn which gave KJ not only some respite but the ability to actually focus on herself without worrying as she knew her girls wee being cared for and enjoying themselves. KJ said: “Include Me 2 has helped us massively – from giving my children activity packs and giving us as a family emergency vouchers and healthy hot meals when I lost my job in November. It was so great knowing that the charity was there to assist us: a real godsend that helped us through the dark periods. My children have attended the street play, which has really helped their mental health during the lockdown as they thrive more and prefer meeting people face-to-face rather than digitally. It’s also helped them reconnect with some of the friends they’d previously made at the club which really lifted their spirits.” Include Me 2 Club recently provided massive Easter activity packs to all of the children and young people we engage with. These included a selection of arts and crafts, activity sheets, street chalk, pottery-making kits, bubble wands, sensory toys, a gift voucher and Easter egg. In response to this, KJ said “These packs have been so great and helped get them outdoors into the garden and be creative. The fidget spinners and sensory toys really helped with the sensory processing disorders and reduced their anxiety and stress. This has honestly helped me so much as, when they are occupied, it gives me time for myself. Even the simple knowledge of knowing they have something positive to focus on gives me that little bit of release. I know I’d be really struggling and in a much more difficult position without this support from Include Me 2.”
Carers of children and young people with disabilities (aged 20 and under) will feel better supported to sustain their caring role
Despite the challenges created by the pandemic/restrictions, we provided an adapted programme of fun activities for 129 children/young people with disabilities and 55 able-bodied siblings during which 146 Parents/Carers accessed regular respite breaks and their digital group sessions, helping them de-stress, engage with their peers and share experiences/support. Parents also received food/utility vouchers to help them provide for their children and reduce stress. The combined support helped Parents/Carers feel less stressed/hopeless, stronger and isolated, better able to cope with/carry out their 24/7 caring responsibilities and increased challenged due to the pandemic, and build positive peer friendships/networks. These outcomes, in turn, positively impacted each family unit: improving their communication, relationships, and wellbeing, e.g. reducing stress helped Parents enjoy their time with their child(en) rather than focusing on day-to-day challenges faced.
Child L’s family has really struggled this year. His father died a few years ago, which had already reduced their income but the pandemic made things so much worse, with L’s mother struggling to simply cover basic bills. In addition to struggling financially, the family has experienced increased isolation/loneliness and poorer wellbeing, with L in particular struggling with being stuck at home and cut off from his regular life as he didn’t understand the changing restrictions and need to stay at home and doesn’t have similar interests to his older sibling, causing regular meltdowns which increased the family’s overall stress levels. L’s mum heard about our Project for the first-time this year and immediately got in touch to see what sort of activities were being run during the pandemic as she was nearing a breakdown from all of the increased stress/meltdowns. However, although we’ve been running a comprehensive digital activity programme offering daily activity and social sessions, L wasn’t able to engage in these as the only digital access they had was through his mum’s phone that had limited data and they couldn’t afford anything else. Given the family’s situation, we immediately pulled together and provided activity packs for the kids, supermarket vouchers, and a new 2-in-1 laptop/tablet and dongle provided through the Connecting Scotland Programme aimed at increasing digital access/inclusion. This support massively helped the family, with the vouchers and the activity packs helping keep the kids entertained whilst stuck at home which, in turn, gave their mum a bit of peace, and the new laptop/tablet enabling L to finally engage in our digital activities and connect/socialise with his peers which he quickly came to love and regularly engaged in, giving his mum regular scheduled breaks in which she could just focus on herself: further improving the overall wellbeing and relationships of the family. L’s mum said the following. “I am emailing to thank you so so much for Luca’s iPad, activities, and vouchers. Your kindness is so much appreciated as already it is making our lives much easier. The thought that was put into this is amazing and we feel so cared for and supported. I struggle to ask for help but have found myself having to during the pandemic and can’t thank you enough for everything. When my husband died we were in the ‘wrong’ postcode for help that we would have benefitted my family at that time so your incredible support is so much appreciated. It just feels amazing that we’re getting help for our individual circumstances rather than it being a postcode lottery. I was literally overwhelmed when your lovely worker came to our door with the package. "L has absolutely loved his activity pack – it was simply amazing and has given him something to do to have fun. We were even able to play some of the games together and I feel it’s helped promote our bond and making positive memories despite everything going on right now. We also feel so incredibly lucky that L was granted this laptop. It’s allowed him to access the apps that soothe him when nearing a meltdown and we’ve also used it for learning activities in addition to the fun online activities and chatting with his friends, which has been lovely and given me a bit of respite too. Thank you so so much again. Best wishes” OTHER QUOTES Carer 5 - “You’ve given us a lifeline in this crisis and I feel so much more connected and supported.” Carer 6 – “The activities and activity packs have been brilliant. My two girls are become more confident in themselves and are more comfortable to independently play with each other or by themselves, finally giving me time for myself. It’s really been a godsend for us and me during this difficult period.”