A story by Multi-Cultural Family Base (MCFB)
Yolo Sistas provides 14 BAME young women carers with weekly group for emotional support, friendships and fun. It builds strengths, self-confidence and resilience to encourage wider community inclusion and participation. This raises awareness of issues affecting BAME young carers and profile raising.
What Yolo Sistas did
Pre-Covid we offered weekly groups with a range of activities including self care, arts and crafts, cooking and cultural celebrations and themes. This year saw an increase in awareness of the global politics of the environment and latterly the Black Lives Matter movement impacted many in the group.
The group is open to young women and girls from BAME backgrounds and most are referred to the group by teachers, social workers or by word of mouth.
Many parents appreciate the culturally sensitive and safe space offered and comment that they are happy for the girls to attend. In that respect there is Mutual Benefit by providing this respite for the girls who will be expected to help at home as carers. The project has targeted "hard to reach" communities and MCFB have the added value of good partnership links with other agencies who bring expertise and skills to the group such as photography, media skills and opportunities to engage with issues that the members are interested in.
This has included highlighting the role of young BME Carers in Scotland (film). This is of great benefit to the group members, their communities and families and has helped to combat negative stereotypes of BME young women with caring roles.
The group has benefited from having social work students in attendance with recent links with Edinburgh Young Carers raising awareness for staff and young people as to the benefit and need to a Young Carers assessment for each member (initiated or updated). Again this has helped the members to assert their own needs and have these recognised.
As with much of 2020 not all went to plan, a combination of the above took place over Zoom. Yolo Sistas our first group to make the move to that platform which went smoothly resulting in more group meetings than was planned in order to offer support and assistance to group members and their families (via case worker check -in's for parents during this period). Necessary technology to allow access was successfully sourced for many in the group which was essential for group, school and family connectivity with the wider world during Lockdown and further restrictions for those shielding family members.
What Multi-Cultural Family Base (MCFB) has learned
Our project planning and budgeting was impacted by Covid, however we mainly redirected any budget utilised for activities and transport to supplying and delivering activity packs for on-line and self-care activities built into the programme.
Targeting families most in need of support, support to families connected with Yolo has always been offered by the wider agency. This did intensify during Lockdown and has continued to be in higher demand since that time. Typically, this has involved assistance with practical tasks – applying for additional benefits, school liaison, help where English is not a first language are examples.
Reaching out to and engaging with new families, this has occurred via word of mouth and referrals, resulting in 2 new members joining the group.
Developing new short breaks activities, our on-line activities are a new experience for all. We fully intend to pick up on our planned outdoor activities when restrictions/weather allow.
Partnership working, we have worked with Edinburgh Young carers to develop our access to Young Carers Assessments to be initiated or updated for members which has also allowed access for members to take up opportunities and activities on offer from them. We have contributed (at time of writing to) Carers Festival Youth Parliament Film promoting the profile of BAME Young Carers, involved the members in a survey published by Intercultural Youth Insight report on BAME young people’s experience of School and members are participating in a Stills Gallery Photography/MCFB initiative offering young women a course (as noted above)
Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities, Covid provided both to the group as highlighted in this report and in the section on Learning.
Finding other sources of funding, we have been fortunate to be refunded by Creative Breaks which enables us to keep the Group on a secure footing for the coming year which has contributed to other funders expressing an interest in funding activities connected with the Group Carers Festival being a contributor. We applied to Scottish Government Grants for Technology and supplied what was needed to a number of the group (6-10 devices)
How Multi-Cultural Family Base (MCFB) has benefitted from the funding
As noted above the funding we received has enabled all of the work and achievements for the Yolo Sistas Group this year to happen. The young women themselves have taken great strides to raise the profile of Black Asian and Minority Young carers, young women in particular which has the added impact of strengthening our agencies reputation, without doubt. Despite Covid and having to operate for a significant (and continuing period) on line in the main, we have attracted new members to the group. Funding has allowed us to maintain staff in role who bring expertise and sound understanding of the issues impacting BAME young carers. We have attracted some funding from other sources on the back of that provided by Creative Breaks support which has allowed us to support the group during this challenging year. Surprisingly, perhaps, this has been a year of growth in many aspects of our objectives and we will take forward the learning and initiatives we have gathered to the coming year.
14 Young female BAME carers who live in Edinburgh will feel more confident, have improved peer relationships and be more able to explore and articulate their feelings
The group has provided respite and peer support weekly prior to lockdown. Attendance at the Zoom Group since has been consistent, looking at ways of coping with restrictions, anxiety and low mood have featured. Advice on family relationships was a feature and ability to discuss feelings increased. The girls used group/on-line to listen more intently to each other and several have extended their friendships beyond the group which has clearly helped them to feel less isolated. Since the return to school the attendance at the group, the girls have been encouraged to develop ways of coping with restrictions and the anxieties for many on mixing in school environments again. Since their return to school, pressures of time and study have impacted many in the group and many are feeling anxious about exams and “Covid Second Wave” is a concern to many group member's and those that they care for. Support to families from caseworkers has continued to be a feature.
Lana used the group to discuss the difficult time she and her siblings had when her mother’s relationship broke down. Some empathised from their own experiences and others offered listening and support. This led to another girl Sara being able to discuss the pressures she felt under due to having a single parent, her role and responsibilities for her two siblings who do not communicate verbally. Nadine discuss the pressures of living with a parent with poor mental health and the impact of Covid restrictions on her and her family. By attending the group, the girls minimised the impact of isolation that could have been much more severe had they not had access to the group and the support offered by “seeing” friends and listening and interacting with others. Covid hit the group hard and for some the limited time they had with others in the group was a big loss. The girls adjusted to on-line meetings quickly and were very committed to their sessions. A number of families relaxed their views of social media and screen time during lockdown and this helped the group to continue.
From Outcomes/Targets in 2019 application Carers will have more opportunities and greater confidence to enjoy a life outside their caring role. 14 will acquire new skills and try new experiences. 10 will be able to go to other venues, join main stream activities 2 will act as peer mentors
6 Girls attended Black Lives Matter gatherings which was a first time experience for them. Discussions about BLM and racism in general has featured heavily in discussions and the members have shared about areas of their lives where they have experienced racism. The whole group viewed a film made by Carers Festival which featured 2 members of the group and participated in a discussion about the role of young carers. The whole group met with the producer of the above. 2 were encouraged by the group to apply to become school prefects (see case study). At the time of writing, 4 girls have taken up offers of a photography course with other (non Yolo ) young women which focuses on "images that are intended to deceive" Covid inevitably impacted the access to many opportunities but the group made the most of any that were offered with enthusiasm!
Elizabeth and Nicole Immediately prior to Covid, Elizabeth, a fifth year pupil discussed her feelings of sadness about not feeling confident to put herself forward for the role of prefect at her school. This sparked a discussion amongst others who concluded that they also felt that BAME young people were under represented in their school prefect’s selection too. The girls also reflected that additional commitments out with their home lives and carer role could be challenging. The group briefly explored how to get information from the local authority that might confirm or dispel their view that BAME and Young carers were under represented in the ranks of School Prefects. Again Covid got in the way of this research, however Elizabeth was encouraged to put herself forward as did Nicole from the group and both are now school prefects in their high schools.
Additional project outcome
Group Members will use the group to stay connected. All members will be supplied with a means by which they can stay connected with each other and group leaders.
Impact of digital poverty will be reduced by the wider agency accessing and sharing appropriate resources to comb At the onset of Lockdown restrictions. staff reviewed with the girls and their families what technology they had available to them. Some families shared adult’s phones and others had no affordable means to access on line information and support. MCFB added those who required it to their applications for Scottish Government support to access technology to close the digital poverty divide that impacted so many. Amina and Sara were required to self-isolate when a close classmate was diagnosed with Covid 19. This was stressful for the families and Amina was impacted particularly hard as her English is still not very advanced (recently having arrived in the UK). One of her family members was particularly vulnerable and the family were fearful of infection. Being new to the group, staff were concerned that she might not attend group sessions. However, both girls did continue to attend and Amina was able to get advice on how to manage her isolation as well as how to access a test when she developed some symptoms (which were not Covid in the end). The support at this time was vital and made possible by being able to access via a phone supplied via the above scheme.