Young Carers Group for Siblings of Children with Disabilities
A story by Barnardo's Tayside Child and Family Support Service
We provided young carers support groups in Dundee, offering a range of activities and outings.
Dundee Child & Family Support service works in partnership with children, young people and their families, including children/young people with a learning disability, to provide a holistic range of supports to promote wellbeing, safety and inclusion living in Dundee.
This can include support to children and young people who have experienced adverse childhood experiences impacting on their resilience and vulnerability, children at risk of becoming accommodated, children who have experienced trauma, sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation or harmful sexual behaviour.
What Young Carers Group for Siblings of Children with Disabilities did
Group 1 April-June 2017 Siblings group - sessions 1.5 hours, included Pizza Making, baking, arts & crafts, clay work, Painting clay model. There were 10 young people, 2 core staff, 2 volunteers and the activities provided the children with new experiences. This provided the young carer some respite from a busy and at time chaotic household, including individual time as well as respite for the carers. During this time the carers spent some quality time with the other siblings in the family or they had some respite for themselves.
Group 2 Activity events during summer holidays sessions 5 hours, June-August 2017 activities included, Sealife Centre, Swimming, Camperdown Zoo, bowling, soft play, cinema, Cairnie Fruit Farm, and Fire Station. 10 young people, 2 play leaders, 6 staff, 4 volunteers on a weekly basis. Activities were accessible in the local community. This offered respite to carers and the family as a whole and new experiences for the children/young people.
Group 3 Parent & Toddler (pre-school age) - sessions 1.5 hours; September-October 2017 and included, McManus Galleries, animal handling, arts & crafts in the park, soft play, Pram Walk, Camperdown Zoo, swimming, community cinema. 4 families 1 parent and 1 toddler, 2 core staff members, 1 volunteer. Activities in the local community and accessible to all families. The group offered support to carers to build confidence, attend groups/ activities within their local community that could be sustained.
Group 4 siblings - sessions 1.5 hours; September - October 2017, activities included soft play, community cinema, pizza making, animal handling, arts/crafts, treasure trail, sports, Mills Observatory. 10 young people, 2 core staff, 2-3 volunteers each week, activities were accessed in our local community. This offered children some respite from a busy and at time chaotic household as well as respite for the carers and other siblings. This provided carers with some quality time or with another member of the family.
This offered John an opportunity to attend a group where he could have new, enjoyable experiences undertaking activities that he would not usually be able to access due to family constraints. Home life for John can be chaotic and busy due to 2 other siblings at home, leaving very little time for John to have time for himself. John has an older sibling, who is also diagnosed with Autism, and a younger sibling who is a toddler.
John's mother has significant mental health issues and at times is admitted to a mental health unit for respite. This can result in additional strain and heightened emotions for John's father to manage within the home environment. The group also offered respite to members of the family within the home. The group has also given John time to meet other children who experience similar home lives or have siblings also with a learning difficulty.
John was given the time and space to talk with others and share experiences building friendships and exploring the skills and knowledge to play and create positive relationships with others in different settings to school. School is usually the only time John has time to network socially with other children other than his siblings.
This opportunity offered Sarah the time to play and build friendships with others her own age as the majority of the people she spends time with outside of school are adults. Sarah lives at home with mum who has a mild learning difficulty and also a brother who has significant complex needs. She frequently find herself taking on a caring role and worries about her family a great deal which can result in her being unwell.
Sarah has support one evening a week from an enabling service but again this is time spent with adults rather than her peer group. The group therefore gave her the space and encouragement to be confident in playing and interacting with children who were closer in age. Sarah felt confident to share her thoughts and feelings with peers who experience a similar family life where a parent/sibling has an additional need.
Sarah was able to experience activities new to her and to also to identify if there is anything that she may like to pursue further or attend with her enabling providers to continue to provide her with the opportunity to socialise and make friendships with peers. It was evident to staff who know Sarah that her confidence increased during the group period. By attending the group which took place in the evening this also provided respite from her worries and concerns regarding her family and the caring role she takes on allowing her to be a teenager and focus on herself.
Mary is a single parent and has a learning disability and epilepsy. Steven has recently been diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay. There is limited extended family support. The family are quite isolated and struggling to integrate within their community. Recent social work involvement due to Mary struggling with parenting both children in regards to managing behaviour and providing consist boundaries and consequences.
Mary experiences absences due to her epilepsy which are limited in duration but means that Steven and Alison take on a carer’s role. Alison’s needs can be overshadowed by the needs of Steven due to his learning disability.
Mary and Alison were supported to attend the parent and toddler groups running from August 2017-October 2017 for 8 weeks. This provided an opportunity for Mary to be able to focus on Alison rather than trying to manage both children. Mary and Alison met other parents and their children which provided the opportunity for social interaction and in Alison’s respect play time with her peer group.
This provided an opportunity for respite from a caring responsibility in regard to her mother as staff were present to manage any issues in regard to her health. It also provided time for Alison to be the focus of attention and respite from the competing needs of her older brother. Mary and Alison were able to explore their community and meet other people residing in the same community during the activities. Both Mary and Alison felt they had benefited from new experiences through engaging in new activities and visiting various venues they had not been to before.
What Barnardo's Tayside Child and Family Support Service has learnedThe funding has given the organisation a new group that we can add to our menu of supports and has given us more of an understanding as to what parents and toddlers need/want, and informed us of what parents and toddlers can access in and around the community and Dundee.
It has been challenging to get families to attend. We wonder if this is due to confidence, the unknown, what to expect, activity didn't interest them or other appointments or commitments.
We have had other families who hadn't been aware of the group or had heard of the group but once they knew a bit more information were keen to attend if it ran again in the future. Families being able to attend the groups or transporting the children was a challenge as this added a lot of expense and time onto the groups and
has opened up discussions within the service of how we can tailor it more and have had suggestions of other activates to offer eg, baby rhyme time, book bug, sensory for example.
We had more planning meetings prior to organising the groups, to set clear guidelines as to what is expected and to have clear roles and tasks. We also looked at the days and time of the group as it clashed with other groups or nursey times that toddlers were attending.