Young Carers’ Time for Me, Oban Lorn and the Isles 2022
A story by North Argyll Carers Centre
We provided young carers aged 8-18 in the Oban, Lorn and Isles area with a tailored programme of holiday activities designed to reduce isolation, boost self confidence, increase resilience and give access peer support. Young carers came together to have fun and some time out just for themselves.
What Young Carers’ Time for Me, Oban Lorn and the Isles 2022 did
We ran 8 days out, some in our local area and others further afield. These took place across the year, in the school holidays. We visited Blair Drummond Safari Park, Glasgow to Flip Out and the Riverside Transport Museum, Bowling and Treasures of the Earth Museum in Fort William, Auchingarroch Wildlife Park, Edinburgh Zoo and went swimming at the Time Capsule in Coatbridge.
Young carers enjoyed the chance to visit attractions many would not otherwise have the opportunity to go to, due to the cost and the difficulty of getting there from remote and rural locations. The 3 local days included a visit from Dynamic Earth, a boat trip with Oban Sea Tours and an activity day in Oban with games, crafts, music and time to have a laugh and fun. This was intended to be a beach day but was changed last minute due to truly horrible weather.
The local days allowed young carers who could not be away from home for longer days, or did not want to travel too far, to take part.
We held 2 Christmas party-and-film-night sessions; one for under 12s and the other for 12s and over. We had exclusive use of the cinema and age-appropriate films for each group. Young carers enjoyed having the cinema to themselves and it made them feel special.
We ran a twice-monthly photography group. We had planned for a local photography tutor to join the group once a month to teach new skills but he was then unable to deliver the sessions so a sessional worker who is a photographer stepped in and delivered learning sessions. The group enjoyed a trip over to Mull. They took some amazing photos and were very excited to see dolphins.
We renewed our Zoom licence to continue online groups, but young carers quickly realised they did not want to meet virtually anymore so we did not use this as fully as planned. We ran 2 residentials. Residential 1 was a 4 night stay during the Easter Break 2023 to Loch Eil Outdoor Centre. The second was four nights at Ardroy Outdoor Centre in Lochgoilhead. We also took a group to the Scottish Young Carer Festival. Young carers told us the experiences were fun, exciting and self-esteem boosting.
What North Argyll Carers Centre has learned
There were many unexpected challenges this year which kept us on our toes and required some changes along the way. We adapted plans swiftly to ensure we still delivered our objectives and have used the experience to inform our future planning. We saw needs change between making our application and delivering the project.
When planning activities for young carers, we are led by what they want to do and where they would like to go. Once we started work on the project we soon found young carers did not want to meet virtually anymore and the desire for small groups waned as worries about Covid subsided. Not all young people wanted to be away for a long day trip, especially when long travelling times may be required. In response to this during the summer we facilitated events in Oban, and we found that they were very popular and busy.
In addition, the numbers who could take part were not limited by seating capacity on minibuses. We will continue to organise short break activities closer to home, as well as further afield. Shorter, closer to home activities suit children whose caring role may prevent them from being away from their cared for person for a longer period, as well as children who either don’t enjoy long travels or get travel sick. “I prefer this trip because it isn’t that far away. I don’t like to be away for too long.” We still want to offer a substantial number of trips to more distant locations, as these are things which many of our young carers would not otherwise have the chance to enjoy, precisely because of the distance and difficulty of getting there.
Some of our younger young carers struggled with a 4-night residential. The whole purpose of the residentials is to provide young carers with the chance to have a fun and enjoyable break away. They take part in challenges while they are there, and these are great for self-esteem, but the experience of being away should not be an endurance test that makes them more stressed and becomes a negative experience.
We looked at the age split between residentials and are offering one 3-night and one 4-night residential this year, in response to our observations and the feedback we had. We are aware that there are young carers who do not participate in the project. We have tried ways this year to target those who we feel would benefit from taking part, using the strong, trusted relationships built up between our Carer Support Workers and the young carers they support, as well as their families.
We had excellent feedback from young carers who were somewhat reluctant to join but then found they really took a huge amount away from the experience of taking part. Equally, we are keen not to push those who really do not want these opportunities. We have to trust their judgement. On two occasions this year we saw young carers who were persuaded to engage and did not enjoy the experience. To be truly person-centred we have to respect the choice not to join in too.
Despite the need for change we still met our objectives and addressed all Creative Breaks Principles. The project was responsive to need and delivered the right breaks at the right time for our young carers. We continue to see the enormous benefit of being able to offer these opportunities to young carers. Refreshed and recharged, they were better able to sustain caring roles and those they care for and the wider family saw the difference made to their wellbeing.
How North Argyll Carers Centre has benefitted from the funding
Our organisation has benefitted in a number of ways. It has enabled us to provide short breaks for many young people throughout a year which made a significant difference to their quality of life and allowed them time out to enjoy experiences many non-carer children take for granted. During those activities and opportunities, children were able to spend quality time with their friends, and access peer support as well as support from staff. Young people who attended the residential breaks were able to challenge themselves, and grew in confidence and self-esteem as a result. Many commented that there were things they tried which they would not normally have considered doing and which they did not think they could manage. They surprised themselves with their capability and resilience and were really proud of their achievements. Being able to offer these opportunities also lets us develop our supportive relationships with young carers in an environment very different from the 1:1 support work we do where the focus is often on thinking about caring roles and challenges. We see that young carers who take part in these activities are more likely to take the initiative and seek help from us and their peers when times are tough. They develop the self-confidence to recognise they deserve to feel happy, have a good childhood and be supported with the extra responsibilities they have. Our team works hard to ensure we really listen to young carers and put in place what they need to support them. To have our work recognised and endorsed through being funded by a well respected National Carer Organisation is hugely important for us. It reinforces our reputation as a quality young carer service which encourages trust in us, increases the likelihood of new families getting in contact with us to seek support, and reinforces the substantial added value we bring to the contract we have with the HSCP to deliver Young Carer Statements.
100% of young carers will be offered the opportunity to take part. At least 60% will take up the opportunity and of those participating 80% will report they felt supported to engage in activities they enjoyed which gave them a break from caring to have fun, socialise or try something new.
All young carers are invited to take part in our activities. 52% took part in at least one activity. We actively encourage newly registered carers to take part. We had 40 new young carers register in the year, of whom 19 took part in at least one activity. We find there are children who don’t want to attend weekly after school clubs but attend our trips and residentials throughout the holidays, to stay in contact with friends and get a break from caring. The trips are hugely popular. Many of our young carers want to sign up for every trip because it gives them the chance to have fun and spend time with friends. Feedback from participants has been positive with almost all expressing that they enjoyed taking part and felt they had benefitted. A number of them referred to how happy they were to do new things or things they would never normally have the chance to do. "I've never been to the zoo. The animals were amazing!" “I had lots of fun today" “I’ve not been to the cinema in years"
Child A lives with her dad, sister and little brother, who has a diagnosis of autism. Child A also has a diagnosis of high-functioning autism. She struggles with social situations and making new friends. Due to her brother's condition, they struggle getting to new places, trips and activities, meaning they spend a lot of time at home. Child A has been joining our after-school group for the last few years and has now started joining our day trips and residentials. She has also joined our photography club. Since joining the photography club, she has purchased her own camera and loves to go outside and take pictures. The benefits to Child A are huge. She has grown in confidence and often tries new activities with the support of staff and her peers. She has been to many places that she would not have been able to go to, if it were not for our trips during the holidays. She has made some very close friends that she is able to go to for support and have fun with. “I love coming away with Young Carers because I get to go to some cool places. I learned during the residential that I am too hard on myself. I struggle socially sometimes but I am getting much better and keep on trying new stuff”. “I am so glad that I got to come to the festival this year because I made new friends. I even saw a live band”. Child A’s Dad said, “She is really enjoying coming to the photography group, she gets a lot from it. Thank you!”
80% of young carers who participate will report that access to fun activities, a break from routines & time out from caring roles enabled them to get support from peers & the Young Carer Team, recharge & refresh & create positive and lasting memories, all of which helped them sustain caring roles.
We achieved our target. Though there were some young carers who found aspects of the residentials challenging, well above 80% of the feedback we received was positive and expressed that young carers had benefitted as we intended. We have continued to see that young carers who participate in the holiday activities build strong relationships with their peers and there has been an increase in young carers actively seeking support from staff. Staff observed the following: “It was nice to have some Young Carers who we don’t usually see join in the [Christmas] celebrations.” “it was very refreshing to observe young people from different groups meet each other and create new friendships; very important as when they move to high school, they are a little more confident” “Young people looked enthusiastic, loved the games and everyone had so many laughs.” Young carers told us “I wouldn’t change anything about the trip." “I loved taking part" “I’m soo glad I was able to come, I had a great time"
Child B looks after his mum who has a long-term health condition. At times, his mum is unable to get out of bed and she requires a substantial amount of support. Mum needs a lot of rest, so they are unable to spend much time together as a family, doing the things that they enjoy. This has had an impact on Child B's emotional well-being. He started attending our weekly photography sessions and this has sparked a huge passion for photography. He really enjoys coming to the weekly groups and getting the opportunity to use his camera in his own time. This gives him break that he needs from his caring role and the chance to chat with his peers and members of staff. It has also given him and his mum the chance to bond over his new hobby. They enjoy discussing his photos and seeking out things for him to photograph. “Since he joined the photography club and got his camera, he hasn’t stopped taking pictures. Whenever we are out as a family, he is looking for photo opportunities. When he is stressed and anxious, he likes to keep busy and have something to focus on. Photography has given him an outlet to release his stress and put his focus into something he is passionate about”.
80% of young carers who have participated will report that they felt better as a result. They will tell us they have had fun and feel rested, relaxed, happier and more able to cope.
We are confident that there is a significant positive difference for young carers who take part in our holiday activities. We often get text messages from parents saying that they have seen a huge difference in their children since attending our trips, groups and residentials. They have been more confident and seem much happier. When carrying out Young Carer Statement reviews, we are seeing an increase in their wellbeing scores and they tell us they feel well supported and that the short breaks they get through the Time for Me project really help them. Young carers commented: “I would be bored if I didn’t come.” “I had lots of fun today, I liked the really twisty slide.” “ Can we stay longer!” “I was nervous because it is the first time I’ve been away without family. It was so good and I met new friends.” “I can’t believe we have the whole place to ourselves. It is because we are so special”
Child C is the sole carer for his parent who has several health conditions which impact mental and physical health and cause sensory impairment. Child C has been struggling both physically and mentally. He has been having a hard time at school and has been getting bullied. This has made him very anxious, and he had been suffering from low mood. He had been reluctant to go to school/clubs and has become quite withdrawn, often staying at home with his mum. He joined one of our 4-day residentials. His sister was able to come and stay with mum for a few days, which meant he was able to relax. He got involved in all the activities and had a great time with the other young carers on the trip. The friendships he made on the trip has encouraged him to come along to our weekly afterschool groups, and as a result he is less socially isolated. He grew in confidence whilst taking part in the activities and challenges. He has since started walking more and has been keen to keep fit. “I have really enjoyed being away and getting to do all the activities. I surprised myself by doing some of the more physical activities. The walk up the big hill was a struggle, but I managed to do it. The best part about the trip was having fun and chatting with the boys at night. I definitely want to come back next year”.