The Action Group @Play
The Action Group @Play
“We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools, and communities.” (The Scottish Government: 2013).
This is why The Action Group has always been committed to the equal rights of children with disabilities and other support needs to have access to friends, fun, play experiences and to be able to learn and develop, burn off energy and get messy (if they want). Or play digitally etc, just like any other child in Scotland who doesn’t have a support need. It’s something that people might think just happens but for children with support needs there can be multiple barriers to accessing outside-of-the-home play experiences; transport, not able to leave the house without someone with them to ensure they are safe, lack of money or just not having the friends to play with. For some it might be not being able to meet up with their friends, without support.
We know that ‘The experiences children have in early life – and the environments in which they have them – shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society’ (Harvard University, 2007). So, play is the gift that just keeps on giving to the children we support!
The Action Group started with play groups supporting children with additional support needs and it is a key part of our services, plans and strategic commitments. We know that through our efforts we can help make sure children and young people with support needs achieve their full potential. Providing play opportunities, is only one part of how we do this: but it’s probably the best part!
We had great success providing play hubs, leisure scheme, digital sleepover events and some other 1:1 and group support where possible. Our children's services and play hubs offer a fun and safe environment for children with disabilities and support needs to play, learn, and make friendships: all the things that any child or young person needs to grow and develop. This is often an area where children and young people with additional support needs can be left out, and do not get the same opportunities as their peers without support needs. The pandemic made this lack of access worse and parents, children and young people with support needs were hit hard by decreased opportunities.
We tried to help in as many ways as possible, through giving out digital tech to children and their families so they were connected digitally to us and the world. Making hardship grants available through our Carewell partnership and our own money to help with extra costs, and providing digital packs for activities and through our Try Something new days which were a huge success. These were funded by the Gordon Higgs Trust and we are truly grateful to them for funding us to provide these amazing outdoor experiences. The feedback was so good.
"The programme was the perfect balance of support and freedom. I liked doing the outdoor activities and felt safe with the staff who helped to run it. I was treated as an individual and not just seen as my challenges" - Young person supported last year
We plan to expand our children’s services in 2023 and beyond, now that we are post pandemic and we look forward to working in each geography to try and offer more solutions to more children and their families, through self-directed support or by working with other funders etc. As part of this expanded offer, we are delighted that we won the tender for the Edinburgh Play Hubs at the start of May 2023, for 6 years, and we are very much looking forward to working with children and their families providing much needed respite to families in the summer holidays.
The Feedback at the end of the Action Group's play Hub in Edinburgh and West Lothian was positive:
Lots of great activities and fund times happened.
Both in the play hub base and outside at the Zoo, swimming, and soft play etc
Here are some of the words from the children and young people, and photos that will show you more than these words can ever say:
"The playschemes have been a lifeline for our family, giving our child a chance to have fun and make friends while we have a break." - Playscheme Parent
Our young people
We continue to work with our partners in East Lothian to deliver our Summer Programme. Delivering a service to young adults ages 16-24. The focus is to allow the young adults experiences of different activities and life skills while using the local community. The activity programme is led by the young people and is based around what they want to learn and do. The summer programme is extremely beneficial for the young adults who are just leaving school, this allows them to develop independence, resilience, team working and problem-solving skills before moving on to their next chapter. Whether that be college, employment, and often adult support services too.
We know the services we provide are not enough, but they are our attempt to support families and children/young people as much as we can. These, together with our Advice services supporting families to get the money they are entitled to through the benefits system, and our Carewell carers support service and BEMAS for carers, is all part of our attempt to support as many families as we can, in as many ways as we can, to have a better life. This is never more needed than after a pandemic and in a cost-of-living crisis.
We know that the people we support, children with disabilities and support needs in particular and their families were hit hard by the pandemic, with respite stopping and services becoming thinner on the ground due to risk and lockdowns etc. The Covid enquiry gives them the space to have a voice to let our government know what their experience was and how if a pandemic happens again, what the SGovt needs to prioritise so no child, young person or carer suffers.
Here are the details of the enquiry.
From this week, families with disabled children in Scotland will have the chance to share their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government’s response, and lessons for the future.
Let’s Be Heard is the independent Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry’s listening project, seeking answers to three key questions:
What were your experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic?
What impact did these experiences have on you or people you know?
What lessons do you think should be learned from your experiences?
Let’s Be Heard will also look at whether the government’s response impacted particular groups unequally or disproportionately. For this reason, we encourage families with disabled children in Scotland to take part. You might have views and experiences to share on issues like homeschooling and support in education, shielding and masking, or the vaccination roll-out.