Access to holiday activity provision for disabled children and their families

Research in six Scottish local authorities, commissioned by Shared Care Scotland, has confirmed that disabled children can struggle to get the fun, social contact, and informal learning that their non-disabled peers get during holiday periods.

As one parent said: “This (local support agency) is the only place that I can find in the local authority that has something on during the summer that is suitable for him, and has staff that are trained who can support him and know him. Just because school’s finished at the end of June, everything else should carry on. Because basically their lives are nothing for six or seven weeks. Things fall apart.”

The preliminary research also revealed the wide-ranging negative impact on other family members. A local disability agency commented on the direct economic effect: “We have parents who have no other childcare options because of their child’s autism or disability. And therefore we have parents who take unpaid leave over the summer. They can’t work or can only work part time.”

By contrast, the benefits of imaginative provision can pay huge, year-round dividends. One support worker said: “We’ve had feedback from parents that the transition back to school has been easier for their children, because they’ve had a routine through the holidays. They’ve had that structure and so they haven’t had six or seven weeks just sitting in their room.”

In order to build up a national picture, three national surveys will research the scale, nature, and delivery of holiday activity provision for disabled children and young people across Scotland. This work will support future efforts to improve policy and practice, and the targeting of resources.

1. A survey for disabled children and young people aged 5 to 18 will provide a vehicle to hear the voices and views of young people. This can be found at: SURVEY 1. Young people are encouraged to complete the online survey, with support from mum, dad, a teacher or a support worker.

2. Parent carers have the chance to complete their own survey at SURVEY 2. This will build up a unique national picture of the experiences of parent carers and the challenges they face.

3. In order to understand how support agencies and local service providers attempt to offer activities, programmes, and support to families for disabled children and young people, a third survey plans to gather their views. This is at SURVEY 3.

The surveys can also be easily accessed from Shared Care Scotland’s website via this shortened link: HERE

The surveys will explore:

• The nature and quantity of holiday activity programmes available to disabled children and young people;

• Other leisure and recreation activities experienced by children and young people, and their preferences for future activities;

• The experiences of parents and carers in being able to access suitable holiday activity programmes; and

• Practical solutions that could help overcome the challenges identified and improve quality, choice and availability

Don Williamson, Chief Executive of Shared Care Scotland said: “There are tens of thousands of families in Scotland who care for a disabled young person. This timely research will give us a much clearer picture of what holiday provision is available and to what extent this is meeting the needs of these disabled children, young people and their families.

“If we are to protect and invest in these services in the future, we need to have good evidence that supports these efforts. We hope as many people as possible will complete the online surveys and take this opportunity to have their voices heard.”