With bases in Stranraer and Dumfries, Quarriers Family Support Service offers a range of services for children affected by disabilities and their families across Dumfries and Galloway. Support is tailored to respond to each family’s needs, from short-term intervention to social groups and respite, and is flexible to adapt to changing situations.
Due to the size and geography of the region, most children supported by the service receive one-to-one support, but the service also promotes and develops social skills through group activities. Staff speak with the children and their families to find out about their interests and form small peer support groups of young people who enjoy similar hobbies. Through these groups, young people can make new friends and try new things in a safe, supportive environment, and this can have a positive effect on their behaviour at school and home.
Activities are shaped by what the young people are interested in, covering anything from cooking to Lego to sport, and these groups run for as long as people want to take part: if they become interested in something else, the groups will change to reflect this.
In Dumfries, primary school age children attend the weekly Friendship Group, which provides a range of activities including forest walks, Zoo Lab and special events like Halloween parties. In both bases, the service has resources to provide both outdoor and indoor activities so children can participate whatever the weather.
Children supported by the service in Stranraer have recently been enjoying taking part in Beat the Street. The programme encourages people to go walking in their local community and accumulate points by tapping a card or key fob on electronic boxes attached to lamp posts across the town. This has encouraged children to enjoy being active, and has even generated some healthy competition between children and staff teams.
During a discussion with fathers who were supported by the service in Stranraer, it was suggested that their children would enjoy playing football, but they were worried that their disabilities would rule this out. The service responded by establishing an inclusive football club which is open to children supported by Quarriers and children in the community. Understanding that mainstream children were worried about tackling or potentially hurting players with disabilities during the game, staff ensure that young people are informed about conditions like autism so they feel confident to play as they usually would. The group has also led to lots of friendships forming.
For Cameron, who is supported by the service in Stranraer, getting involved with Quarriers could mean Olympic glory. Through the service, Cameron tried swimming for the first time, and quickly decided he wanted to take lessons. Support Worker Andrew McCandlish trained to become a disability swimming coach and supported Cameron to train.
After competing in regional and national competitions, Cameron will be taking part in the 2017 Special Olympics in Sheffield. As the trip will mean Cameron staying away from home for the first time, staff at the service are working with him to become more independent and develop life skills like understanding and using money and reading bus timetables.
“We’re also helping Cameron to build up his confidence by helping him to express himself through story boards and books. Cameron has developed outstandingly and he has worked so hard and he’s made everybody proud.” says Andrew.
“I feel really good when I am swimming,” says Cameron. “Going to the Special Olympics is great. It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to work hard too.”
Quarriers Family Support Service also provides short breaks for children with disabilities. Volunteer foster carers offer regular short breaks in their own homes, which gives families the chance to spend time with their other children or enjoy a break of their own knowing that their child is being looked after and having fun.
Angela and her husband fostered two girls, who they eventually adopted, and the family now fosters sixteen-year-old Aidan through Quarriers. The family has known Aidan, who has autism, since he was very young, and he now enjoys regular short breaks at their home. Angela’s family responds to his needs: Aidan has picked his bedroom and his favourite seat at the table, and chooses what he eats and what he does.
“You need to have your family’s support as fostering affects the whole family,” says Angela. “Aidan fits in with my girls and they get on so well.
“Working with Quarriers is very rewarding. The training programme is really good: I’ve learned how to deal with lots of different situations, and meeting other families helps us all to learn from each other.”