Inclusive & Meaningful Play for Wellbeing
“bOunceT have been the most supportive service to us during these times and don’t get enough recognition for the work they do. THANK YOU”
“It’s wonderful that people like yourselves and Plus are out there coming up with new ways of doing things to support kids.”
“I spoke to Francesca about the difference the support you are offering, it is invaluable to us as a family with various chronic health conditions.”Parent Partners – Feedback
About the Wellbeing Fund…
The Wellbeing Fund was established to support organisations across the third sector that are providing important services to people who are most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This forms part of a £350 million package from the Scottish Government.
Introduction by Callum…
My name is Callum and I am the proud Founder & Occupational Therapy Lead at bOunceT Innovative Occupational Therapy CIC. We are a registered social enterprise in Scotland.
I would like to start by thanking the Scottish Government for their support and for the amazing opportunity to allow bOunceT to use funds from this initiative to deliver critical services to families, carers and people with disabilities across Forth Valley.
As many of our parents have stated: “this is the first meaningful help I’ve been given” (since the COVID-19 outbreak) … so I am proud that my team and I have been able to respond so well to the needs of the people we support at this challenging time.
I have already completed a formal report to Scottish Government about how we used our funding (£14,500) and what the impact of this was to the people we support. However, I think it is important that I blog about this to informally share our story with you. I hope this blog will reach as many people as possible – from current (and future) funders, to current (and future) families who use our services, and even current (and future) students who volunteer with us.
In short, the aim of our project was to improve the quality of life, mental health and physical wellbeing of children and adults with disabilities, and their family. So, nothing really ‘far off’ from what we do day-to-day usually – but the difference here was that we were forced to adapt to the pandemic and respond in a totally different way than our ‘business as usual’.
We realise that the people we support usually experience isolation and alienation from participating in their meaningful activities during “normal” times – often due to their disability. Therefore, this pandemic has exacerbated this issue so now many of the people we support will have their routines disrupted and feel even more alienated from their community. Since many of these individuals are in the high-risk category, some are likely to be shielding, optionally self-isolating for long periods of time and/or choosing to limit their interaction with others outside of their bubble.
What we said we would do…
• Employ a Play Assistant (30 hours per week for 3 months) to open our
therapeutic play space whilst our core staff worked from home to deliver our new Therapy at Home project.
• Grant 10 individuals an iPad & shatterproof case (fully funded)
• Grant 55 individuals an Amazon Fire Tablet & shatterproof case (fully funded)
• Provide over 135 licenses to 12-month Premium subscription to ‘Calm’
mindfulness & meditation app to individuals and/or families.
It was my priority to work in partnership with as many people as we could to deliver this project, and any other projects happening at the same time (e.g. local authority, third sector and private sector services – and obviously families/carers direct). This is something that is often promoted as standard practice, however, due to limited service resources and increasing service demands this can be unconsciously de-prioritised; to achieve outcomes faster.
What did we achieve?
In addition, we offered 240 x1 hour time slots to over 75 families who wanted to access our therapeutic play room in Stirling……..again fully-funded
Finally, we were able to go above and beyond our target of granting 80 families access to Calm Premium – we managed to ‘milk it’ and grant 137 individuals access to this fantastic mindfulness and meditation app for 12 months!
“Was brilliant to be back! Thanks so much guys. Really impressed with the cleaning regime” (Karen, Parent Partner)
The 3 main differences this grant made to our community…
The first difference
- We noticed a significant improvement in the mental health and physical wellbeing of those receiving support from us during lockdown.
We heard directly from families that if nothing else, for them as a family, bOunceT was one of few spaces they could access where they trusted that the risk of COVID infection was significantly reduced (thanks to our cleaning protocol). Many parents and carers highlighted coming to visit the therapeutic play room was often ‘the only thing’ they had to look forward to. For some, it was the only time either themselves and/or members of their immediate family would leave the house.
Furthermore, having 1:1 access to the therapeutic play space allowed the whole family to experience some fun, physical activities together. Many told us this “keeps them feeling better both mentally and physically”.
Here is some of the lovely feedback we received:
• “Just wanted to say a big thank you for the use of the therapy room today. The kids loved it! A even managed to jump independently for the first time so we are really chuffed! Here is a wee video. As you will see his little sister is so excited to see him do it too.”
• “thank you bOunceT, we had a fantastic time!. This was the first time the kids were out after this lockdown started. They were very happy.”
• “We thoroughly enjoyed it as a family and the littlest Ashcroft has learned to say trampoline (she’s not two until September!) and she keeps asking.”
• “H had a great time and felt really at ease in the room. She played for a little while, maybe 20 minutes, then we did some stretching exercises on the big trampoline to help loosen her hamstrings… she said that when she left she felt like she was floating on a cloud!”
• “Our session was very successful! Both kids have asked if they can go back. A was very animated as she has been quite withdrawn.”
The second difference
2. The people who use our services are much more connected to us, other key health/education/social services, and their loved ones.
Thanks to support from this fund we were able to purchase 10 iPads and over 50 Amazon Fire tablets – all with protective shatterproof cases. These were distributed out to as many families as possible by working in partnership with local services like PLUS & Stirling Council’s Children with Disabilities Social Work service.
As Francesca and I are registered healthcare professionals, we knew that we were able to alter our therapy services during lockdown to deliver online support and ‘therapy at home’. Therefore, we knew that the more people who had access to technology then the more people we would be able to connect with virtually. We discovered some people were happy with an email check in, others wanted video calls – and others wanted deeper ‘therapy at home’ conversations more often.
If nothing else, I would hope the aims of the fund would be achieved here by simply granting technology to those who needed it – even if it was to stay connected with their peers and loved ones!
“I’m so grateful that yourselves, Plus, and other local organisations did your very best to fill those statutory gaps. Thanks to you all, amazing.”
“Thanks so much for the call today. It was lovely to speak to you. I feel like every technique I’ve learned to try to help M has gone out the window, so even being reminded of things like ‘let him bounce for five mins before trying to get him to do something’ helps.”
The third difference
3. Improved mental health from practicing mindfulness and meditation
Overall, the reported benefits of using the app include things like:
Better mental health
Better use of coping strategies to deal with stress and anxiety
Improved resilience skills
It is important to note that these benefits have been reported from both the family and carers, in relation to their persoal wellbeing, in addition to the health and wellbeing of their children and/or service users.
“wee man had a really ruff day yesterday so eventually he settled and me and him had a earphone each on the Calm app both of us passed out so would love to have it for the year”
“The Calm app [issued by bOunceT] helps so much at bedtime. The Thomas Tank Engine story helps with deep breathing and allows us to get sleep at the end of the day!”
What we would have done differently…
Whilst we feel that our response has been a success and we achieved our aim of helping families throughout this pandemic, we would have liked to provide more opportunities for families to access the service in Stirling more often.
Due to the costs of wages, PPE, cleaning supplies and protocols (+ more) we were only able to have the therapeutic play room open x4 days per week with a maximum of 4 x1 hour sessions per day. However, but with more funding we could have increased our capacity to enable families to access the therapy room more often throughout the summer holidays.
What we are going to do now…
As an innovative and forward-thinking organisation, we feel confident in our ability to continue ‘responding’ to the ever changing needs of the pandemic – and the need to work in a new, creative way with our community post-lockdown.
We have confirmed the idea that all families/carers and their children need to engage in meaningful – or purposeful – play together. This is not a new idea for us, however now we have been able to really understand the benefits of moving away from a strict medical model of practice. What this means practically for us is there should no longer be a ‘need’ for an occupational therapist to deliver every therapeutic play session, every day, every week rigidly. Not only is this an unsustainable business model, but, we have identified the need to work in collaboration with parents, carers and other professionals to really embrace an educational and coaching approach. This provides families and carers the opportunity to exercise their autonomy and ‘be the professionals’ of their own children.
Overall, this gives parents the empowerment and skills needed without the hierarchy of a professional above them.
Similarly, as we want to treat parents and carers as partners we are going to involve them in the decision making of our organisation as much as possible by offering the opportunity to become either a:
-Non Executive Director on our Board of Directors
-Parent Partner (subgroup to our Board)
We recognise this valuable contribution will help influence how we currently run our service, and how we can best support our target community in the future.
If you want to find more about our response to the COVID-19 outbreak, CLICK HERE