What Happens on a Residential Short Break?
Break are so lucky to be able to support a range of children and young people who have very different needs. Nelson Lodge is our residential short break home for children with disabilities, making a difference to not only the children that come and stay but also to their families. We catch up with Peter Willson, Manager of Nelson Lodge who gives some insight on how the service works and the difference it truly makes.
Who comes to stay at Nelson Lodge and why?
Nelson Lodge is for children and young people aged 5 to eighteen with complex needs. It gives them time in a setting fit for their needs with trained staff who are able to give them opportunities that they would not be able to experience elsewhere, and in turn give the families some respite for what can often be intense and stressful situations. The aim of the service is to give families some time to recharge their batteries and allow parents and carers to spend time with other siblings in the knowledge their child is being looked after in a wonderful setting.
How long has Nelson Lodge been running?
The service has been running for over 15 years. Initially it began as a place where children with learning disabilities to form social groups. The lodge has now evolved to supporting young people with more complex needs.
Is it Break’s only service of this kind?
Yes, we have two residential children’s homes for young people with disabilities but this is our only short breaks service.
How long do the children stay for?
28 nights per year is the starting package and this can go up to 70 nights and more. The children stay usually between 1-4 nights at a time, some children staying 2-3 times per month and some weekly.
What is the accommodation like?
The lodge can cater for up to 6 occupants, however the number of children we have at a time will vary depending on the number of staff members required for the children staying.
Other than the separate bedrooms, we have a playroom, a wonderful sensory room with a heated water bed, bubble tubes, florescent lights, star projectors, smell projector and black lights. We have a dining room where we have our meals and also where we can be creative. When not occupied one of our bedrooms can be easily adapted to become a “chill out room” with a projector where young people can carry out activities or watch a film on their own. It’s a space away from their bedrooms where they can take a moment to relax without being disturbed.
Outside we have a really lovely garden with a seating area, messy play area and paddling pools galore. We have a nest swing and a regular swing, a couple of playhouses and, most importantly, a large area to run about and use some energy!
What do you do to help the child feel comfortable on their first visit?
Understandably, the young people and their families can feel apprehensive ahead of their first stay. To help with this we take a bit by bit approach. First, the parents come without their child to have a look around, meet staff and ask any questions they may have. Then we do a number of what we like to call “tea visits” where the child along with their family can come by and sometimes even say for a meal. Every child is assigned a key worker and staff adapt the process to fit the child’s needs - we try and enter their world before they enter ours and understand the importance of treating the children as individuals.
What activities do the children experience?
Nothing is out of reach! We often take trips during the holidays and weekends. We have done activities such as “tubing” at the ski slopes in Norwich, taken them to the trampoline park, High Lodge and even indoor skydiving. If our children show and interest in something we try our best to make that experience happen for them. We love thinking outside of the box and even taken wheelchair users roller-skating and also rock-climbing! This is the benefit of hiring interesting individuals who have creative ideas.
Is there ever a typical day at Nelson Lodge?
There is no typical day - every child and their needs are different, some children require a more regimented routine and with others we can let them lead us!
Staff always begin a shift by following a process which ensures they are up to date with anything they should know regarding the child they are working with.
What are stand out features of the service?
We do what others can’t and don’t do and go beyond what is usually expected. We make successes that others haven’t been able to achieve. We’ve seen children make progress with communication, behaviour and the positive impact is not only on the child but the whole family – the benefits are wide reaching. We are also always on the other end of the phone if our families ever need support or guidance even if the child is not currently staying with us.
What skills do the staff have?
All staff are required to complete a level 3 diploma within two years of working at NL. A lot of the children who stay with us are non-verbal so staff complete training to suit the needs of the types of children that stay. This varies from communication training (e.g. Signalong, Makaton, BSL, PECS) to using iPads and our staff have complete courses on sensory eating, diabetes, epilepsy and very importantly medication training. We are adaptable and if we identify a need we follow that up with training.
What effect has Covid-19 had on the service? What adjustments have been made?
More than ever the pandemic has highlighted what a key service this is to families, especially when other services they rely upon were not running. We dropped the occupancy level to allow more room and space in the premises and we check in regularly with all families. The co-operation from families has been so amazing. Since August we have increased to full capacity to be able to support more families.
Can you share with us what you are looking forward to at NL?
Mud kitchen and welcoming new staff members with fresh ideas! With new young people coming to stay with us the service constantly changes and adapts for them. Depending on funding, we have lots of exciting plans for Nelson Lodge!