Research by the University of Surrey was commissioned by Challengers and funded by a generous philanthropist. The research was undertaken within the University of Surrey’s Schools of Economics and Psychology. There will eventually be 3 studies and the second of these has now been completed.
The research involved speaking to staff and volunteers as well as a raft of families to reach a number of conclusions.
- Social inclusion is a national priority, but the study reveals that families with disabled children still feel isolated during the holidays
- In general, summer play schemes help to reduce the social isolation often experienced by families with a disabled child. They also allow parents and carers to have a break from caring, and to work, or attend to other children, and enable the disabled child to socialise in a safe and fun environment to help promote self-esteem and well-being.
- The research found that where families with non-disabled children accessed schemes so that parents could work, families with disabled children used schemes mainly to allow them to have respite. This clearly has far reaching social-economic implications for the families and their communities.
- Parents of disabled children experienced particular problems in accessing information about suitable schemes, and indicated that they had limited choice of schemes.
Challengers is oversubscribed and trying to do more and more each year to satisfy demand but there is more to be done. We have committed to an increased level of fundraising for the next 3 years to allow us to meet that need and introduce the schemes that families need where they need them.
The survey of parents whose disabled children attended a range of summer holiday play schemes also showed that, while they supported the idea of inclusion, many parents do not have the confidence that non-specialist provision offers the right facilities and staff training for their child.
Laura Sercombe, CEO of the charity, said: “This research is important as it has highlighted the very real need that still exists for families with disabled children. Families would not feel isolated if they had access to the same opportunities as others and disabled children have a right for this to be a quality experience with highly trained play and youth workers. Parents and families need a short break to enable them to remain a strong unit but this will only ever be a break if they have confidence that the needs of their child are being met. At Challengers we recognise that to achieve this level of confidence we need to provide a high level of training for our team”.
Professor Annette Sterr, who has restricted mobility herself, said: “The provision of adequate leisure and play is immensely important. All children disabled or not, need access to fun activities outside school to support their physical and mental wellbeing, and to help them build up their physical, social and cognitive skills.
“Holiday play schemes are a great tool to provide these activities. But disabilities are diverse and the needs associated with them are very varied. To maximise the value of play schemes, they need to be tailored to the needs of their users - disabled children, their siblings and their parents. This requires a flexible and diverse approach to the conceptualisation of play schemes and the funding streams available to them".
Professor Heather Gage said: ‘This research provides robust evidence for service commissioners about the play and leisure preferences of families with disabled children during the school summer holidays. It indicates the importance of the voluntary sector in the provision of schemes tailored to the varied needs of children with different disabilities’.
University of Surrey Third Report.....we'll let you know when it's here!