Get into Summer 2021: qualitative evaluation

Get into Summer 2021 qualitative evaluation.

4. Perceived impacts for children and young people

Key points

  • Children and young people clearly valued being able to spend time with old friends and make new ones through Get into Summer activities. The impacts of increased interaction with peers were particularly notable among those who had experienced greater isolation or challenges as a result of the pandemic.
  • Children and young people were enthusiastic about the benefits of spending time outdoors and in nature. The programme allowed some children and young people to spend more time outdoors than they normally would.
  • There was evidence that the programme supported some children and young people to be more physically active, or to resume being more active again after pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.
  • Both children and young people and their parents and carers commented on the multiple ways in which Get into Summer activities had impacted positively on children's mental health and wellbeing.
  • Get into Summer activities had helped support school transitions by connecting children with other pupils, teachers, and, in some cases, new school buildings. The programme also provided children on lower incomes with positive holiday experiences they could share with their peers when they returned to school.
  • The inclusion of food as part of activities was viewed positively by children and young people. It helped reduce worries about getting hungry during physical activities, and for some helped 're-set' relationships with food.
  • Get into Summer had introduced some families to new community facilities, like parks, that they planned to continue using after the summer.
  • Children and young people gave various examples of things they had tried for the first time through the programme, with some saying they had been inspired to continue with these new activities.

This chapter explore the perceived impacts of the Get into Summer programme for children and young people, focusing particularly on evidence for the short-term outcomes identified in the logic model. It draws particularly on the views of children and young people interviewed for this evaluation, as well as views of parents and carers, and of partners involved in planning and delivering Get into Summer where they offered additional insights.

Increased interaction with peers

It was clear from interviews with children and young people that being able to spend time with their peers was something they had particularly valued about Get into Summer. Participants were very happy to have been able to spend time with other children, with children and parents often indicating that it had been a return to normality after the separations they had experienced during the pandemic. They talked about the enjoyment of being able to spend time with old friends and making new ones – something that was particularly appreciated by those transitioning to new schools. While some had been nervous about meeting new people, they found their confidence had increased as a result of their experiences of Get into Summer – a point that might be worth sharing in publicity around future programmes, to encourage those children and young people who might otherwise be reticent about participating:

"I felt confident, makes me think I can make new friends quicker than I thought."

(Child interviewee 27, age 7)

The impact of increased interaction with peers through Get into Summer was particularly notable in interviews with children and young people who had experienced greater isolation or challenge during the pandemic, including those in rural areas who had not had peers nearby and a child who had experienced a bereavement. Partners also mentioned increased interaction for young people with care experience, who could spend time with their brothers and sisters whilst at Get into Summer activities.

"It made a difference to me because it made me happy because when my mum died it made me sad sometimes but when I go out with other people it makes me happy."

Child/young person interviewee 43, age 12, low-income family

"I think it was really good the social aspect of it, because they had seen nobody…I think there is a kid about half a mile away, then it's four miles, six miles, there's kids about 12 miles away, so it's no even as if like when I was wee, like my best pal lived right next door"

(Parent interviewee 35)

"Some of [the examples] are just lovely stuff, like a social worker getting in touch about 'I've got two wee sisters who don't get a lot of contact who want to come together'…There was another example where there was a sibling group who hadn't seen each other for years and we tried to facilitate"

(Interview, national partner 9)

Parents and carers also suggested that increased interaction with other children was particularly important for younger children who may have missed out developmentally from being unable to socialise during the pandemic, and for children and young people with ASN, whose regular support groups had been cancelled because of lockdown restrictions.

"To have the other kids there and people that are interested and talk to him about things he likes and having the company it's been a major thing for him. The whole pandemic it has just been him and me…so he had needed that"

(Parent interviewee 1, mother of young person with ASN)

The case study below describes one mother's experiences on the positive impacts of Get into Summer for her toddler, particularly in terms of off-setting some of the negative impacts of the pandemic on his socialisation.

Case study 4.1 – Megan

Megan brought her 18-month-old son Ben to weekly outdoor play sessions. Ben was born just before lockdown restrictions in March 2020, so they didn't get to experience normal things like taking part in baby classes and visiting friends and family. Megan's partner is a key worker, so she spent much of her maternity leave on her own which affected her mental health. When restrictions eased, Megan felt her son was very clingy and wary of other people.

This was the first time they had taken part in play activities where children could choose what to interact with, especially outdoors. It seemed like something they could both enjoy and appealed because it was free, as they noted that classes can cost a fortune. Participants received a free fruit and soup pack which was a bonus. Megan said that activities for parents and toddlers usually stop over the summer so there had been less opportunities recently.

Ben really enjoyed the activities. Megan noted that he loved having the freedom to run around and play with whatever he wanted. He was also able to sit beside older children and learn from what was going on. Megan felt that he gained independence and confidence from socialising with other children and adults and experiencing new things. Megan's own wellbeing also improved from being able to speak to other parents and having something to look forward to each week.

"I really noticed just from the start of doing these kinds of things to the end, how much more confident he would be in terms of like he would just run about and play with things and there would always be a wee glance, like I will just check my mummy is still there, but yes, quite happy to kind of play and not be attached to me."

However, although there were many positive comments about the benefits of Get into Summer for reconnecting children and young people with their peers, there were also a few more negative comments from teenagers, in particular, who felt either that there had not been many people their age at activities or that they had missed out on informal socialising with other friends while at Get into Summer activities that they felt had not catered for their age group.

Being outdoors or in nature

Children and young people who had taken part in Get into Summer activities that involved being outdoors were enthusiastic about the benefits of this, which included enjoyment, helping them feel less stressed, feeling better for fresh air, and enjoying seeing nature.

"I like nature because it's quiet…it's just really cool, like there's lots of, you know your average animals, the dog, the cat and if you look outside you can see maybe like snails, lady birds, maybe grasshoppers"

(Child interviewee 47, age 9)

There were mixed views on the impact of Get into Summer activities on overall time spent outdoors. Pre-booked activities had encouraged some families to get outdoors in poor weather when they might have otherwise stayed inside, while others reported building their confidence or having new experiences as a result of spending time outdoors through Get into Summer. Activities that included grants for, or provision of, outdoor and play equipment (including clothes) were seen as having potentially longer-term benefits in encouraging families to spend more time outdoors. However, others reported that the impact for them or their children had been more minimal, as they already spent time outdoors anyway.

"She was able to like go around and pick up sticks and rocks and stuff, things that I wouldn't normally let her be around because she's normally in the house and when she's outside she's in the pram. So she got to explore a lot of stuff, it was a good sensory experience."

(Parent interviewee 34)

"I'm just very keen for us to get out every day and be doing something regardless of the weather so they always are out and about, so it probably again just added on to that."

(Parent interviewee 22)

Being physically active

Children and young people who had taken part in Get into Summer activities that involved physical activity were also enthusiastic about the benefits of this, which overlapped with those reported above for being outside, (e.g. enjoyment, helping them feel less stressed), in addition to improving sporting abilities.

"Tired, in a good way. Made me feel better."

(Child interviewee 27, age 7)

There were again mixed views on the impact of Get into Summer activities on children and young people's overall time spent doing physical activity. Organised activities had encouraged some children to spend more time being physical (including children with ASN, who benefited from safe environments for play and physical activity through Get into Summer), or to return to physical activity after a break because of COVID. However, others felt the impact was more minimal as they had already been quite active anyway.

"Think [daughter has] probably been going out to play more football since the camp."

(Parent interviewee 24, parent of child with ASN)

"(They) already did a lot of activity previously, but (it was) great to get back to it after Covid."

(Parent interviewee 9)

Enjoyment and improved wellbeing

On the whole, it was clear that children and young people gained a great deal of enjoyment from the Get into Summer activities they took part in.

"Overall I would say it was brilliant and amazing…meeting the people and doing all the fun activities."

(Child interviewee 28, age 11, from low income family)

"Last summer was just dull. This summer has been a lot more fun for me personally"

(Young person interviewee 44, age 13, has ASN)

Both children and young people themselves and their parents and carers also commented on the positive impacts participation had on their mental health and wellbeing. Specific ways in which participation was reported to have benefited children and young people's mental wellbeing included: boosting their confidence by enabling them to take part in activities more independently after the pandemic; giving young carers time to switch off and have time for themselves; improved sleep patterns after taking part in physical activity; and providing structure and routine after a disrupted year (something that was felt to be particularly important for children and young people with ASN).

The role of the staff running the activities in supporting children and young people's mental health was also key – for example, one young person described how staff members would help them to calm down if they were angry or annoyed, while another noted that staff members had helped their child to understand the limitations of their health condition and the importance of taking a rest. Case study 4.2 illustrates the significant impact Get into Summer had on one young person's mental wellbeing.

Case study 4.2 - Chris

Chris is 15 and is autistic. Over the course of the previous year, he had been having some problems at school and trouble sleeping and eating, which had affected his motivation to do physical activity. Chris's mum noted that his mental health had been negatively affected by the pandemic. A support worker from a group he attended had suggested he take part in a weekly outdoor sport activity as part of Get into Summer.

Initially, Chris wasn't sure if the activity was for him as it wasn't something he'd ever considered doing. However, he was encouraged to give it a go because it had been suggested by someone he knew and trusted. His confidence about taking part was really helped by the staff who ran it, who were great at communicating in a way he could relate to. Chris believes that for people with autism, it is important that clear step-by-step instructions are provided so young people know what to expect. It also helped that the group was specifically for young people with autism, so he knew the others taking part would be experiencing similar worries.

Chris really enjoyed his Get into Summer course: "it is something I enjoyed so much more than anything else over the holidays". He was also very happy to have made a new friend while taking part. He felt that it was easier to make friends while also doing something physical, because they could talk about the activity rather than having to think of something to speak about. He has kept in touch with his new friend and at the weekend was able to leave house for the first time in a long time to see him.

Chris says he now feels more open to trying new activities and less self-conscious. He feels that his sleeping and eating pattern has improved, as well as his ability to concentrate at school. He also hopes to join the sports club and keep up the activity in the future.

"Just doing something for a matter of like, what was it, six or seven weeks has made me feel so much like better, like it just renewed me, and I felt like I can actually sleep as well. Not only did it tire me out, but I got out the house, it got me excited again, it got me so enthusiastic to do things again"

Chris's mum was also very positive about his Get into Summer experience but commented that finding out about activities and support had got more difficult as he had got older. She felt there was a real gap in out of school and holiday provision for teenagers with ASN, particularly those who may be able to function day-to-day but nonetheless face significant challenges and need more opportunities and support.

Feeling ready to return to school

Children, young people, and parents and carers interviewed for this evaluation were not always able to comment on whether taking part in Get into Summer had helped them feel ready to return to school or not. In part, this reflected the fact that some activities had taken place near the start of the school holidays, so interviewees found it difficult to connect the two. However, there were some examples where children, young people and carers felt Get into Summer had a positive impact on feeling ready to return to school, particularly for children who were transitioning to secondary school and had met other children who would be in their class. This was seen as particularly helpful given their greater separation from peers during the pandemic. In addition, where children had attended Get into Summer activities at their new school, this had helped build familiarity with both building and (where they had been involved in delivery) teachers, helping reduce worries about the transition.

"Quite an anxious time for her … I think [meeting classmate] had a positive impact on her. I kept saying to her over and over again 'well, you know somebody'. He wasn't just in her year he was in her class"

(Carer interviewee 6, kinship carer)

"Before, I was worried about getting lost but [not] after going to the activities and walking around half of the school"

(Child interviewee 28, age 11, from low income family)

An unexpected benefit of Get into Summer – but which was seen as very important for children on lower incomes – was in providing holiday experiences they could share with their peers when they returned to school, reducing some of the stigma they might otherwise feel when other children are talking about their holidays in the playground. This was seen as especially important for children and young people who do not typically have the same holiday opportunities as others:

"They can discuss what they did in their holidays at school…There's a lot of kids [at school] whose parents are able to take them away special places….I don't always have the money to do things with them"

(Carer interviewee 8)

In terms of potential longer-term impacts, delivery partners commented that children and young people had developed skills through Get into Summer that would serve them well at school, such as listening, conflict resolution, and looking out for each other. There were also examples of children engaging in activities that contributed towards certificates, such as Duke of Edinburgh.

Access to food

As discussed in Chapter 3, partners involved in planning and delivering Get into Summer felt that the inclusion of free food as part of the offer had been a major factor in reducing financial barriers to participation in Get into Summer. The financial benefits of free food provision were less commonly discussed in interviews with children, young people and families. However, the inclusion of food as part of Get into Summer activities was still felt to have had a variety of positive impacts for participants, including reducing worries about getting hungry during physical activities, increasing variety in children's diets, and involving them in preparing food. In addition to benefiting participants in general, partners and parents also gave examples where this was seen to have had a more substantial impact for children and young people with disordered eating, in helping to broaden the range of foods they were willing to try, helping them to eat full meals, or to eat at more regular times.

Families appreciated the variety of food provided, noting that offering a range of cuisines helped ensure activities were inclusive of people from different cultural backgrounds. Children had also enjoyed both getting involved in preparing food as part of activities, and visiting fast food restaurants on day trips (one factor that helped make trips memorable for children in rural areas, for whom this was a rare treat). Some providers had sent participants home with recipes and/or ingredients to make their own meals at home, which parents had appreciated as an additional activity they could do together as a family.

The only (rare) less positive comments from families about the food provision element of Get into Summer related either to not enjoying the specific foods offered at given activities, or to the principle of providing food to all, regardless of income. With respect to this latter point, some parents noted that they had felt "guilty" about taking food when they could afford to buy it themselves, although those providing the activities had emphasised that it was for everyone (a deliberate decision to remove stigma).

Reconnecting with local communities

Reconnecting with local communities – as distinct from their peers – was not a major theme in interviews with children and young people. However, there were examples where families said they had been playing in local parks more or had been introduced to facilities like local cafes and outdoor spaces for the first time that they planned to use again.

"I'd never been to the park before, didn't know it existed….[Will] definitely go back"

(Carer interviewee 8, carer of child with ASN)

One parent also noted that they had been quite protective of their children playing in the local park, but were now more relaxed about their child spending time there. However, while Get into Summer appeared to have had a positive impact in encouraging some families to use local parks more, it was noted that a lack of accessible spaces for children with additional support needs remained a barrier to using some local facilities. This is clearly outwith the scope of Get into Summer, but highlights the ways in which the wider local context may limit the scope for holiday provision to encourage families to use local facilities.

Trying new things and being inspired

As described in Chapter 2, Get into Summer enabled partners to offer a very wide variety of different activities, including many they had not been able to offer previously. This was reflected in interviews with children and young people, who gave various examples of things they had tried for the first time, including: tubing, archery, surfing, pottery, karate, outdoor cinema, and day trips to new places. In addition to the activities themselves, taking part in Get into Summer meant some children and young people could spend time away from home on their own for the first time.

The skilled support and encouragement of staff was key in helping children and young people enjoy and build their confidence taking part in these new activities. This was particularly important for participants with ASN (see Case Study 4.2). Trying new activities through Get into Summer had clearly inspired some young people to try to continue with them longer-term, from joining a sports club, to getting inspiration for new home art projects, to developing animation skills further through a college course.



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