5. Perceived impacts for parents and carers and the wider community
- Parents and carers described various ways in which Get into Summer had impacted positively on their own mental wellbeing, as well as their children's, including: relieving pressure on parents to keep their children entertained during the holiday; providing respite from caring responsibilities; and enjoying seeing the positive impacts for their children.
- However, there were also examples where parents felt these impacts on their own wellbeing had been more limited, due to activities being too short to provide meaningful respite, or a lack of trained staff to enable parents of children with disabilities or ASN to gain the same benefits as other parents.
- There was evidence that Get into Summer events provided opportunities for parents to (re)connect with others in their community, and that participation had positive impacts in helping parents and children reconnect with each other as a family.
- Although not top of mind for all families who took part in this evaluation, Get into Summer was also seen as saving families money and, particularly for lower income families, relieving stress surrounding paying for summer activities. Food provision was important for certain families, reducing worries about feeding children throughout the summer.
- Providing parents with support or signposting to further support was not generally a focus of Get into Summer activities, although there were examples of this in partner interviews and monitoring reports.
- While there was relatively little explicit discussion of impacts around increased awareness of the importance of connection and play across parent, carer and partner interviews, there was some evidence of family learning about play.
- There was little evidence that anxieties about mixing face-to-face was a major issue for parents and carers interviewed for this evaluation.
- Although not a central aim for Get into Summer, there was some (limited) evidence from interviews that activities may have supported some working parents or carers with childcare.
- There was some evidence in the monitoring reports and partner interviews of positive impacts from Get into Summer for the wider communities around families, including helping promote positive attitudes to children and young people, providing opportunities for people to come together, economic benefits to communities, and providing a legacy of community networks or resources.
This chapter covers the perceived impacts of the Get into Summer programme for parents and carers, drawing primarily on interviews with parents and carers, as well as views of partners and reported benefits included in the monitoring reports. As in the previous chapter, it is structured around the short-term outcomes for parents and carers identified in the Get into Summer logic model. In addition to exploring impacts for parents and carers, this chapter also discusses whether there is any evidence of positive impacts for the wider community – for example, did Get into Summer activities help bring the wider community together after COVID-19?
Increased general mental wellbeing
Get into Summer activities were seen as impacting on parents' and carers' own mental wellbeing, as well as that of their children, in a number of different ways. First, providing activities for children over the holidays helped reduce the stress and pressure on parents to keep their children busy and entertained. It also reduced potential parental 'guilt' about not being able to provide 'enough' activities themselves.
"It was a lot less stress to pencil people in to look after her […] it really helped me plan over the summer holidays as a single parent [...] it's a lot less stress and burden on me to work stuff out."
(Parent interviewee 45, low income family)
"As a parent, I can only provide so much for them and there are six years between my children, there are different levels of physical capabilities, so it was good knowing that [son] was getting what he needed, and [daughter] was getting what she needed"
(Parent interviewee 29, low income family, parent of child with ASN)
Get into Summer activities were described as providing respite from caring responsibilities – something that was particularly important to one parent families, and foster and kinship carers and was clearly seen as having important benefits for parental wellbeing:
"I have never had, actually never had two hours a day to myself I don't think because I'm always at work or I'm looking after them. It was just, it was huge for me. I don't know how I would have got through the summer without it."
(Parent interviewee 21, parent of child with ASN, one parent family)
Second, a strong theme among parents and carers was that seeing the positive impacts of Get into Summer on their children in turn increased parents' own mental wellbeing. Taking part in Get into Summer also had positive impacts for some children's mood or behaviour at home, which again affected the wellbeing of other family members. For a parent of a young child, seeing them interacting with other adults had helped her to relax about her child's wellbeing when being looked after by others:
"I learned I don't have to be around [daughter] to make sure she's okay all the time, hadn't really seen her in that environment, trusting other people.
(Parent interviewee 14, new parent of a one year old, low income)
The positive impacts for wider family wellbeing of simply knowing that children were participating in something that made them happy were also highlighted:
"I always feel better when I know he has something that is going to make him feel more positive."
(Parent interviewee 2, parent of child with ASN)
Third, parents and carers who had taken part in activities alongside their children described direct impacts on their mental wellbeing in terms of distracting them from other worries, (re)connecting them with other families, making things feel more 'normal' after pandemic restrictions, or simply because the activities were fun. The following quotes again illustrate how important this was to parents in a number of different target groups for Get into Summer:
"There's just been so much happening since the kids came to me [deaths in the family etc] it's been really hard for them as well as me and of course I'm trying to build myself up but when I'm on my own sometimes I've been a bit down. But that day definitely helped me - I enjoyed having a chat and a laugh and I needed to be a bit normal, it was normal, it just made me feel better, like yourself"
(Carer interviewee 8, carer of child with ASN)
"It got me out of a wee rut. I was suffering from post-natal depression."
(Parent interviewee 34)
The case study below highlights the substantial positive impacts Get into Summer had for the wellbeing of one parent and her children, as well as on their relationships and connection with each other and the wider community:
Case study 5.1 - Grace
Grace lives with her sons, one of whom has additional support needs. Grace is seeking asylum which limits the support the family can access. The family took part in three weeks of Get into Summer activities which Grace describes as "my best summer ever". Activities included arts and crafts and day trips, which they really enjoyed because the family had never left the city centre before. A taxi was organised to bring them to the activity centre and food was available throughout the day. Grace appreciated that organisers provided food from different cultural backgrounds and that they were able to take home leftovers after the sessions.
Staff were on hand to support Grace's son who has ASN which meant she could spend more time with his brothers. She also learnt new ways to engage with her children from the staff.
"I noticed one of the staff would sit down with my last boy and she would scribble on the paper, and my son would scribble along with her...I noticed she was making him to do it on his own, and she would be laughing and smiling and saying, 'oh, yours is better', you know, cheering him up. I just took that immediately and I was like thank you so much I never knew this. Now I will sit down with them, and I will make them draw my face while I draw their face…that is a huge impact on me"
Grace thinks the boys gained confidence from taking part in the activities and spending time with other children and that they are now having fewer arguments with each other. It has also helped her son go to nursery because she can tell him he'll get a chance to do activities he enjoyed during the programme. She really values the memories Get into Summer gave her family.
The programme also helped Grace take her mind off her asylum application because she was too busy to be worried during those three weeks. She came away with a greater sense of belonging to the school community.
"They didn't segregate me, or they don't kick me outside because I was asylum seeker or something, I didn't have my visa yet. It gave me this huge sense of belonging and also it gave my kids this confidence to be with other people, you know."
However, alongside these positive examples, parents did also discuss elements of Get into Summer delivery which they felt had curtailed its potential impact on their wellbeing. These included:
- A lack of trained staff – as discussed in Chapter 3, this had been a barrier to fully including all children with disabilities in some of the activities. For their parents, it meant that they were either unable or unwilling to send their child to activities, or had to accompany them and did not, therefore, get any time for themselves. One such parent said this had led to complaints from some parents, who felt they had not had the same experience as other families.
- Activities being too short, meaning that some parents were not able to use the time effectively for themselves, especially if they had to drop off and pick up their children. It was suggested that having organised, funded transport and longer activities would have improved those parents' experience of the summer offer.
"I think if there had been some sort of maybe transport on that would have been great, that would have taken that wee bit off you, you would have had that couple of hours to yourself."
(Parent interviewee 1, mother of young person with ASN who was unable to use public transport due to anxiety)
Increased face to face interaction / reconnection
Interviews with parents and carers highlighted the different ways in which Get into Summer had helped them to reconnect both with their children, and with other adults in the wider community.
Reconnecting as a family
As described in Chapter 2, Get into Summer activities varied widely, with some actively involving parents and wider family and others focused solely on the children or young people individually. Where families had taken part in activities together, parents reported positive impacts in terms of spending more quality time with their children and creating valuable shared memories.
"If I bring out the pictures and videos I made of them I can see my sons smiling and laughing and all of them chatting about it and they are like, mummy, can we go there again?...That is very huge memory to have for me and my kids."
(Parent interviewee 41, parent of child with ASNs and seeking asylum)
Providing support to take trips as a family was also viewed as particularly important for families of children with disabilities or ASN, who experience particular barriers to spending time away from home together:
"Families needed some support to reconnect with each other because it's been so pressurised. When planning trips these families can't just pick a place because it's the best place, additional planning and finance is needed."
(National partner 5)
There was also evidence from parents with children with ASN that having good quality activities for these children had enabled them to spend more quality one-to-one time with other their other children.
"It gave me a break for a few hours, to spend time with (their) older brother."
(Parent interviewee 7, parent of child with ASN)
Even when parents were not attending activities with their children, activities might still have a positive impact on family relationships – for example, a parent explained that because she was able to do errands such as food shopping while her children were at the funded activities, this enabled her to spend more meaningful time with her children when they were at home. Activities for children also created positive experiences they could talk to their family about.
"I've had a closer connection to my family a little bit, just going home and talking to them about what I'd done on the day."
(Young person interviewee 17, age 12)
Connecting with other adults
Parents and carers also reported making or renewing connections with other adults as a result of Get into Summer activities, including other parents and carers, teachers (especially where activities were run in school-based hubs), and activity leaders. The structure of activities did not always allow for much interaction between parents and carers themselves (something which, at least in part, reflected limitations on gathering relating to COVID-19 restrictions or mitigations). However, where this had happened, parents and carers had appreciated the opportunity to connect with other families in similar situations – something that was particularly remarked on by parents whose children had ASN or disabilities, and by kinship carers and foster carers.
"I enjoyed meeting, chatting and spending time with other foster carers very much."
(Quoted in monitoring report, national partner 10)
Another parent from a minority ethnic background felt that Get into Summer activities had provided positive opportunities to interact with the local community, having had negative feelings about mixing with other local parents in the past. After joining the activities she felt more confident about her family spending time in the community in the future.
"We are ethnic minority [And I was] cautious about joining […]. It made me a bit more confident that they can be a part of the community."
(Parent interviewee 32, ESOL)
Reduced financial worries
A key aim of Get into Summer was to reduce financial barriers to accessing summer activities for families on low incomes. Although the financial impacts of Get into Summer were not top of mind for all the families interviewed for this evaluation, parents and carers on low incomes, in particular, reported that providing activities, food and transport free of charge had a signficant on both their ability to attend, and their feelings about their children attending. Having funded activities meant that parents who would ordinarily struggle to afford Summer activities did not have to limit what their children could do, or decide which activities they would have to sacrifice in order to pay for others.
"Things like football club would definitely cost money that would take from the budget for taking them to the cinema."
(Parent interviewee 29, low income family, parent of child with ASN)
Families commented on how expensive activities often were in the school holidays, with some parents describing activities being "priced out of our range" or costing "a fortune". There was a real sense of relief among these parents and carers about having funded activities this year.
Families that had been on Get into Summer day trips appreciated the fact that funding had been used not only to provide free activities but, in some cases, also covered other expenses, such as getting an ice cream or other treats. This meant that parents could relax and enjoy spending quality time with their children without worrying about money:
"If you plan a day trip, then you're factoring in, you know, obviously snacks, your transport, your travel, you are factoring all that in and it kind of adds up when kids get there, it is like they want an ice cream or they want a ride. The fact that at the time when we went to the zoo because they gave us the tickets for the ride, then we could get something, I could buy something at the snack van […]. It was a big help and you felt you were having a good day out, you felt as if you weren't penny watching."
(Parent interviewee 37, low income)
There was also some evidence from parental feedback in the monitoring reports that by including food as part of activities, Get into Summer had reduced anxiety among parents and carers about feeding their children throughout the holidays:
"The summer club has been amazing for me and my kids. I am a single parent … and really struggle sometimes during the summer. The school breakfasts and lunches let me not have to worry about the food bills and let me pay other things."
(Parent, cited in monitoring report, local authority 7)
The case study below illustrates the impact that Get into Summer had for one low-income parent and her family in terms of access to activities they would not normally be able to afford, and the consequent impacts of this for parental and child wellbeing.
Case study 5.2 - Sally
Sally is a single parent and lives with her son Ted (aged 12) and daughter Emily (aged 5). They live in a village in a rural area and can walk to the beach or forest, but Sally feels it's harder for them to socialise with other children as they live further away. They are a low-income family and Sally is currently looking for work. Both children attended a three-week Get into Summer programme based at their local secondary school.
Sally isn't normally able to afford organised activities throughout the whole Summer, so having funded Summer activities was particularly helpful for her. It reduced stress for her, as she did not have to pick and choose activities due to her financial situation.
Sally was happy that Ted and Emily got to spend time with other children and develop their social skills and confidence. It felt good to know that they were both getting what they needed, since she feels there is only so much she can do herself.
Being able to say hello to other parents at pick up or drop off also had a positive impact on Sally's wellbeing, while having time to herself while the children were at the school activities also gave her time to relax and to look for work. She highlighted that, as a single parent with no family nearby to support her with childcare, this was especially helpful for her.
"I think [it had an impact on my wellbeing], because obviously I'm a single parent, I'm with the children during the pandemic 24/7 and sometimes you just need that switch off."
Opportunities to access support
The main focus of Get into Summer delivery was on providing play and activities for children and young people, rather than providing direct support or referrals to parents. However, there were examples in the monitoring reports and in interviews with both partners and parents where Get into Summer had provided families with opportunities to access support, either directly, as a part of the provision, or indirectly through onward referrals and signposting.
For example, a school-based programme described a very wide range of support and sign-posting, including: help applying for school uniforms, school transport, free school meals, and benefits; signposting to benefits and support; helping families access community nursery places (which was described as having a particularly major impact for one family whose baby had separation/attachment issues after not having been able to meet wider family/community over COVID); help with accessing grants for white goods; and support and referrals around bereavement. The additional flexibility provided by Get into Summer funding also enabled this school to bring in a specialist wellbeing coach to support parents. They did so after identifying a need for support among those attending, which included parents who were dealing with trauma relating to trafficking and abuse. The school was subsequently able to offer ongoing support to a women's group, formed by the same parents, who wished to continue working with the coach.
Examples from other partners of referrals and signposting to parents included advice on money, relationships, and getting back to work. A national partner working with families with young children commented on the appetite from parents for advice around child health and development, perhaps reflecting the fact that there may have been fewer opportunities for parents to seek this advice face-to-face (for example, through parent and child groups) during the pandemic:
"… we were taking along lots of our top tips for parents that we have in our members area, and the team were continually like answering questions around starting solids, potty training. Like I mean there was so many things that they were talking about, like nappy rash, sleep, colic, it felt like as well as providing the play opportunities which we did."
(Interview, national partner 4)
Increased awareness of importance of connection and play
Increased awareness of the importance of connection and play was primarily discussed by the two national partners who focused on younger children. In particular, they commented on the impact of Get into Summer activities and associated resources in encouraging and building parental confidence in playing:
"Children and families were able to access a variety of resources to enhance and enrich their play experiences at home. It also gave parents the opportunity to build confidence in creating play experiences for their children, with support from the team."
(Monitoring report, national partner 4)
This was echoed in comments from a parent, who said the Get into Summer activities she attended made her realise how much more she could do with her children, and reported that she has since done activities at home that she saw them do during Get into Summer events. There were also reports of parents and carers gaining confidence in letting their children do activities like 'messy play' or playing and touching things outside.
Reduced worries about mixing face-to-face
In general, the families interviewed for this evaluation did not discuss having particular COVID-19 related anxieties about them, or their children, mixing face-to-face. An exception was a parent who reported that their initial anxieties about attending had been overcome by an enjoyable experience through Get into Summer.
Other impacts – childcare
Although not a central aim for Get into Summer, there was some (limited) evidence from interviews that activities may have supported some working parents and carers by providing them with childcare over the summer. For example, one parent explained that he had already used up his annual leave for previous school holidays and did not have any more time to take in the Summer. Others said they were able to use the extra time to catch up on work. There was also some (again limited) evidence of parents using the time while children were at Get into Summer to look for work.
Impacts on the wider community
In addition to direct impacts for children, young people and families, the logic model for Get into Summer also anticipated that the programme might have positive impacts for communities. Data from the monitoring reports and partner interviews highlighted a variety of ways in which Get into Summer activities were believed to have had positive impacts on wider communities, including:
- Helping promote positive community attitudes towards children and young people when people in the community observed Get into Summer activities happening in public spaces.
"…but you would see this colourful parachute go up in the air and you could see the children's faces all run underneath and you would hear passers by going, 'Isn't that lovely. Look at that, isn't that nice to see children and families out together'. You could hear them all talking about isn't that lovely."
(Interview, National Partner 4)
- Providing opportunities for communities to come together – this had been supported by the fact that Get into Summer funding enabled more activities to be held within local communities, rather than requiring families to travel to a central venue. Partners also noted examples where they felt Get into Summer had helped children, young people and parents reconnect with their school community – something that was seen as important after a period where parents had not generally been allowed inside the school building because of COVID-19 restrictions.
- Economic impacts for communities – Get into Summer had clearly supported employment opportunities for staff, leading to longer-term job offers in some cases. Partners also discussed deliberate efforts to use local businesses and services (for example, for catering or providing transport), which meant the community benefited financially from the Get into Summer offer.
- Providing a legacy of networks or resources for communities' continued use, including:
- Helping to establish new community groups – such as a group for people with ASN and a community forum for partners to come together and organise further activities
- Improved local spaces, for example through gardening activities or painting an underpass, as part of Get into Summer
- Activity resources, such as heritage trails created as part of a Get into Summer activity, that the community can continue to use.
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