Dungannon short-break carer Lisa supports local parents
21/05/2014A Dungannon woman uses her classroom assistant experience to offer short breaks to children with disabilities and provide their parents with a much-needed break.
Lisa Kerr is a special needs assistant in the autism unit of a local primary school and has been a short break carer for two and a half years.
“I work with children with disabilities and know the support that their parents need especially when they have other children or other caring responsibilities such as older parents. Becoming a short break carer was a natural move for me as I like working with children and I was able to use my experience as a classroom assistant. At the moment I provide short breaks to two children and during the summer holidays the number of days will increase.”
By offering a short break to a child, Lisa is supporting the parents while providing the child with new experiences in a home setting.
“The parents I support are very grateful for the time the short break gives them with their other children,” Lisa said. “We have flexible arrangements so that if the usual afternoon or overnight break doesn’t suit then we can arrange an alternative time. I enjoy being with the children and they enjoy being at my house. We do everyday activities like playing games and going to the park, cinema and indoor play areas.”
To become a short break carer, Lisa was allocated a social worker and underwent the normal vetting process for everyone who works with children and vulnerable adults.
“There was the usual vetting process, inspection and training but once I was approved, the settling in period with each child has been straightforward as I knew the child in school,” Lisa adds. “One of the interesting parts of the process was writing a profile on myself. This was something I hadn’t really thought about before but the social worker in the children with disabilities team, Rosemary McCool, was very helpful. Rosemary also came to my house to assess its suitability for short breaks and I’ve been in contact with her frequently over the last two and a half years.”
The short breaks scheme allows children to enjoy a ‘home from home’ experience and short-break carers like Lisa are a lifeline to many parents of disabled children across the Southern Trust. They give parents a break from caring full time and the children benefit from meeting new people and gaining independence.
One parent who uses the short breaks scheme says: “My daughter enjoys her time away from the family. She is able to go out and do physical games, go swimming and go to the park. These are activities which are difficult at home. She looks forward to each visit with great enthusiasm, especially as she grows older. I get more time with my eldest child. For me it is a welcome break to restore my energy and relieve some of the stress. The scheme is very welcome by all the family. Respite care is totally and equally beneficial to all of us as a family.”
The Trust is looking for all kinds of people as carers. They may be single or have a partner, be young or older, working, retired or unemployed. They may or may not have children of their own.
Kate Courtenay, Head of Specialist Child Health and Disability Services at the Southern Health Trust, says: “We are always looking short-break carers for children with disabilities. Short breaks are one of our services most commonly requested by parents of disabled children. There are no specific qualifications or experience. We are looking for people with energy and commitment and a desire to support a disabled child in the community and we will fully support placements by providing information and skills training.”
For further information on becoming a short-break carer and the training and support available, contact Rosemary McCool, email email@example.com or telephone 028 3752 0547.
Visit www.southerntrust.hscni.net/childrensdisabilities to hear Lisa’s story.
Lisa relaxes at home