The Yard has been very fortunate to receive continued support from Vegware, which includes a monthly donation of £100 and donations in kind of Vegware products. These generous gifts have allowed us to continue to provide fun and friendship to disabled children and young people over the last year.

Our family sessions are our cornerstones services and therefore are where a large amount of our funds are distributed. Between August 2019 and March 2020 (when The Yard sadly had to close regular services due to Covid-19), over 400 disabled children accessed The Yard’s family sessions, along with their siblings, parents, carers and grandparents all enjoying the sessions. Our talented playteam create inclusive activities for the families attending the family service which match the high energy of the children! The activities are aimed at increasing our members’ confidence and life skills such as boundaries, turn-taking and communication. We loved seeing our children form friendships and gain skills such as bike riding and Signalong, alongside their parents/carers meeting others in similar situations and getting advice and support. This year in particular, we know that parents and carers have become good friends at The Yard, and often go out for meals together and socialise outside the service. This is an incredibly important part of our service, ensuring that parents/carers can form a natural network of support with other parents/carers, sharing experiences, techniques and advice. Our family sessions are often themed and children have enjoyed a boat themed day, mud kitchen messy play and potion making, bonfire art, autumn and winter sensory play, a team building day, Christmas slime making, a Harry Potter themed day, a nature scavenger hunt, outdoor painting and much more. This wide variety of activities helps to keep every member engaged and is inclusive of all of their needs.

In our February 2020 feedback survey, we received extremely positive comments from parents/carers attending family sessions:

“My son has been coming here for a few years now and he loves it.  He has friends here.  He rides a bike here which is something he continuously refused to do anywhere else. I can hardly put into words the support I feel and receive at The Yard.  From staff and parents – no judgement and lots of understanding.  I can even relax with a coffee – absolute bliss.” – Parent

“Its a perfect opportunity for E*** and his brother to meet his sensory needs in the outdoor sand and water and it helps him be more calm and is a focus or reward at the end of the week.  As a single parent it is a real lifeline that E*** can go somewhere where he is safe and can play independently and I don’t have to worry about watching him every minute.  It allows his brother some ‘me time’ as well. At the moment the service works perfectly for us.  Being able to attend the quiet session recently on Saturday has helped with his anxiety.” – Parent

The Yard’s response to COVID19

As is the case with the vast majority of organisations, The Yard has been hugely affected by the COVID19 pandemic. Although we were on track to have an incredibly successful year, with two expansion projects in the pipeline and more adventure play and support services for disabled children, young people and their families than ever, we have of course had to put this on hold. In March 2020, under government advice, The Yard closed all of our regular services. This was an incredibly sad decision for us as we knew that our community of families would be hugely affected by the pandemic, but we were working in the interest of everyone’s safety and health. Despite our services being closed, The Yard is dedicated to supporting disabled children, young people and their families throughout the pandemic. Our community of families are facing increased challenges for a variety of reasons; their networks of support (special schools, third sector services, respite, play facilities) continue to be closed; children are suffering due to decreased outdoor time and the lack of routine and structure. As lockdown is eased, many of our children, young people and families are experiencing increased anxiety around returning to ‘normal’ life as so much has changed over the past months and many of our children are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19.

At present The Yard Edinburgh is open but not fully, we have been open with a small dedicated family service for the most vulnerable children in Edinburgh in partnership with Edinburgh Council throughout the CV-19 lockdown period. This service was well managed and fully health and safety checked and allowed a maximum of 5 children and a parent the opportunity to gain respite in lockdown. Since lockdown measures have been eased we have been able to extend this to occasionally include siblings and other carers, and have for the past number of weeks increased the 5 number to 8, topping the service up with our member families. To plug the gap we have had by cancelling early years and clubs we have moved our presence online and have been facilitating an online early years service plus a partnership with the Hearts and Minds Clowndoctors. Additionally, we have been facilitating discussions with our respite club members, online mental health and wellbeing sessions, play idea videos, challenge ideas and much more.  This online support has been incredibly popular, with families explaining that it has helped ease anxiety, given them resources to keep their children occupied and brought a bit of The Yard’s familiarity, openness and understanding to their homes.

As we move out of the school holidays and the schools begin to reopen we are starting a schools service in Edinburgh, as we have previously always run, that helps to aid special schools with social distancing as well as easing the difficulties these schools will have in transitioning the children back into a routine and educational setting, alongside it we hope to run our 8 family max family session.

Thank you

On behalf of everyone here at The Yard, I would like to thank the Vegware for your continued support of The Yard. We continue to adapt and evolve our services in response to the changing environment and the needs of our community of families. We would not be able to do this without your support. Thank you!