Delivering respite breaks for family carers in the Belfast area by providing activities for their sons and daughters with a learning disability
Rachel Barrett (54) and her husband Richard (56) live in East Belfast with their son Peter (28). Rachel is a Director of Caring Breaks
“I have two sons, one of whom, Peter, has significant learning difficulties, which means that – like all parents with children such as Peter – he is completely dependant on myself and my husband.
“I love Peter dearly, but he is really a child in a man’s body, and he has a child’s need for constant attention. He wants you all the time, whether you are on the phone, or even if you’re ill. And he’s first up in the morning!
“I needed help to keep going, and about four years ago, Caring Breaks rescued me by providing a period of respite care most weeks, plus adventure weekends away in Cushendall, doing activities such as canoeing, climbing, and making bird boxes.
“Caring Breaks can only afford to give us one weekend a year, but these have an enormous positive effect. For, while he is away, although there is tremendous support from the Caring Break workers, he has to look after himself, choosing his meals, putting on his own clothes, and socialising with others.
“Peter comes back exhausted, and talks about it for weeks afterwards, and long-term it makes him more grown-up and greatly improves his behaviour.
“As Peter says ‘I can’t be greedy and everybody has to get a turn as there isn’t enough money’ but it’s awful that it’s restricted in this way. Other than with my husband and I, Peter never goes away, so these weekends are not just wonderful for Peter, but they give us the unique luxury of a whole weekend to ourselves.
“But at least we also get four hours every Saturday, for which I am enormously grateful, when a Caring Breaks worker takes Peter out. He loves trains, so sometimes he’s taken to Bangor or Portadown and he also goes swimming. And every week Peter comes back and says he has had a good time and has ‘gone everywhere’
“These weekly outings and the adventure weekends give Peter a young person’s social life and a broader perspective on life generally which has made him much happier by giving him confidence and esteem, and this has very positively affected how he behaves with us.
“I would be devastated if we didn’t have Caring Breaks – I don’t know what I or my husband would do, for, frankly, it helps keep me sane.”