Every person who works at Kinship has a tireless determination to achieve our vision of a society where kinship families are recognised, valued, and supported. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, our staff united behind one mission: to support as many kinship families as we could.
Being awarded a high commendation in the COVID-19 Frontline Team of the Year category at the Third Sector Awards 2021 is great recognition of their achievements. We wanted to share how proud we are of what they have achieved.
Kinship carers are the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, other family members and friends who step up to raise children when their parents can’t. Kinship families are raising over 200,000 children – keeping them out of the care system. That’s almost three times the number of children being raised in foster care. At the outset of the pandemic, kinship carers told us they felt scared about catching the virus and about what would happen to their children if they fell seriously ill or died. Kinship carers are often the one person preventing the children from growing up in the care system. They were feeling more isolated and vulnerable than ever. They feared how they would be able to continue to work with schools closed and there was a huge sense of confusion and frustration about not having clear guidance on what was happening. As the lockdown continued, concerns moved from home-schooling and the impact of lockdown on the children in their care, to exhaustion from caring for the children 24 hours a day without a break. They were, and continue to be, deeply concerned about the uncertainties of living with a ‘new normal’.
This translated into a 46% increase in enquiries to our advice team from kinship carers who were distressed, scared, and seeing the impact of COVID-19 compounding the inequalities and everyday challenges they already faced.
Our teams listened and responded
Kinship Response was developed swiftly, adapted from our existing services, in consultation with local authorities and kinship carers, to meet the evolving and growing needs of kinship carers at this time. At its core was specialist advice, one-to-one remote project worker support, online virtual support groups (including specialist support to upskill kinship carers who had limited experience of using technology) and one-to-one peer support through kinship carer volunteers.
How we did it
A core internal team from across the charity worked quickly to develop a commissionable membership model to allow local authorities to buy in the service quickly and reach kinship carers. Our CEO, along with our trustees and external stakeholders campaigned to leverage funding from the Government allowing local authorities to release funds fast so we could deliver quickly, and our programmes team built relationships with local authorities to commission Kinship Response.
The Kinship team achieved an incredible amount in those months
“We increased one-to-one support for kinship carers over 12 months by 416% – I’m so proud of the team”
– Kate OBrien, Director of Business Development and Programmes
- Set up and delivered a new crisis intervention service within two months
- Brought in £1.2 million in commissioned income to support service delivery
- Increased one-to-one support and delivery by 416% (267 to 1,379 kinship carers)
- Increased our partnership with local authorities from 24 to 77.
- Our advice team supported 3,615 kinship carers to receive specialist advice
- Developed our peer support ‘Someone Like Me’ service recruiting 35 volunteers who supported 500 kinship carers.
- Set up a new frontline service for Wales and a bilingual advice worker
- Created 29 new jobs
Measurable outcomes for kinship carers included:
80% reduced financial concerns after accessing specific support
82% feel more confident in their kinship caring role
Why we are so proud of our team
The dedication, expertise and gumption shown by the team are second to none. They worked collaboratively with one vision.
On a daily basis, they supported kinship carers experiencing real crisis. Grandparents fearful of what would happen to their kin children if they contracted Covid-19 and died. Kinship carers managing the stress of home-schooling, challenging behaviour from their kinship children. Worries about lack of financial security due to the pandemic.
Our team took on the emotional burden of thousands of kinship carers. They delivered high-quality services in extreme circumstances. Many of the team are kinship carers themselves and so put their fears and worries aside to support others.
The success of the team was supported by teams across the charity, from HR, finance, marketing, fundraising, and service design. They all pulled together to support and raise up the voices of selfless kinship carers who are keeping children out of the care system, with love and hope.