Kinship carers have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in so many ways. Over the last nine months we have had to adjust to a ‘new normal’; a world full of uncertainty, change, isolation and anxiety. Grandparents Plus have been doing all we can to support kinship care families across England and Wales in this unprecedented time.
Through our Kinship Response programme, dedicated to supporting kinship care families during the pandemic, we have helped families in 68 boroughs across England and Wales. Our dedicated team of project and advice workers have delivered much needed and life-changing support to families.
Over the next few weeks we wanted to share some personal stories from kinship carers. Today we want to share Kim’s story with you.
Our project worker Jane recently connected with Kim (pseudonym), maternal aunt and special guardian for her niece and nephew. Kim reached out to us and told us she was “overwhelmed and desperate” finding it hard to “carry on caring for the children during the pandemic”.
Both of the children have additional needs, and require extra support, including attending a special school. Due to the impact of lockdown, the disruption to routine and the anxieties surrounding COVID-19, the children begun to develop disruptive behaviours. Kim’s niece began to exhibit violent behaviour. Her nephew also started to react physically when upset, increasing the fear of violent outbursts within the family home.
Before lockdown, Kim told us her situation was manageable but with the closure of schools and the withdrawal of childminding arrangements aligned with her need to work full time from home, the family situation soon reached boiling point. Even with the children now back in school, the most recent lockdown still has a big impact on the family as they are unable to access activities and support that had previously made their situation manageable.
Kim has struggled with the pressures of work, caring for her niece and nephew and the behavioural challenges that have presented themselves due to the complex needs of the children in conjunction with lockdown and the pressures of living through a pandemic. She had previously applied for help from her social worker, but had been told she didn’t meet the minimal support threshold. She told us she “felt abandoned since having her special guardianship order”.
In addition to all of this, Kim also had to face housing issues, with her private tenancy having terminated in October, and with looking after the children and working full time, she hadn’t been able to look for alternative accommodation. Kim felt isolated and had no contact with other kinship carers in her area. It has been a lonely journey.
Finally in August of this year Kim was able to connect with Grandparents Plus and work closely with our project worker Jane.
Kim told us the support she has received by Grandparents Plus has been “lifesaving” and it has enabled her to carry on with life in lieu of previously denied state support.
One-to-one project worker support enabled safeguarding issues to be identified in a non-threatening way. This has helped Kim to work with the children and support them when they are at their most vulnerable and physically disruptive. The safeguarding referral to local authority resulted in a housing application and positive restraint training for Kim, with ongoing family support.
Kim was also referral to Grandparents Plus advice service regarding special guardianship order payments, where she was provided with all the information she needed to ensure she was in receipt of all the support available to her and her family.
She was referred to and started our per-to-peer support programme – Someone Like Me. This allowed Kim to meet other kinship carers, building her peer support network, and gaining wisdom from experts by experience.
Kim joined our Kinship Community of over 7000 kinship carers. She completed our annual survey and felt empowered that her voice was added to our campaign to deliver positive change in the way kinship care families are supported by the government.
Kim was also referred to one of our virtual support groups. She joined an evening group that fitted around her working hours. The group is so important and has helped forge new friendships decreasing social isolation and offering a regular place to find support, friendship and empathy.
As we enter the second lockdown Kim has many more tools at her disposal. She has in place coping mechanisms, and most importantly she has a new community of kinship carers who she can turn to and find strength in. We are still here for Kim and all kinship carers who need help. If you want to access our free support please just click here and take the time to fill in our self-referral form. Alternatively, you can head over to our advice page where you can access support now.
If you would like to share your lockdown story please click here. We would love to hear from you and share your story with our community.