The Department for Education has recently invested £1 million in a national kinship care peer-to-peer support service for England. This is a positive first step towards kinship carers being able to access the support they so desperately need.
There’s a growing network of peer-to-peer support in England and this funding will allow us to extend that support much wider on a local, regional, and national scale. It will also see the development of 100 new peer support groups in areas without any, the creation of an online hub of resources and training for support group leaders, free workshops and advice sessions for kinship carers and support groups, online peer-to-peer chat, and so much more.
We’re very excited to be delivering this service, which has been developed alongside kinship carers who used their experience and insight to inform what kind of support, resources, and activities would best fit the needs of kinship carers across the country.
One part of this game-changing development will be increasing the number of peer support groups across England to support more kinship carers. Here are some reflections from kinship carers at a recent North London peer support group I visited.
What happens at a kinship peer support group?
As well as lots of tea and chatting, our support groups consist of kinship carers sharing their stories, supporting each other, and offering advice and emotional and practical support. It’s a friendly space where everyone understands each other. They’re a great way to meet people in similar situations as you and can help to reduce any feelings of isolation and loneliness.
One carer, who had only been to two support groups, said: “I didn’t have any support before – a friend of mine put me in touch with Kinship and I found Maxine, she is my biggest supporter. This is the second time I’ve been able to meet more of my family.” – Theresa
Maxine is one of our brilliant project workers at Kinship. She’s a kinship carer herself, so she understands what many of the carers she supports are going through. As well as running a peer support group, she also provides intensive one-to-one support to kinship carers through our Kinship Connected programme. It’s clear that her expertise, kindness, and support make a huge difference.
“Throughout covid, the support groups made us so much stronger.” – Naomi
“Without the group and the project worker, I would’ve had a nervous breakdown. It’s given me so many resources that were such a help to me. I’m so grateful for this group because there was just nothing else.” – Marla
“This kinship group is my family, it’s my support. More support than most of my family. We’ve got a lot to thank our project worker for.” – Jane
All too often, kinship carers find themselves having to navigate a system not designed for kinship care.
“There’s a real lack of awareness of what kinship is. You have to explain yourself repeatedly, and you have to relive painful experiences. Every time you go to a doctor or have to fill out a form, you have to jump through 100 hoops. You should be able to say, “I am a kinship carer” and for it to be recognised without question. It’s raw and it’s painful, but I’m glad I had a good set of people that would listen to me and acknowledge what was happening.” – Lorraine
“If you don’t fit into a box, you’re often left out on your own. Coming to these groups has been a lifeline, you can share, listen, get information, during lockdown we had virtual meetings and it was such a support.” – Ann Marie
“There are lots of guidelines and not laws in place. I’m not a case study and I’m not an unsung hero – I don’t need that. What I need is a bedroom.” – Meyrem
Peer support groups have truly transformational effects and offer a safe space to talk about all of the intricacies that only kinship carers understand. We understand that talking to family and friends about what you’re going through can be met with blank expressions and endless questions that you’ve answered countless times before and speaking to people who have been there and done it can be so refreshing.
“I’m lost for words. It’s brought my life back and my spirit. Having people you can talk to that understand is the number one thing that’s helped. When I hear everyone’s stories, it makes me realise that everything is ok, and I’m not alone. I love coming to the group that we’ve set up and knowing that there’s always someone at the end of the phone.” – Zahra
One kinship carer, who looks after her great-grandson, said: “Because of my age it’s hard to connect with other mums in the playground. This group is just so welcome, it fits like a glove.” – Ann
We’re really proud to be working alongside kinship carers to develop a new peer-to-peer support service in England, with more peer support groups for carers, online resources, support for existing groups, and accessible advice and support for kinship carers. Keep an eye on our website and our social channels for updates on further peer-to-peer support services, launching in January 2022.
Check here to see if there’s a peer support group near you.
If you need advice, please get in touch here.