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Pupil counselling: Supporting the wellbeing of the youngest in our communities

Pupil counselling: Supporting the wellbeing of the youngest in our communities

Our latest research with over 6,000 schools has revealed that pupil mental health, wellbeing and pupil counselling are top support priorities this academic year. However, you know that effectively supporting pupil wellbeing can put additional strain on schools who are already facing many challenges in ensuring the ongoing education of pupils, especially during these uncertain and challenging times. This is where we come in.

We sat down with Gail, our lead education practitioner, to learn more about Tiana’s* story, the impact of pupil counselling in school, as well as some creative techniques and exercises. You can use these insights to build upon your own and/or get in touch to find out how we can support your school.


The negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on pupil mental health and wellbeing have far-reaching consequences on pupil learning, education, school-life, and even future life chances. Although the Department for Education has recommended that schools continually plan for and prioritise pupil wellbeing, we know that schools already have many things to focus on, as well as time and budget constraints.

Working closely with school staff and families alike, we’ve been delivering counselling to primary pupils in Tower Hamlets, many of whom come from families who are facing housing precariousness or financial exclusion. With the many ups and downs that schools have faced this year, with schooling disrupted for so many pupils, we are really proud that we can support the mental health and wellbeing of the youngest in our communities this year.

Classroom display Pupil counselling: Why and how 

Could you share more about the impact of pupil counselling? And what types of challenges have pupils been facing?

There is a similarity in a lot of cases that when we go to uncover the root cause, it’s often to do with self-confidence, self-esteem, not feeling safe, not feeling secure. So, kind of like the foundations of people. Alot of these referrals come with outbursts of aggression or tearfulness or being withdrawn and then when we go back, it always seems to be that the person isn’t confident; doesn’t have good self-esteem; doesn’t have good relationships at home; communication is poor; not being able to talk about emotions; not connecting how emotions feel within ourselves; responding to certain things in a negative way; and so on. It all has a big impact, and it all seems to go back to the same feeling of loneliness, fearfulness and not feeling sort of…there. Not feeling not protected, not nurtured, and often never ever enough praise and competence within the home.

“When we go to uncover the root cause, it’s often to do with self-confidence, self-esteem, not feeling safe, not feeling secure. So, kind of like the foundations of people.”

Describe any techniques, activities, and methods that have worked well with the children so far?

So, I use a range of different techniques. I’ve been using breathing exercises. I’ve been using sound therapy at the start of the sessions to get them calm and feeling safe so they’re able to talk. I’m using a lot of exercise with self-esteem and self-worth. So, looking at their qualities at their strengths, asking teachers and parents to praise them on this so that they encourage their positive traits to come out.

Also, in school we did the ‘Tree of Life’ and each branch had something different on it. And every time the children came to the sessions, they had to create leaves with an answer to each branch. So, one branch was ‘leave a kind word,’ one branch was ‘tell me something positive about yourself today,’ one was ‘tell me what your dream is or your goal for this week’. One was ‘what does a good friend mean to you?’ And the other one was, ‘what are you grateful for today?’ So that was lovely.

“Every time the children came to the sessions, they had to create leaves with an answer to each branch. So, one branch was ‘leave a kind word’, one branch was ‘tell me something positive about yourself today’, one was ‘tell me what your dream is or your goal for this week.”

And I’ve been giving homework to the counselling children for their parents and them to do together. This includes lots of work about what their worries are to help the parents and children talk about their worries, and how we can help our worries, so they don’t grow. Also, what do we like about each other and what do we like about ourselves – so self-esteem, self-empowering sheets to send home.

How does children’s counselling differ from counselling older children/young adults?

When I’m working with younger children, I use more visual more games and more artwork. With the older children, I can do like more activities like what I was just speaking to you and if the parents get involved, we noticed significant changes, especially with the activities that I sent home. I noticed that the parents that engaged with that the children we really do see change.

Tiana’s story: Holistic techniques and amazing outcomes

Tiana* was experiencing high levels of stress and difficulty concentrating in school, partly due to her parent’s separation and mum’s low mental health. The holistic support which included pupil counselling aimed to improve Tiana’s confidence, emotional awareness, and relationships with others.

“I am able to talk about what is bothering me, and I have learnt that it’s better to talk about how you feel instead of holding your feelings inside.”

After just a few sessions, Tiana started to open up about what was bothering her and what she needed help with. Reflecting on the talking sessions, Tiana said that “this was good because it helped me talk about how I felt, and it makes me feel better in my time with Gail. I am able to talk about what is bothering me, and I have learnt that it’s better to talk about how you feel instead of holding your feelings inside.”

Working closely with Tiana’s teachers and parents, Gail introduced a range of creative and holistic activities. This included developing a vision board with Tiana’s hopes and wishes, as well as photographs to illustrate each vision. This project was a great way for the whole family to be able to look at what Savannah wanted for her future, for herself and her family.  “Tiana’s hopes and wishes were for Mum and Dad to get along with each other, for Tianna to be a film producer or artist when she gets older, for her whole family to get along, the importance of family, and to let go of worries,” explained Gail.

“Both Tiana’s parents and teachers have noticed that Tiana is happier and more confident… With 10 being  the highest level, Tiana’s score for overall stress went from 10 to 2, emotional distress from 6 to 0, and hyperactivity and concentration in class from 6 to 1.”

Due to  their consistency and hard work, the family played a key role in the success of the programme. Gail mentioned that the family implemented their new tools like the ‘emotion cards’ which helped them all express their feelings to one another, especially Tiana and mum. “I didn’t express my feelings at home but now with the emotions card I can pick one and we can just pick them up instead of just saying how I feel,” said Tianna. She adds, “Mum told me yesterday that she feels sad when I was leaving and this made me feel happy that she said this as she would never say anything like this to me before, so it made me feel that she really does miss me when I go.”

Overall, the support led to some amazing outcomes and both Tiana’s parents and teachers have noticed that Tiana is happier and more confident. With 10 being  the highest level, Tiana’s score for overall stress went from 10 to 2, emotional distress from 6 to 0, and hyperactivity and concentration in class from 6 to 1.

*Name has been changed to protect client identity.

To find out more about our education support in schools or if you have any questions about the above, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to arrange an informal chat at: info@kineara.co.uk or call 020 3976 1450.  

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing
Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choices

Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choices

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, we are joining NEA and others to raise awareness of this multi-faceted and preventable issue. Highlighting the experience of Anna and her family, you can support us and make a difference to those who are unfairly trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.  


“A national injustice”

According to the NEA, around four million UK households are in the grip of fuel poverty, unable to afford to heat their homes and live comfortably as they should. On top of that, rising energy bills and unforgiving weather conditions are hitting low-income households the hardest. We’ve seen this first-hand at Kineara with many of our families being left in impossible situations, like having to choose between heating their home, paying the bills, or feeding their children.

Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choicesAnna’s story 

Anna has lived for 13 years on the top floor of a 23-story building with poor insulation and broken central heating. 

Trapped in a cycle of poverty, she pays £1400 a month for her flat so once that is paid there isn’t enough money to left cover the bills or get her heating fixed.  

She has a two year old son who she tries to keep as comfortable as possible, but now that the winter has set in it is getting harder. He’s an active little boy and want to go out to the park, but how will she warm him up when she gets back home? With little money for activities or to take him to a café to keep warm for a while, Anna does what she can to keep the house warm enough while they stay inside. 

I’ll go over to my friends house sometimes to warm up. If I could afford to, I would go to a café and sit inside to keep warm. But I don’t have any extra money to do that. 

And sometimes that means being forced into making decisions that could risk her health and safety. At times, she has no other option than to put the oven on get some heat into the room while her son watches cartoons. Sometimes he’ll ask her to blow on his hands to keep them warm. 

He’ll say “Mummy, please blow on my hands to keep them warm” like we are outside, except we’re sitting inside our living room… Sometimes I don’t have any other option than to turn on the oven, at least so my son can keep warm in the evening. 

And when she can afford it, a hot bath can help. But even that can be unappealing. When she steps out into a cold room, her teeth start to chatter, and the only solution is to get into bed with a hot water bottle. 

Hands holding hearts- winter appealDonate to our appeal 

With little money for phone credit, accessing services is really difficult and getting hold of the landlord to send engineer to repair the heating is near impossible. Each winter, the coldest months already have gone by before she has her concerns taken seriously.  

Every winter I call and call to get someone to come and fix the heating, but the whole winter goes by before anything is done. I don’t have the money to pay for an engineer.

This winter, we want to help Anna to keep warm through the coldest months. No-one should the stark choices that she is having to make for herself and her son. We’re advocating for her to fix the disrepair in her home, but you could help her and others like her to cover some bills over the winter, keep the hot water on and their mobile phone topped up. Even a small amount can make a huge difference.  

Donate what you can today! 

To help us support more families over the winter, please donate to our winter appeal. All donations will go directly to families for essential items they need over the winter period.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing
Wellbeing, warmth and how to take action this Winter

Wellbeing, warmth and how to take action this Winter

Last year, Jesse and her son spent the winter in one of the worst housing situations we’d seen. The property was in complete disrepair, with mould on the walls, leaks, no heating or hot water. When we met her just before Christmas, she told us she’d spent the last year having to boil the kettle to wash and sleeping in her coat to stay warm. Her landlord wanted to evict her due to unpaid rent and Jesse was also desperate to move but the situation was causing a lot of anxiety and stress. As a part time carer with a son in full time education, the housing options in the private sector were very limited, but she was placed in temporary accommodation quickly so that she could move out of the hazardous flat. We helped her assess her needs and options, access emergency grants and a bidding number for social housing and supported her to secure a new property in August. When we checked in with her, her wellbeing had improved dramatically: “I am not worried about being cold this winter!”


Winter can be challenging on anyone’s mental wellbeing. For the people we support in our Covid Private Renters Project, this winter is going to be especially difficult. It is well known that there is a strong connection between levels of deprivation and mental health risks. And for the 80% of households in financial hardship that we support, everyday comforts that help many of us withstand the challenges of winter are not easy to come by.

On wellbeing

While virtually all services like ours make it their aim to improve the wellbeing of our service users, wellbeing itself has become a word so widely used that its real meaning can at times get lost. Services, funders and commissioning bodies across the sector have integrated wellbeing into outcomes and impact targets, understanding the value of improving wellbeing for people in the lowest socioeconomic groups. But despite the widespread use of the term and frameworks, we at Kineara still like to reflect on some questions.

So, what is wellbeing really? Is it the same for everyone? And is it something that is available to us all equally?

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing describes it like this:

“Wellbeing encompasses the environmental factors that affect us, and the experiences we have throughout our lives. These can fall into traditional policy areas of economy, health, education and so on. But wellbeing also crucially recognises the aspects of our lives that we determine ourselves: through our own capabilities as individuals; how we feel about ourselves; the quality of the relationships that we have with other people; and our sense of purpose.”

So an important element in wellbeing includes our self-determination, our ability and capacity to make choices for ourselves and a sense of purpose in our daily lives.

The families and individuals we support are often limited in the choices they can make for themselves. Most face multiple layers of deprivation which create barriers to stability that are socially determined – a good example is the benefit cap which pushes families with children into poverty by limiting the amount of benefits they can receive. As a result, choosing between heating your home or getting new clothes for the children simply isn’t a real choice. For some families, heating isn’t even an option. Instead, getting hold of a few hot water bottles is the best choice to manage the coming winter so they can keep up with other bills. This is why we are raising money this year to help our families get trough the winter with some comfort.

“Working with Kineara has been life changing. I now have options I never thought I would have.”


Why work on wellbeing?

National statistics from before the pandemic showed that in the UK, just 14% of people have high wellbeing while 70% rate their wellbeing as average. Since the pandemic began, a number of reports show that mental health and wellbeing have deteriorated significantly. This is especially true for communities with higher deprivation and in children and young people. The truth is, however, the downward trend in national wellbeing scores has been a reality for some time.

There are other important national trends that have impacted communities during this period. Changes to benefits that have amounted to serious financial cutbacks for low-income families, increases in rental and house prices with a simultaneous decrease in available homes for social rent, huge cuts to essential services at the local level, from hospitals and GPs to our local youth clubs and employment, disability, social care and mental health services.

In this context, it may seem counterproductive to keep a focus on wellbeing – how much difference can we make when low-income communities across London like the ones we work with are facing such significant practical barriers to financial stability?

The answer is, a lot!

“The support you gave me was amazing. If not for you I’d be living on the streets. I’m now in a new place of my own. You were there when I had no-one else and I’ll always be grateful for you and all the help you gave me.”

The process of facing and overcoming barriers does not happen overnight, but often, a few key changes can make a huge difference to how our service users feel about themselves and the situation they are facing. For some, it is about unlocking grants and financial support to boost incomes and start getting on top of debts and bills. For others it is about getting items of furniture, like separate beds for the children or curtains on the wall, so that even a temporary flat can feel like a home they can rest and feel safe in.

The practical changes we can support people to make often give them a fresh perspective on what they are capable of. And our emotional support encourages them to keep in mind what is possible, and to always reach out when they need help.
“If I needed someone to talk to, she was there. When I needed money for food or for the bus, she helped me secure a grant or provided a bit of money for my Oyster card. I know that any issue, big or small, is as important to Kineara as the next one. And this is something that I really appreciated. I don’t know what I would have done without her. You guys saves lives, you really do.”

To help us support more families over the winter, please donate to our winter appeal. All donations will go directly to families for essential items they need over the winter period.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Impact
Donate to our Winter Appeal

Donate to our Winter Appeal

80% of the households we support are living with financial hardship.

Some people cannot afford their heating and electric bills or Council Tax and find themselves in debt and arrears. Others, over a third of households, have used emergency food vouchers and local food banks in the last year, many of them families with young children.

And over 60% of people we support say Covid effected their ability to pay the rent.

But everyone we meet is facing impossible choices this winter as the cold starts to bite. To help tide families over the hardest months, even a small donation can make a huge difference.

Please donate today so that no-one we support has go without essentials this winter. Donate today!

 

What your support can help us achieve:

Names and images have been changed for privacy purposes.

Last winter Olivia was evicted from a flat with serious disrepair that was cold, damp and unsafe. When we met her she was in temporary accommodation and in dispute with her landlord over unpaid rent. We supported the challenge against her landlord, applied for hardship grants and secured her a new home to live in.

When I first met you, I was cold and upset. Now I feel things are much better, more affordable…and I am not worried about being cold this winter.”

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Latest
Covid renters support project ends a successful first year

Covid renters support project ends a successful first year

The Covid Private Renters Project aims to tackle rising housing insecurity and evictions of renters in the private sector. Using wraparound, holistic support that has been the hallmark of Kineara’s services, the project aimed to provide advice and support to low-income renters facing a threat of eviction. It is modelled on Kineara’s intensive Rent Support Programme which had been delivered with successful outcomes to social sector tenants between 2012 and 2016.

Read the report here. 

When the Covid 19 pandemic began in early 2020, we wanted to respond to the possible impact of both the pandemic and the restrictions on those already most economically and socially vulnerable. We also became concerned, as did many across the housing sector, that the Government’s moratorium on evictions, announced in March 2020,would end in September that year with a flood of possession notices for renters whose incomes had been affected by the pandemic or who otherwise had been unable to keep up with rent.

This evaluation is an opportunity to share progress, outcomes and learnings so far, along with case studies and future plans for the project. With thanks to our partners, Southwark Law Centre, Southwark Council’s Private Rented Sector Team and Impact on Urban Health.

Posted by kineara in Health and Wellbeing, Housing
Back to school: Supporting pupil wellbeing online

Back to school: Supporting pupil wellbeing online

Almost two years in, you’ve seen how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted your school, pupils, and families. In addition to delivering education support such as pupil counselling,  Kineara is undertaking a research project in collaboration with TeacherTapp to identify and explore the needs and challenges facing schools during these uncertain times. The first data set comes from 6,435 schools indicating what type of support they would benefit from in an online/digital format. Below is a snapshot of the results.  

Key findings:  

  • Pupil counselling was the most popular form of digital/online support. In particular, this was the top response for teachers working in secondary schools.
  • Results from both primary and secondary schools reinforced the importance of whole family support and early intervention. Additionally, drop-in support, family sessions, and family therapy were top responses from primary schools.
  • As expected, there was generally a higher level of support needs identified by schools working in deprived areas compared to their more affluent counterparts. Drop-in support for parents, family sessions, and family therapy were the most popular responses among Q4 (deprived) schools. Notably, however, private secondaries also indicated a high level of need for pupil counselling. This shows that despite the socioeconomic advantage afforded to  pupils from more affluent areas, there remains a need to address mental health and wellbeing among all children and young people.
  • Family sessions and family therapy was the most requested from state primaries (61%), while parents drop-in support was the strongest need among private primaries. Additionally, pupil counselling was the most popular answer among both private secondaries (48%) and state secondaries (59%).

Free resource (limited time only!):   

We are really happy to be sharing our free PDF resource containing proven activities to support mental health and wellbeing for primary and secondary school pupils alike. It comes with full instructions, key benefits, and our top tips on adapting our resource to different contexts. We hope you find it helpful!  

Download your free resource here

To find out more about our education support in schools or if you have any questions about the above, book a friendly chat with us today. Contact us at: info@kineara.co.uk or call 020 3976 1450.  

Posted by kineara in Education
Practitioner Insights: Five ways to ease loneliness and disconnection

Practitioner Insights: Five ways to ease loneliness and disconnection

What is the difference between feeling lonely and being alone? When you feel alone – even around other people – you may be feeling disconnected. Perhaps your needs are not being met, you are not connecting with people on a meaningful level, or you are going through hidden challenges or experiences nobody else knows about. This Loneliness Awareness Week, we share insights on the value of actively listening and connecting to ease loneliness. You can use these tips to ease loneliness and disconnection in yourself and others. As an organisation that provides valuable support, you may also find these insights helpful.  

1. Actively listening:  

When going through challenges you may feel like your voice isn’t being heard, which can fuel feelings of loneliness, resentment, stress, anger and tension. Making an effort to listen to others – not just listening to give a reply but really actively listening – can be a great starting point for easing these feelings and building a meaningful connection. Sometimes we want to fix everything and give solutions and advice, but for some people real active listening and feeding back what they have said can be even more powerful. 

Action: Make an effort to listen –not just listening to give a reply but really actively listening. 

2. Meaningfully connecting  

When you feel alone even around other people, you may be feeling disconnected. Try connecting with yourself first and foremost to better understand: Why do you feel like this? Do you crave more meaningful relationships? What is your definition of friendship? Are you working through a challenge or trauma in your life? Recognising your feelings may help you decide what you need to do to feel better. If you believe someone close to you may be feeling like this, try strengthening your own relationship with them by setting meaningful time to just talk and be together with no judgement or expectations.  

Action: Try connecting with yourself to better understand why you are feeling this way. Set meaningful time with yourself and others to strengthen your relationships.  

3. Authentically expressing 

It can be difficult to connect with others when you have your guard up or dismiss your own authentic self. This, coupled with societal factors and expectations, can contribute to feelings of disconnection with others and/or in group settings. Try seeking outlets to express yourself such as connecting with close friends and family and/or doing activities that bring you joy. Expressing yourself authentically in a way that you are comfortable with is valuable for your own mental health and wellbeing. Taking some time out to recharge your social meter is important too.  

Action: Try seeking different ways and outlets to express yourself like connecting with close friends and family and doing activities that bring you joy. Take time out to recharge your batteries too.  

4. Sincerely asking  

Asking questions to yourself and others can help to generate better solutions to problems and uncover different challenges. It can also help you remain open, non-judgemental and sincere in supporting yourself and others. “I care about you. Is there anything I can do to help you work through this?” “May I help you find someone who can support you?” “How would you like things to be different?” Remember to check in regularly with yourself too.  

Action: Ask open-ended, non-judgmental and sincere questions to generate better solutions to problems and uncover different challenges. Check in regularly with yourself too. 

5. Holistically supporting  

When you’re talking to someone, it helps to see that person as a system – in that system is a person, their needs, background, parentage, education, culture, faith etc. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame. At Kineara, our support is holistic and tailored to the needs of the individual and family. This means we look at the bigger picture, addressing different challenges they may be facing in life, including issues with rent or housing insecurity, emotional wellbeing, or household needs and relationship. Although holistic working is a specialism, it helps to recognise this approach, be aware of those other issues, and bring in specialist support as needed. 

Action: Connect with support services that add value and find out more about holistic support. 

Helpful links  

Marmalade Trust – A charity dedicated to recognising loneliness, helping people make new friendships and connections, and hosting Loneliness Awareness Week.  

Apply For Help – WaveLength – Wavelength has really helped our clients who have been isolated and many have lost everything through homelessness. To be able to listen to music or watch a television has really helped their mental health. 

Digital Inclusion Project – Many of us were fortunate enough to get through lockdown with a phone, computer and the internet. But there were many who couldn’t FaceTime or Zoom their friends and family, they had little or no contact with others. Our digital inclusion courses help people gain confidence so that they become digitally independent and connected to the services and networks they need. 

 

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing
A focus group: Life and debt in temporary accommodation

A focus group: Life and debt in temporary accommodation

We hear from people we’ve supported on their experiences of temporary accommodation and what councils and support services can do better.

There are currently over 250,000 people living in temporary accommodation across the UK, a figure which jumped by 6000 in the first three months of the Covid crisis. With a chronic lack of social housing and unaffordable rental prices in the private market, too many people are trapped in temporary accommodation without the means to move on. 

But what is the real experience of living in temporary accommodation? Last month, we were approached by Oak Foundation and Trust for London to take part in research about the lives of people living in temporary accommodation and the kinds of support and advocacy available to them.  

We hosted a focus group with 6 people we’ve supported over the last year in our housing projects, to hear about the challenges they have faced and their view on what could help them and others who are living in temporary accommodation. 

And before the conversation could start, one of the common problems that we’ve supported families with cropped up: could everyone get online for the Zoom call? For Gary, the only way was to go over to a friends house and get Wifi access from there because he’d been unable to top up electricity that week. But it was important to him to join us and share his experience: “I was homeless, the Refugee Council connected me with Council support, they gave me a hotel room but I never saw the case worker, it was all over the phone. I saw a place that was all one room, I signed the contract.” 

In Gary’s case, an error meant the benefit cap wasn’t taken into consideration when he signed the agreement. Unable to work and with little to live on after the rent is paid, day to day life is a struggle. “Now I’m living on £200 for a month. I didn’t know how I’m going to live, I can’t top up electric, it is very complicated for me and very traumatizing.” 

When you’re suffering from mental health, its difficult – its like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together in the dark.

Our other participants could relate to the stress caused by the mismatch in benefits and high rent prices, even in TA. When Ajay got his temporary accommodation, he set up a  direct debit to cover the utilities and believed his housing benefit would cover the rent. He explains, “I’m going about doing as I should, then 10 months after I was told I was going to be evicted because I hadn’t paid the rent and I’d got into all this debt. I didn’t even know. If it wasn’t for Kineara I don’t know what would happen.” 

For Rick, it took two years to get his housing benefit and was moved twice in that time. The housing he was moved to didn’t feel safe, and he wasn’t sleeping due to  the stress. It was also hard to get the right information at the right time from council services, saying “They often they tell you ‘I’ll get back to you, I have to check.’ Once I travelled in to the office only to be told to write in.”

Angel, who works part time and whose son is a full time student, had similar frustrations: “They told me ‘Don’t worry, housing benefit will cover it, just make an application’. The arrears kept going up and up. Its frustrating. They need to communicate better – its currently very poor.” Another added, “It seems that different Council offices have different systems to manage who is coming in, one team doesn’t speak to the other.” 

So what did the group think could be improved to better support people through and out of temporary accommodation? Many of them described feeling like they weren’t cared about, even feeling like a burden on society. “Then you fall through the cracks and enter world of desperation due to mental relapses, and then you become more of a burden.” 

They also wanted to see council services be considerate to the multiple barriers and hardships that they experience, because when they don’t, it feels like they’re being set up to fail. “And you need that when you’re suffering from mental health, because its difficult – its like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together in the dark.” 

For others, the most important thing was also the most simple – to have someone by their side, listening to what they were going through and advocating for them through crisis. “Big thanks for Carly, because I [felt] abandoned but Carly started fighting for my case. She’s been helping me get set up, like with Council Tax which I didn’t know about.”  

As we wrapped up our conversation, it was clear that the opportunity to meet and share stories had been important to everyone. “So much of  my experience has been reflected today… its been useful because you feel alone.”

This focus group was hosted on behalf of Oak Foundation and Trust for London’s ongoing research project exploring advocacy and support in temporary accommodation. To find out more about the project, contact leila@leilabaker.net and ugo@trustforlondon.org.uk.

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Research
Practitioner Insights: Reflecting on the ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ training by Homeless Link

Practitioner Insights: Reflecting on the ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ training by Homeless Link

Being a listening ear for people is a privileged position but it can also be exhausting and can even lead to vicarious trauma. Our practitioner James shares his reflections about the impact of vicarious trauma, the importance of resilience, and other “difficult to hear” realities. Whether you support people with multi-complex needs and/or want to develop strategies to prioritise your own wellbeing, here are some important learnings for you to build upon your own.

This article was originally published on the Homeless Link website.

The impact of vicarious trauma

I recently attended a highly enjoyable training course organised by Homeless Link. ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ focused on self-care and best practice within support services. The aim was to ensure that the right steps and actions are taken to ensure that as practitioners, we are looking after ourselves and our own wellbeing, as well as others.

Being somewhat new to support work, the course challenged many of my beliefs and practices I had picked up from other customer facing roles. Judging by the comments made by fellow attendees, I was not alone. Much of the training focused on wanting to do as much as possible for our clients and having all the answers to their needs.

“Understandably, emotions can run high in this line of work and become draining. However, it is how we deal with it that will ultimately result in how we do or do not cope, and the ability to make the next appointment or call.”

Being a listening ear for people is a privileged position to be in, but it can also be exhausting and can even lead to vicarious trauma. This can affect your ability to continue to work and how you treat others in and out of work. Ultimately, we are human beings with our own relationships and connections that must be maintained. The conflicting emotions and heightened challenges associated with the pandemic on top of an intense workload, can result in shutting-off people who are an important source of support. Having suffered with elements of yet another lockdown this was a much-needed wakeup call. I will be the first to admit my lockdown self-care protocols have been far from perfect this time around. Following the training I began taking walks every morning and some evenings (depending on the weather).

The importance of resilience

Another key learning was the importance of resilience: the ability to ‘bounce-back.’ I learnt that this was a contentious topic given that it was initially seen as a ‘bad term’ which suggests a lack of processing regarding what may have occurred and dealing with the subsequent stress. However, once unpicked it was clear that the terminology was not the issue, rather how ‘bouncing-back’ can instead result in poor self-care as mentioned above. For me, bouncing back was a completely normal phrase, but not one I have ever used. Coming from previous people-facing roles, I am comfortable analysing what may have gone right or wrong and how to improve upon this the next time. Understandably, emotions can run high in this line of work and become draining. However, it is how we deal with it that will ultimately result in how we do or do not cope, and the ability to make the next appointment or call.

To move on, we must first understand what has happened, what was said, how the client is feeling and what we can do to assist. It’s important to understand that clients are not always blaming you, rather venting their frustrations is essential in staying present and building that resilience. The course convenor stressed the importance of processing the emotions and responses in understanding how to move forward and provide areas to be improved upon next time.

“To move on, we must first understand what has happened, what was said, how the client is feeling and what we can do to assist. It’s important to understand that clients are not always blaming you, rather venting their frustrations is essential in staying present and building that resilience.”

A coffee break has become my chosen habit in taking a moment to slow down, take stock what has occurred so far and prioritise what needs completing before the end of the day. At the end of the day, I move all signs of work out of sight and abstain from technology, sitting with a book until dinnertime.

Supporting emotional wellbeing and complex needs

Sometimes it can feel difficult knowing that clients who are struggling emotionally are often leaning heavily on you. As mentioned earlier, the practitioner-client relationship is vital and also rewarding but the caveat is that it can often be emotionally draining. Working with individuals that have mental health diagnoses, or undiagnosed conditions, moving houses and financially unstable can be difficult. Many of these clients have lived experiences that are beyond that of our own and so it can feel that providing an outlet is the best we can do. As someone who prides themselves on their ability to strengthen and build connections with others, this was a particularly challenging topic. However, as the convenor of the day said, all of our clients have already gotten through their worst days. We can only do so much to help our clients and sometimes we must weigh up how much we can do and the emotional toll it can take on us. It is an understandable point, but one that I continue to think over. Knowing a client is facing tough times, I have definitely picked up the phone, knowing there is a little I can offer, simply providing them an opportunity to offload.

“Looking after ourselves and responding to our own needs is vital in these trying times. As counterintuitive or difficult that may seem, ensuring we are looking after our own needs first will result in our best practice as we contend with the new normal”

A key learning for me was: By looking after ourselves and responding to our own needs as a priority is vital in these trying times. As counterintuitive or difficult that may seem, ensuring we are looking after our own needs first will result in our best practice as we contend with the ‘new normal’. Whether you work in people-facing roles and/or want to develop strategies to prioritise your own wellbeing, I would certainly recommend you attend the ‘Stress, Vicarious Trauma and Managing Wellbeing’ workshop by Homeless Link.

We’re grateful to be part of the Homeless Link network which offers us training and opportunities to connect with others in the sector. Visit Homeless Link for more training opportunities.

Kineara is an award-winning community interest company that supports people facing challenging times in housing, education and employment. You can find out more about their tailormade support services or contact info@kineara.co.uk

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing
Practitioner Insights: Stress Awareness Month

Practitioner Insights: Stress Awareness Month

To support others effectively you must take action each day for your own physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. We started #StressAwarenessMonth with our Wellbeing Team Meeting, sharing small and meaningful things that we can do everyday to help us during this uncertain time. We decided our word of the month is PEACE – see our thoughts below.

Last updated 12.04.21

Team Wellbeing Meeting - April 2021

Useful links

  • Download our infographic for top tips on managing your health and wellbeing.
  • Read our last Practitioner Insights blog on how complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing, and how to work through this.
  • Read our case studies for practical insights on supporting children, individuals and families who are stressed.
Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Impact