kineara

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
Practitioner Insights: Teaching your pupils during the pandemic 

Practitioner Insights: Teaching your pupils during the pandemic 

Over the last year, you’ve seen how challenging teaching during the pandemic has been. Kineara’s holistic approaches to school and home life can provide you with some helpful tips and tricks to support your pupils’ learning and wellbeing, as well as your own. Use these learnings to build upon your own, deepen your empathy and recognise the hidden challenges that your pupils and families may be facing during the pandemic. You can also visit our education page to read more about how holistic support works in practice, and how we can support you 

 

Emotional health and resilience 

Many pupils and families have been struggling with their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. They may also be feeling stressed, fearful, and anxious about the upcoming changes, including the reopening of schools.  

Studies have shown the negative mental and physical health effects of increased screen-time, so it’s natural to see a dip in pupil motivation and energy levels during online classes. For some families, this is coupled with practical challenges like the lack of space (or workspace), financial hardship, or personal struggles with maintaining a daily routine. All these challenges in the home can make it even harder for pupils to focus. As for returning to school, psychologists have warned that the current “catch-up narrative” is also putting huge pressure on pupils. Recognising these pressures will help you to prioritise pupil wellbeing, which will positively impact on your pupils’ learning.  

While we equip parents with effective tools and strategies to support their children’s wellbeingwe encourage you to prioritise this, and your own wellbeing too. As a teacher or school staff, you know that you play a crucial role in the academic progress and attainment of your pupils. Focusing on your own wellbeing will not only help you thrive in your role, but it will positively impact on your pupils. Here are some top tips to get you started: 

  • Genuinely check in with your pupils and let them know that you and the school are here to support them.  
  • Give your pupils the opportunity to communicate and ask you for things. 
  • Create a positive classroom culture which includes mutual respect, kindness and sharing. 
  • Introduce team building exercises and different activities like the “emotions meter” or “emoji game”, if you haven’t already.  
  • Maintain and build positive relationships with your pupils and families.  
  • Focus on your wellbeing (Remember that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’) 
  • Get extra support for yourself or your pupils if needed (See ‘further support’ below) 

Challenges for ‘vulnerable’ families  

Families living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, and going through other personal challenges have borne the brunt of the lockdown. Some families have felt particularly isolated and fearful, and/or have fallen behind on rent due to rising living costs and income hits. To this, both benefit cuts and the end of furlough are set for spring, along with unemployment levels predicted to rise, all of which may drive up rent arrears even further.  

As you want pupils to engage and benefit from your lessons, it’s important that  these families get the necessary support. Otherwise, you may see a fall in your pupils’ learning and attainment, emotional wellbeing, and even their relationships with others. Families who took part in our M2E programme have told us that their children have now started to engage more in school and in the home, developed emotional awareness, and improved their grades. While organisations like Kineara work to uncover these hidden challenges through tailored, holistic support, here are some top tips you can try:  

  • Teachers are natural problem solvers – teach and model this to your pupils to help them develop problem solving skills, which is key to building resilience during adversity.  
  • Be compassionate and lenient, but also hold your pupils to high expectationsYou could, for example, not penalise pupils on deadlines, but also give constructive feedback and hold students to account 
  • Encourage your pupils to set goals and coach them to achieve these goals. Whether they achieve them or not, it will help them boost their confidence, self-esteem, and motivation in school.  
  • Recognise that often pupils are dealing with things we know nothing about, which may affect their time in school. Help your pupils relax by introducing breathing exercises or other mindfulness activities if possible. You can read how his has helped our M2E pupils here.  

Working together 

This pandemic has highlighted the resilience and passionate resolve of our teachers and school staff. As our CEO, Maria Morgan, said, “We recognise that teachers give a lot – their work doesn’t just stop at school, it’s at home, and it’s not just teaching children – they’re social workers, doctors, parents, they’re everything!” While we like to believe that teachers are superheroes (which you are), we know that superheroes need support too. Here are some key learnings from other teachers:  

  • Don’t try to do it all. Acknowledge when you need support. And if so, get support and advice from other teachers and/or someone you trust. 
  • Connect and socialise with other teachers, friends, and family. This will help you maintain and strengthen positive relationships, emotional wellbeing and even job satisfaction. 
  • Strive to maintain work-life balance. Not only will this help you become a better teacher, but it will also help you take care of yourself mentally and physically.  
  • Be flexible at home and at school. Planning is important, but you need to be able to quickly adapt plans when new situations and challenges arise.  The changes brought about by the pandemic is a key example of this 

Further support 

As a school or teacher, you are already dealing with heavy workloads and ongoing pressures, so it’s important to seek out support you need itKineara is well equipped to support you to work through multi-complex or hidden challenges your pupils are facing, as outlined above. Our intensive support for pupils and embedded wraparound support for schools are part of our holistic service that aims to improve wellbeing at school. All this is delivered by experienced practitioners and is tailored to meet the needs of your school.  

With the rising demand for pastoral care and specialised support post-lockdown, contact us today to find out how we can help. We’d love to support you. 

Posted by kineara in Education
Covid-19 and Education: A list of helpful links and resources for parents, families, and education staff

Covid-19 and Education: A list of helpful links and resources for parents, families, and education staff

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed schooling and the world of education as we know it. Given the challenges for families and education staff alike, we’ve put together a list of links and resources where you can find up-to-date information and support. In particular, these links cover:

  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Home-schooling/ learning
  • Learning support resources and activities
  • Supporting SEND children
  • Accessing low-cost, affordable computers and IT equipment
  • Support for challenges that may be affecting your child’s or pupils’ education 

If you are aware of any links, webpages or resources that you think would be useful for this page, please do contact us. You can also visit our education page to find out more about our work in schools. 

Last updated 20.01.21 

Support for parents, carers and families 

The NSPC provides tips and resources for parents whilst self-isolating including online safety tips, supporting SEND pupils, and dealing with conflict and family tensions.  

Laptops for Kids is a charity that facilitates the donation, secure erasure and distribution of used digital devices, enabling children from disadvantaged backgrounds to have access to the technology they need to participate in remote learning.

On supporting autistic children and young people, Kineara has put together these helpful tips  and an infographic here. You can also visit Bloomsfield Trust for information on accessing computers for children with autism.

Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has produced a webpage for supporting adults and children with learning disabilities or autistic adults and children, including government guidance and downloadable guides.

Young Minds has a regularly updated webpage for tips, advice and where to get support for your child’s mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes top 10 tips from its Parents Helpline experts for talking to your child about Covid-19. 

Barnardo’s online service called See, Hear, Respond includes practical advice about how to talk to your children about the pandemic to tips on managing anxiety and much more.

Family Lives offers a range of local and national services, as well as these helpful tips and advice for coping emotionally and practically, including tips for home learning, managing anxiety and supporting SEND children. 

Brighter Futures for Children has put together this webpage of the various support available for parents and carers, as well some helpful resources.

Kineara has put together these top tips for parents and families based on the work of its education practitioners. 

A resource on parenting during Covid-19 produced by The Parenting for Lifelong Health project is available in over 50 languages. 

Helpfulresources and downloadsfor parents and families by Family Links. 

Support for teachers and school staff 

Access the latest documents from the Department for Education (DfE), as well as The Schools and Colleges handbook for England, which is updated regularly. Schools, trusts and local authorities can also help disadvantaged children get online using free mobile data increases or 4G wireless routers provided by the DfE. 

On accessing low-cost, affordable IT equipment for pupils, The Raspberry Pi Foundation sell £35 laptops and have given thousands to families. Computer Aid also provides computers and IT equipment to schools. Schools can find further links to be able to apply for computers here.

Pearson’s webpage provides useful tools and resources for supporting schools with the ongoing impact of Covid-19, including remote teaching and learning support.

The Mental Health Foundation has put togetherguidance for schools coping with Covid-19 and disruption to learning. The guidance covers challenges facing pupils and families, and how to support your own mental health as a teacher.  

Place2Be has put together free resources to help children explore what it means to Express Yourself this Children’s Mental Health Week and beyond. These activities can be adapted for use in school, home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning.

Education Support, which recently published its annual Teacher Wellbeing Index, has produced mental health resources for teachers, lecturers and support staff dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.They focus on  supporting education staff and topics which have been highlighted as especially difficult.You can view all the short video guides here. 

Kineara has put together this checklist for schools, teachers and education staff to help them work through various challengesfrom safeguarding, child protection and wellbeing concerns, as well as how to identify and respond to these. 

The RSC offers a wide range of resources for remote teaching on theireducation website and have set up a page dedicated toremote teaching. 

EEF has launched arange of resourcesto support schools to address the impact of Covid-19 school closures on pupils learning and support home learning. 

Support, guidance and activity suggestions for schools byMentally Healthy Schools 

This EEF blog outlines 5 key principles which underpin meaningful home learning, as well as 5 issues we are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Governors for Schools’ campaign Wellbeing Governors highlights the need for school boards to have a wellbeing link governor to support pupil and staff mental health and wellbeing. The charity has a number of resources including webinars, for governors to use to improve mental health and wellbeing provision at their school.

Given the current changes in schooling and education, Kineara has been adapting its education support for the pupils and families we work with. If you work in a school, please spare 5-10 minutes to complete our short survey about education support in your school, or simply share the link with your contacts. Alternatively, you can contact us directly at info@kineara.co.uk. We would love to hear from you.   

Posted by kineara in Education
Developing our education support post-Covid

Developing our education support post-Covid

We are developing an exciting addition to our education support which will include a package of online support and training for schools, to help school adapt their support services to the post-Covid world. To help us develop this, we want to know about your experience of educational support and online provision at your school.  

Our services for schools include our Motivate to Educate (M2E) programme which provides holistic one-to-one support over 15 weeks to primary and secondary pupils and their familiesas well as embedded wraparound support which aims to improve the wellbeing of everyone at school. You can read more about our services, work, and impact here. 

With eight years’ experience of delivering M2E in schools and seeing the difference that the presence of an independent, specialist support worker can make, we are now exploring ways to take and develop M2E online based on our in-house delivery. 

M2E Online: Given calls for Ofsted to assess the quality of online provision, as well as  the challenges of Covid-19 on schools, M2E online is designed to the individual schools’ bespoke need. For example, a school may want counselling, parent workshops, or other aspects of the traditional M2E service. 

Licensing: Enabling and training schools to deliver M2E in-house with Kineara’s support. 

Your Voice  

During this exploratory phase, we want to know about your experiences of educational support and online provision at your school. Your answers will enable us to better meet the needs and expectations at your school, as well as continue to develop meaningful support for schools, pupils, and families across the country. The survey will take just 5-10 minutes to complete.   

Take the short survey here 

 

Posted by kineara in Education, Research
New Covid eviction prevention project for Southwark residents gets underway

New Covid eviction prevention project for Southwark residents gets underway

PRESS RELEASE
November 2020

Our new programme will provide essential intensive support to renters in the private sector who are threatened with eviction

We’re excited to announce a new Covid Private Renters Project for tenants in Southwark, delivering our intensive 10-week intervention with residents with complex needs to address arrears, financial hardship, health and wellbeing concerns that have led to an insecure tenancy.

We’ve developed a unique intervention for tenants and landlords that combines intensive practical and wellbeing support, legal advice, and mediation. It is designed to meet a pressing current need in which legal uncertainties around eviction, increasing arrears and financial hardship, and insecure employment could potentially lead to a rise in homelessness across the UK. The project aims to prevent that by strengthening landlord-tenant communication and supporting mediation, as well as specialist legal support provided our partners, Southwark Law Centre.

The programme will be delivered in partnership with Southwark Council and Southwark Law Centre with funding from Guys’ and St Thomas’ Charity. As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, housing is a key driver of health, and secure, safe housing is foundational to our health outcomes. We’re excited to be collaborating with these partners to support the health and wellbeing of residents in the Southwark by addressing housing as a social determinant of health.

Councillor Helen Dennis, cabinet member for social support and homelessness, said: “Tackling homelessness has always been best approached as prevention rather than cure. So we’re delighted to be able to support those in the private sector who are vulnerable to becoming homeless due to eviction. Alongside Kineara and Southwark Law Centre, we hope to use a collaborative approach to help people remain in a safe and secure home with their families, especially during such difficult and economically uncertain times.”

The project comes at a critical time for renters in the private sector, as the Government’s eviction moratorium came to an end on 20th September. Shelter estimates that over 300,000 renters have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started, with perhaps many more in danger of being made homeless once the furlough scheme ends and unemployment rises.

Kieron Boyle, CEO at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity says: “We know that the economic impact of the pandemic disproportionately affects those who already shoulder the greatest burden of ill health. We’re delighted to be working with Kineara, Southwark Council and the Southwark Law Centre to protect the health of those at risk of eviction. Through a package of practical support we can help prevent insecure housing driving health inequalities. This will have impact locally as well as important lessons for national policy.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

About Kineara

Kineara is an award winning community interest company that offers holistic support services to families, individuals and young people going through challenges in housing, education and employment.

About Southwark Law Centre

Southwark Law Centre is a charity whose mission is the relief of poverty, suffering and distress through the provision of free, specialist and confidential legal advice.

About Guys’ St Thomas’ Charity

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is an independent urban health foundation. They work with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to improve health in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, and beyond.

For media enquiries contact Melanie Sirinathsingh on 07800545607 and msirinathsingh@kineara.co.uk, or visit our website www.kineara.co.uk

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest
COVID 19, housing and health

COVID 19, housing and health

At Kinearait is important to us to identify and support with housing concerns for any of the families or individuals we work with. As well as developing housing interventions that aim to prevent eviction, address financial hardship caused by housing costs, or settle into long term, stable accommodation, specialist support for housing is also offered to any household that may need it, even if they have come to us on an education or employment programme.  

The reason for this is we know that for a person’s wellbeing to improve in a sustainable way, their home must provide a solid foundation for them. And when a family is housing insecure, the support we provide is likely to have far less impact unless we work with them to address those housing challenges. 

And last 6 months have thrown the relationship between good quality, safe, stable housing and health into sharp relief.  

“For a person’s wellbeing to improve in a sustainable way, their home must provide a solid foundation for them.”

Covid-housing-healthWhile the reality about the impacts Covid-19 impact is still emerging, early reports have already demonstrated clear links between poor housing and Covid-19 deathsThe death rate for Covid-19 is England’s poorest boroughs, including Tower Hamlets where we deliver M2E in schools, is twice the rate than in the richest areas according to the latest information. And it is in those poorest areas that we tend to also find a higher rate of overcrowding, higher prevalence of HMOs’ and higher shortages of social housing, which have also shown to be correlated with Covid-19 deathsIn addition, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black African households are more likely to be living in overcrowded homes, which may explain in part why these groups are overrepresented in Covid 19 deaths.  

Moreover, there arbroader health impacts of poor and insecure housing being experienced in these communities that have long been present and have been made worse by closures, stay-at-home measures and financial hardship brought on by the crisis. 

How lockdown impacted temporary accommodation residents in Bexley 

In July, we surveyed 11 participants of Opening Doorsour project that supports temporary accommodation tenants with complex needs into long term secure housing, to find out about how the lockdowns had impacted their lives, health and wellbeing. 

Isolation and lack of social contact emerged as one of the most difficult things those surveyed faced during the lockdowns, with nearly two thirds saying their contact with friends, family and community networks decreased. Nearly half of those surveyed also reported that feelings of anxiety and depression increased, and that their mental health in general had been impacted by the pandemic. Those same respondents also reported difficulty accessing their statutory or community-based support services. In addition, 4 respondents had difficulty accessing medication and 1 reported having suicidal thoughts.  

“Isolation and lack of social contact emerged as one of the most difficult things those surveyed faced during the lockdowns.”

Just under half (41%) of those surveyed reported that their finances had worsened because of the crisis, with a third saying they were behind on rent since lockdown began and a quarter behind on other bills too5 respondents also had trouble accessing food, either because local shops had closed, money was tight, or because friends or family who usually support them with these errands were unable to do so.  

What had been most helpful for those surveyed was the weekly calls and check in’s by their support practitioner, SandraHaving a listening ear and compassionate connection has been vital for those who have been isolated, helping to reduce anxiety. For some, the closures have meant that their move out of TA has been delayed, but all of those surveyed said they were happy with Kineara’s communication about the programme and said that Kineara’s presence had been useful during this time. In the meantime Sandra’s support getting in touch with local services when needed, finding information online, support paying bills and rent was also important to those surveyed.  

How does housing impact health? 

It seems obvious, but housing stress can have a major impact on our physical and mental healthIn our work, we see how drug and alcohol recovery, anxiety and depression, and long term chronic conditions can all be worsened by unsuitable or insecure housing. 

We recently met Beverly*, a young woman living in temporary accommodation and just about to start her A-Levels. She told us she has moved every one or two months in the last year – even during lockdown – struggling to feel safe in shared accommodation after an earlier experience of sexual abuse. She mentioned that she had an anxiety disorder and had support from mental health services, but that finding housing that meant she could feel safe and focus on her studies was the most important thing for her.  

 “In our work, we see how drug and alcohol recovery, anxiety and depression, and long term chronic conditions can all be worsened by unsuitable or insecure housing”

As Beverly was referred to us via the Opening Doors programme, we told her that finding housing was also our priority, but that delays caused by Covid meant it would be around 6 months before a move to her own flat could happen. This was devastating for her – moving out of her current room was urgent and the news was extremely disappointing. The following week, her practitioner Sandra received a call from NHS crisis support: Beverly had called in extreme distressthe news that she wouldn’t be able to move before starting college was too much, and was, for her the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sandra and her crisis support worker are now working together to support her in the interim.  

Trevor*, also referred to our Opening Doors programme earlier in the year, was struggling to maintain his recovery from alcohol while living in temporary accommodation in an HMO. He had been diagnosed with depression and has epilepsyand at times has seizures brought on by stress and anxiety. He was eligible for social housing but had been on the list for some time. His shared accommodation meant that his pursuit of recovery and improved health was in jeopardy, as other residents were drinking and several times police were called to the property. For peace, mental focus, and to keep away from alcohol, Trevor found it easier to stay in his own room – but during lockdown the pressures of this isolation took a toll on his mental health.  

“Having a listening ear and compassionate connection has been vital for those who have been isolated, helping to reduce anxiety.”

Through listening ear work, welfare calls, and lots of encouragement, Sandra supported Trevor to keep bidding for flats, to keep paying off rent arrears that had built up, and prepare for a positive change to come. Having someone to share the burdens of his isolation was crucial and his determination paid off. Last week, he called to tell us he signed a tenancy for his own flat having been finally offered a social housing tenancy.  

 

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes. 

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing
Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for parents and carers

Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for parents and carers

The transition back to school will undoubtedly be challenging for pupils and their families – from difficult experiences at home to re-adjusting to their normal routines. Drawing on the experience of our Education lead practitioner Gail McNelly, this post explores practical tips for parents, carers, and families.

We know that families living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, and going through other challenging times have borne the brunt of the lockdown period. For many of the families we work with, the closure of schools, afterschool clubs and centres has been particularly tough, in addition to increased mental health and wellbeing concerns. Due to these challenges and more, it is important that parents and families are informed and feel supported during this transition.

Tips for parents, carers, and families

  1. Try your best to stay informed

As schools continue to review their safeguarding and child protection guidelines, it is also important that as parents you stay informed of policies as they change. Try your best to engage with the school by speaking to teachers and anyone else involved in your child’s learning about any concerns you may have. You can also read more information for parents and carers about returning to school post-lockdown including the policies on wearing face coverings.

  1. Get talking

Our recent Motivate to Educate (M2E) survey found that 75% of parents felt that Covid-19 has impacted on the mental health and wellbeing of the family, including 50% indicating an impact on family communication.  It is therefore more important than ever to talk to your child about what is going on and how they are feeling about going back to school. This may include talking about going back to the normal school routine which is one they will have to re-adjust to. Here are some more practical tips and conversation starters you can start to implement by Young Minds.

  1. Explore different activities with your children

Connect with your child and their interests by doing activities together like cooking, decorating, exercising, family yoga, making art, playing board games, or going to the park. You could help them to explore their feelings and ways to manage them by reading our previous #PractitionerInsights post and utilising the Time for Us pack. There are also online resources to support home learning including these checklists from the Education Endowment Foundation.

  1. Re-introduce daily routines

One parent who took part in our M2E survey said the lockdown had affected their “routines, family time and having a bit oschoolwork.” Further to this, Gail found that the lockdown period saw many children turning to technology and gaming which, in some cases, had affected their daily routines including eating and sleeping patterns. As schools re-open, it is important to help your child return to their normal sleeping and eating routines, particularly during the first few weeks of school which they may be the most challenging. You could start by checking out this guide on improving sleep by the Mental Health Foundation.

  1. It is okay if you struggle

For those of you who have felt particularly isolated, concerned, or fearful during this lockdown period, returning to school will of course be challenging and daunting.  Things will take time to get used to – try to stay patient with yourself and your children. You could explore different coping strategies that work for you when you are feeling stressed out like connecting with nature, meeting friends and family and breathing techniques. How you look after your own wellbeing will impact on the wellbeing of your children.

We are developing an exciting addition to our education support which will include a package of online support and training for schools, to help school adapt their support services to the post-Covid world. If you work in a school or have links with people in education, we’d love your thoughts and feedback. Take our short survey here.

More helpful links

Relief and support during Covid-19: A list of links and resources by Kineara

Supporting autistic children during the coronavirus pandemic plus some helpful resources by Kineara

Practitioner Insights – Tips for schools and educators

Helpful resources and downloads for parents and families by Family Links

Find out more about our education services

Posted by kineara in Education
Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for schools and educators

Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for schools and educators

As schools reopen their doors in the coming weeks, the transition will of course be challenging for everyone involved. Drawing on the experience of our Education lead practitioner Gail McNelly, this post focuses on how we can begin to identify and respond to these heightened challenges, namely safeguarding, child protection and wellbeing concerns in order to support everyone at school.  

  1. Recognise the challenges facing pupils and their families

While generally experiences have been varied during the lockdown period, we’ve seen how families living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, and going through other challenges including mental health and wellbeing have borne the brunt of the lockdown. Some of these families have felt particularly isolated and fearful, while others have experienced loss and bereavement. Together with reviewing policies and procedures as things continue to change, it is vital that school staff are aware of the different challenges that families have faced in order to identify how best to safeguard and protect wellbeing at school. You could begin by engaging and regularly checking in with pupils and their families to find out about their concerns.

  1. Introduce creative check-ins and wellbeing activities

In our recent Motivate to Educate (M2E) survey, 75% of parents indicated that Covid-19 has impacted on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the familyincluding 50% indicating an impact on family communication. Thus, in addition to these wellbeing activity ideas for schools by Place2Be and Young Minds, Gail suggests that checking in with pupils through an “emotions meter” and “emoji game” could be very helpful for pupils and school staff alike – this is something that Kineara will be developing further. Talking to children about any concerns they may have, what they liked about lockdown, what they didn’t like about lockdown is important – and integrating this into a group activity could be even more effective. “Teachers could check-in with pupils by integrating it with the register,” suggests Gail.

  1. Connect with pupils in a way that resonates with them

Some pupils may be reluctant to share things or even follow guidelines during this time which can impact further on their safety and learning and those around them. If you are supporting a pupil 1:1, show that you are here for them. As you get to know your pupil, try to engage in a way that resonates with them. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – ask them how they are feeling about the pandemic and acknowledge this without minimising or dismissing their concerns. Try to have open conversations by doing different activities like reading or drawing together – this will help to break the ice and allow them to express themselves better.

  1. Adapting to digital teaching and learning

“Although different organisations including Kineara were running online check-ins and other virtual services, it hasn’t been easy. We were giving them tips and sending ideas for different family activities which some of them were doing. However, a lot of  parents were even scared to go out for a walk because of the virus so I did do some work around that,” explains Gail. One parent and survey respondent who took part in our M2E programme highlighted social distancing as a barrier, “We can’t do many activities outside like swimming, going to church, clubs and cinema due to social distancing.” This means that it may take some time for pupils to be back in school every day, particularly pupils with SEND, which could result in a combination of in-school and virtual teaching – the NSPCC has put together this helpful guide relating to this including how to undertake remote teaching safely.  In the coming months, this reality could also mean a wider review on adapting teaching and other services in the mid to long-term.

We are developing an exciting addition to our education support which will include a package of online support and training for schools, to help school adapt their support services to the post-Covid world. To help us develop this, we’d love your thoughts and feedback. Take our short survey here.

Helpful links and resources

NSPCC has put together this transitioning back to school resources pack

Young Minds has a range of resources for schools, teachers and support practitioners including tips to support pupils during Covid-19 and the transition back to school

EEF has launched a range of resources to support schools to address the impact of Covid-19 school closures on pupils’ learning and support home learning.

My Tutor has shared this interview with NHS Psychologist on what parents can do to prepare their kids to return to school 

Support, guidance and activity suggestions for schools by Mentally Healthy Schools

5 ways to help keep children learning during the COVID-19 pandemic by Unicef

Posted by kineara in Education