Housing

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 Alot of these referrals come with outbursts of aggression or tearfulness or being withdrawn and then when we go back, it always seems to be that the person isn’t confident; doesn’t have good self-esteem; doesn’t have good relationships at home;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
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
How holistic tenancy support for renters with complex needs is helping to transform lives

How holistic tenancy support for renters with complex needs is helping to transform lives

Working with the most vulnerable Southern Housing Group customers, Reframe is a holistic support programme for tenants at risk of losing their tenancy, particularly due to high rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. We provide essential support for tenants going through major challenges, from mental and physical health, drug and alcohol misuse, domestic abuse to financial hardship. 

Holistic tenancy sustainment, especially through early intervention, is an approach that we’ve been delivering and championing over many years. By working to uncover the root causes of insecure tenancies, and helping to develop relationships between tenants, housing officers, and local/social services, tenants we support can not only sustain their housing but are supported to face other major challenges that have also been affecting their housing, and their lives. We’re currently working with 15 SHG tenants with complex needs and will continue to take on referrals and assess these on a case-by-case basis.

Sonia, Kineara’s Reframe practitioner, said that our service is helping tenants develop more independence, re-engage with services, and start to take control of their own lives. She explained that a number of hard-to-reach clients are “now open to housing service support as they recognise that they need it.” One client, for example, whose home was hoarded, and mental and physical health had begun to deteriorate, “thanked me for being there for him, letting him realise his self- worth, and giving him the confidence to get up and start doing things.” Another client with alcohol addiction and suicidal thoughts has also received ongoing support and a listening ear –  a challenging case which would have worsened without the support.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate existing hardships and impact vulnerable tenants in acute ways, including a number of tenants we’re supporting being hospitalised with the virus, and others falling behind with rent. There is often not just one reason why rent arrears build up. Reframe’s tailored support, as well as understanding wider issues impacting tenants, is what makes the programme so transformational for the hardest-to-reach.

If you know of an SHG tenant that may benefit from this support, contact: referrals@kineara.co.uk For more information, contact: info@kineara.co.uk or 0203 976 1450

Posted by kineara in Housing
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
Supporting the recovery of our communities

Supporting the recovery of our communities

As the impacts of Covid-19 and the lockdowns on our communities are becoming clearer, the inequality in society has been laid bare.

For us and many other organisations working with ‘vulnerable’ people, the reality of life at the sharp end of that inequality has always been acutely challenging, particularly when barriers to secure housing, stable employment, positive mental and physical health, and meaningful connections to community combine.

As a result, many of the impacts we are seeing are not new to us, they are only exacerbated by the unequal effect of both the Covid-19 illness and the lockdowns that have been put in place to contain it.

Supporting your needs

Kineara has broad experience working with people with complex needs to address concerns over housing, mental health, family support, and employment. This support is both practical and emotional, and our practitioners use holistic approaches that can include anything from writing housing applications to counselling sessions.

We also provide consultation and supervision to housing associations and schools, so we can support your own frontline staff to identify and support those people that need more complex care.

We know that many organisations will be at low capacity right now, just when the demand for support is greatest. Whether you are a housing association, school or local authority, you will likely have seen the gaps in provision and the challenges that people in your communities face, as the lack of funding, availability of staff, and the severity of the impacts of Covid-19 on the vulnerable becomes clear.

We can support you to prevent people falling through those gaps.

But we want to hear from you – if you are a school, housing association or local authority, get in touch! There are many ways that we may be able to provide you the support your community needs as we begin to address the effects of the pandemic, including over-the-phone supervision and consultation, trainings, support interventions for vulnerable residents or communities, and more.

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Housing, Latest