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

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

We’ve put together a list of webpages and resources where people can find up-to-date information and support while the UK is tackling the Coronavirus crisis. In particular, these links are for those people who may be living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, housing insecurity, or mental health concerns. Follow the links below to find information on managing bills, dealing with landlords, and more.

We have also included resources for groups who may be at a higher risk of either illness or who are likely to become vulnerable during the lockdown period, which you can find below.

Last updated 04.04.20

Links to Government Covid-19 relief measures

The Government has issued a list of what it considered key workers at this time and therefore who has school eligibility at this time: Guidance for schools and education providers.

The Government’s full guidance for tenants, landlords, housing providers and local authorities can be found here. The current measures mean no-one (including private renters, social renters, property guardians, and people in TA) will face eviction for three months, and LHA rates have been increased to cover 30% of rent.

Turn2Us has a regularly updated webpage with guidance on all the new and existing benefits. This page also includes a benefits calculator and a list of grants available for people in financial hardship.

StepChange, the debt charity, also has advice about how to manage bills and debts during this time, with advice about what creditors and utility companies may do to help individuals unable to pay.

The government has promised that utility companies will not be allowed to disconnect credit meters at this time, and customers in financial distress will be supported by their energy company to look at options for reducing payments or debts.  This link also includes advice for people with pre-pay meters, and a list of utility company helplines.

Several mobile and internet providers including Vodaphone, EE and O2 have agreed to protect vulnerable customers by removing broadband data caps, providing support to those who cannot meet their bills, and offer affordable packages.

And here is information about how parents and carers can access supermarket vouchers for children eligible for free school meals.

Guidance and support for specific groups

BME groups

The Race Equality Foundation has guidance on how Covid-19 may impact black and minority ethnic people. While BME groups generally have a younger average age, risk factors like heart disease and diabetes are higher in African/Caribbean and South Asian groups. BME people are also more likely to be in key worker occupations and more likely to live in overcrowded conditions than white British people, and therefore potentially at higher risk of exposure to infection.

Victims of domestic abuse

Solace Women’s Aid, the Public interest Law Centre, and other specialist VAWG groups are concerned we will see a surge in violence in the home, as victims of abuse are unable to leave the home. They are calling for urgent action for domestic violence survivors during the lockdown, with a letter to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. They are also calling for refuges to receive ring fenced Coronavirus funding.

Solace are also offering four 1-hour webinars for FREE about how to support DV survivors at this time.

Renters

Measures to protect private renters were revised over the last week and may still change again, but for now Generation Rent has gathered the latest Government support packages that are available, and how to access them.

Shelter has regularly updated guidance for both renters and home owners about their rights and benefits during this time.

But there are calls for more to be done, and London Renters Union are calling for rent suspensions, in line with the mortgage holidays offered to homeowners. They also have drafted a template letter renters can use to negotiate rent holidays or decreases with their landlord.

Asylum seekers and refugees

The Home Office has pledged to stop evicting asylum seekers from government accommodation for a period of three months once their claim or appeal is decided. A decision will be made on Friday 3rd April about whether to suspend No Recourse to Public Funds policy.

Here is useful advice for supporting migrants and asylum seekers during the crisis, with additional helplines. And here is a petition calling for people being held in immigration detention to be released so they can have proper access to healthcare.

Children in temporary accommodation

The Lancet has written a short comment about how children in temporary accommodation are at high risk of exposure to Covid-19 and potential direct and indirect health impacts of isolating in overcrowded, shared or confined spaces.

Disabled people

Scope has lots of information for disabled people about support that is available at this time. And here is guidance for tackling isolation during a time of ‘physical distancing’ to keep us socially connected, from AbilityNet, a charity that aims to ensure IT is available to everyone regardless of ability, including older and disabled people.

Concerns have been raised by disabled rights organisations that emergency changes to the Care Act means that local authorities could suspend their duties and refuse people assessments and care.

People with mental illness

Rethink Mental Illness has put together questions and answers for people living with mental illness and those who care for them, including prescriptions and carer visits. The government also made emergency changes to the Mental Health Act last week, causing some concern that increased government powers will make it easier for people to be detained.

 

Local Covid-19 mutual aid groups

Bexley

Bexley Borough Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group (Facebook group)

Covid 19 – Mutual Aid Bexley Support & Inspiration (Facebook group)

Isolation Help Bexley

Hackney

Hackney Covid 19 Mutual Aid (Facebook group)

The Boiler House N16

Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Covid 19 Community Support (Facebook group)

Stepney Green mutual aid group (WhatsApp group)

Limehouse Aid (WhatsApp group)

Search for a mutual aid group in your area or for a friend in need: Covid Mutual Aid UK

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Employment, Housing, Latest
Kineara’s response to coronavirus closures

Kineara’s response to coronavirus closures

23 March 2020

 

Last week the UK Government made the decision to shut down schools as the country continues to address the coronavirus spread throughout the UK. This was in addition to several other Government measures to increase social distancing and offer some relief to people effected by the virus.

 

At this time, our priority concern is for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and the people we work with, many of whom are being particularly impacted by the virus and its broader consequences. For families who are already in precarious housing, on low incomes, living in overcrowded homes or with children with complex needs, the coming months will be particularly challenging.

 

We are thankful that at this time we are able to temporarily sustain our services, despite having to reduce the level of support we can offer. Whilst the schools are closed, and social distancing is being advised, we won’t be able to run sessions or make visits to our clients in the way we usually would.

 

But, we are doing what we can to overcome the disruption and continue to provide the best support we can over the phone, via calls and video chat. We have been speaking with our school and housing partners to make arrangements about how we can provide school-home services and housing support going forward. We also are connecting with local voluntary services so that we can make sure people have access to essential support through this time. We hope that, with enough planning, we can continue to support you in meaningful ways, including support for the impact of the coronavirus. We’ll continue to review our work as we go forward.

 

We are also preparing a list useful links of local services, mutual aid groups, and community support for our website in coming days, so that anyone who we have worked with now or in the past can find out what is on offer in their area.

 

The families and households we are currently working with will be, if they have not been already, contacted by their practitioner in the coming days to make ongoing arrangements.

 

We know that for many people this will be a stressful and worrying moment. At Kineara, we are always focused on how best to support people through challenging times – and for the next few weeks, we know many people in London and the UK will face many challenges. We will do the best we can to help you through it.

 

 

The Kineara Team

 

 

 

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Employment, Housing, Latest
International Women’s Day Special: Get to know us!

International Women’s Day Special: Get to know us!

On International Women’s Day, we sat down with the Kineara team to look at the progress on gender equality, some of the challenges facing young women today, and what this year’s #EachforEqual theme means to us. As a team of diverse women with different backgrounds, specialities and passions, we’re proud to turn our attention to #IWD2020, celebrate the achievements of women in our communities and around the world, while raising awareness of what still needs to be done!

What does the International Women’sDay slogan, #EachforEqual mean for you?  

Mel: To me, it’s about everyone doing their bit to achieve equality. It also reminds me that equality for women is about inclusivity, diversity, and an understanding that women do not have a singular identity. In addition to being gendered in society, we are also classed, racialised, divided by sexuality or immigration status – so #EachforEqual for me is also about social equity for all. 

Gail: For me it means being strong as an individual and supporting individuals to see their full potential, empowering inspiring and celebrating the differences we have, and the strength with have because of our differences. 

Sandra: I think for equality to be truly meaningful, everyone must be taking part and working towards the same goals. To me the issue it is not about women being victims in a society that is not inclusive in the same way that minorities struggle to have equality; instead it is about changing our mindset to fully take advantage of the opportunities that are there, as well as challenging social norms and the language that we are using. Women and men are not the same, but their traits and qualities should be valued equally.  

Liz: EachForEqual: to me this is a great reminder for each one of us doing what we can to enable equality and break the chain of inequality and oppression. As a woman, this could start with enabling equality by standing up for myself and speaking up in situations where equality is threatened. ALL inequality is interlinked, so if we each take steps to address inequality for ALL we will build a better world for ALL.  

Tam: For me, #EachForEqual is about collective action, diverse and reflective representation in all fields and spheres of life, and of course, social, economic and political equality and equity for all around the world. 

Tell us about your interests/passions and
 how this complements your work at Kineara?
 

Mel: I am Kineara’s communication lead, so I get the pleasure of sharing the work of our brilliant practitioners to the world. My role means I get to touch base with all the women in our organisation, who I am always inspired by. With a background in social justice initiatives, one thing that drives me is seeing leaders who don’t traditionally take up these roles, including women and black minority ethnic people, building capacity, power and their voice in the non-profit sector, and I am proud Kineara is an organisation that provides space for that.  

Sandra: I work as a support worker in housing on our project in Bexley. I am passionate about housing as a human right and not a commodity. Although the housing market is a global problem, working with individuals locally on a daily basis to improve their housing situation helps to improve their wellbeing and contribute to collective change.  

Liz: I support the system, monitoring and evaluation within Kineara. Most of my work currently centres around within our housing project. I am passionate about social equality and I’m therefore driven to advocating and supporting people in their time of need. This passion extends to the activities I partake in both in and outside of work. 

Tam: As Kineara’s communications officer I work closely with Mel, our comms lead, to scope and deliver internal and external communications for Kineara. This includes supporting strategic planning and research, copywriting, producing innovative content, writing blogs/articles and managing social media. My passions include working within and strengthening communities, exploring creative arts, social justice and women’s empowerment, so I feel there is a clear synergy with Kineara’s mission and core values!  

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing young girls and women today? 

Mel: Women face many different pressures and challenges today, but one thing that has been on my mind recently is the disproportionate (and discriminatory) impact that cuts to public services and benefits has had on women, and in particular minority women. Given women are more dependent on public services and benefits and are more likely to be employed in the public sector, the reductions in funding, jobs losses and welfare have increased financial insecurity for women in the UK.  

Liz: Women living in an intentionally built patriarchal society that systematically sees women as not equal to men, has led to many women feeling unsafe, lacking self-esteem and being oppressed. Ultimately this societal norm can affect the way families view women, as well as how women are treated and viewed within the school and work system. It is important to undo this societal learning through empowering and supporting one another to speaking openly about the issue’s people may face, even when this may involve hard and painful experiences for some, we are paving the way for a better more equal world for all.

Tam: Young girls and women face a variety of challenges from pressures of social media, mental health and wellbeing challenges, as well as socioeconomic challenges including a rise in poverty/homelessness, cuts to public services and unemployment levels. One challenge I’ve witnessed first-hand in my community of Ladbroke Grove is the socioeconomic divide – the entirely preventable Grenfell Tower tragedy is one example of this. That said, together we’re a strong and resilient community.

What advice would you give to young girls and women based on your own experience?

Mel: My advice to young women is to always stay true to who you are. Young women – all women, in fact – can feel pressure to be what society expects them to be, but don’t fall into that trap! You’ll just find that society will just move the goal posts if you try to fit in so make your own rules, find your voice and be proud of who you are.  

Liz: Be yourself, spread love and joy only, continue to speak up for equality for ALL, in your own unique way. Repeat this daily… it’s a butterfly effect and will spread. 

Tam: Make sure to surround yourself with those who benefit, value and uplift you in some way. Your life journey, experiences and strengths are unique to you, so don’t compare yourself to others. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out, there are people out there who can, and are willing to support! 

Last but not least, how can we contribute to improving situations for young girls and women in our communities?  

Mel: I think we each need to think about the judgements and biases that we’ve all learnt over time and challenge them from within. We each need to make the effort to educate ourselves on, and really listen to, the experiences, feelings, histories/herstories of women of all different background so we can support each other’s journey toward a more just society, for all women.  

Liz: My focus is to acknowledge women and improve their situations within communities. I will continue to listen to their stories, encourage and empowering others. I will remind myself daily to engage in simple yet impactful actions such as smiling more and taking time to share positivity. These elements I believe will be the foundation for me to aid in improving situations and creating safe communities/ world for ALL.  

Tam: I believe we all have a duty and responsibility to challenge negative stereotypes/perceptions and stand with those who are less privileged or deemed ‘vulnerable’ in some way. I suppose on an individual level, we can start with things like fostering relationships, having meaningful conversations and challenging the status-quo.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #EachForEqual and @Kineara

Find out more about our work or partner with us.

Posted by kineara in Community
Podcast: Kineara director Maria Morgan speaks about her work and vision for the future

Podcast: Kineara director Maria Morgan speaks about her work and vision for the future

Our director Maria Morgan sat down with the team at It Means Something Podcast to speak about a wide range of topics from her work as Director of Kineara, the importance of investing in people, to her vision for the world. 

The podcast brought by Nathan Ardaiz and Joao Fernandes invites “those who are creating meaning in the world such as makers, entrepreneurs and artists” to delve deeper into their journey and the meaning they’re making in their lives. Here, we summarise some of the topics covered in the podcast.  

Creating meaningful change 

Founded in 2012, Kineara set out to create and deliver tailor-made support services that inspire meaningful and lasting change in the lives of the people and communities we serve. Starting with our Rent Support Programme (RSP), which addresses and prevented evictions of vulnerable families in social housing, our offer has expanded to include mid-length tenancy sustainment programmes and educational wellbeing and support services 

Fast forward to 2020, we now several new projects and services in the works including our most recently designed intervention, Resettling, which supports people who have been homeless or in temporary accommodation move back into sustainable housing, and more important and exciting plans for the future.  

Asked how Kineara creates meaningful change, Maria says: “In terms of Kineara, we realise that we’re not going to do it on our own. We can’t do everything, but the best thing we can do is go into a situation, if the individual or family allows, and work with them to understand their barriers, their frustrations, their story. 

“It’s a privilege for someone to let you in their life no matter where they are in life. So, I always say don’t take it for granted that someone’s been referred to us that it’s just a given.” 

As we’re coming out, we start to work on: What support do you need that when we’ve left, we know you can go there? So, it’s important that we have that kind of step-down service after that real intense work. What we’re finding is there are not as many step-down services as we would like because of cuts and other reasons, so when we do find those services our job is develop those relationships between the person we’re working and those organisations.” 

Further to this, Maria explains the meaning of holistic support and how it relates to our work. “We are all part of a system; the family is a system. We all have different roles and different things we bring to the table, so if somebody or something in that system isn’t working, it’s going to impact how we operate. We either shift to accommodate that area that isn’t working well, or we look at what it is that isn’t making it work well because we need you to make the system work well, so it’s that systemic kind of thinking.” 

Describing Kineara to a five-year-old, Maria adds “it’s about “being a friend to someone when they are going through difficult times.” This means “someone you can talk to” and who “will go with you thought that journey.” 

Breaking the cycle of homelessness 

Whilst developing our direct support work, we’ve also been involved in delivering community cohesion projects and innovative participatory research on issues of housing services and improving pathways through temporary accommodation. Back in October 2017 AzuKo, Kineara and Poplar HARCA co-hosted a two-part workshop exploring the latter.  

Working alongside Nathan, we brought together 40 people, from over 20 organisations to rethink how we can improve the journey into and through temporary accommodation and illuminate the experience of those going through this journey, and facing challenges, trials and insecurity.  

It’s important we respect that we’re coming into people’s intimate lives, so they don’t feel you are being patronising.” 

We also undertook research with 14 households, revealing that experiences are dynamic, so services are never working with the same person throughout the lifespan of support, particularly those who are ‘vulnerable’. What’s more, we found that financial insecurity can result from a sudden and unexpected breakdown in paperwork/bureaucracy, physical and mental health, landlord relations and family structure among many others, so services should be aware of the link between money and a range of other factors.  

Speaking about finance (especially regarding finance decisions) of individuals and families we work with, Nathan says, “Some of the research we’ve done with families shows there’s something stigmatising around how people spend their money and what they think is the wrong and right way to do so.” To this end, Maria adds that generally, “It’s important we respect that we’re coming into people’s intimate lives, so they don’t feel you are being patronising.”  

Building on strengths 

Maria goes onto highlight the impact of strength-based support, “The first thing you must do is work with a person’s strength. Some people don’t even have a foundation to build on because they’ve been so crushed, so you’ve got to lay yourself down. Step on me, we’re going to be here, we’re going to support you through that. We’re going to be that strength-base.” 

Not only is this type of support useful for the people we work with, but it can be applied to supporting the wellbeing of our team/ practitioners themselves. “The people at Kineara, they’ve got the passion, the care, they are phenomenalKineara would not exist without them, but I have to understand their capacity, what they can do and where their stop isIt’s been an interesting journey; what’s important is we continue to try and look after ourselves at work and outside of work. 

“Maria has incredible insight into the process of working with teams and creating something, which is really brutal and difficult work. She brings such a beauty and lightness to the whole thing which is infectious. I always learn so much from Maria and I really appreciate her as a friend and collaborator,” adds Nathan. 

You can listen to the podcast here 

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Housing, Impact
New partnership supporting homeless people into long term housing gets started this month

New partnership supporting homeless people into long term housing gets started this month

Kineara is partnering with Cromwood Housing and Bexley Council to deliver a five year project supporting single people in temporary accommodation (TA) in the borough with private accommodation and additional holistic support to break the cycle of homelessness.

The ambitious project, called Opening Doors, aims to tackle the cycle of homelessness by providing flexible mid-to-long term support to access and sustain private accommodation, alongside the provision of private housing ready for people to move into.

Bexley has seen a significant rise in homelessness and TA across the borough in the last 5 years, with an expected 1,600 people living in TA in the borough by the end of 2019, putting increasing pressure on Council budgets. In addition, loss of private accommodation is now the single most cited reason for homelessness, reflecting trends across London and across the country.

Resettling

Kineara’s holistic and tailored programme, called Resettling, will provide wellbeing, therapeutic and practical support, including accessing work and training opportunities, exploring and addressing personal and social barriers, mentoring, support with managing tenancies and finances, and more.

This is the first project in which Kineara has the opportunity to support people on a journey from homelessness into sustained housing with an accommodation offer included, having developed and delivered eviction prevention and tenancy sustainment interventions with housing associations across east London for the last 7 years (find out more about RSP, RSP+ and Reframe).

Maria Morgan, director and founder of Kineara, said:

“Kineara is super excited that Bexley Council have welcomed us into the borough to service the residents of Bexley. We have been given a great opportunity alongside Cromwood Housing to support people living in temporary accommodation into secure housing. The programme is designed to ensure that any issues preventing a person sustaining their tenancy is acknowledged and addressed. Partnership is an integral part of our work with people, the local community and the service surrounding the community, and we look forward to working alongside the people and services of Bexley.”

To find out more about the project, click here or visit Bexley Council’s webpage about the programme.

For any enquiries about the project, contact openingdoors@bexley.gov.uk

Posted by kineara
Practitioner insights: How complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing

Practitioner insights: How complex cases can impact our mental health and wellbeing

Operating within frontline roles, our practitioners work directly with individuals and families experiencing mental health problems and/or multi-complex needs. Following World Mental Health Day, we ask our practitioners to share experiences relating to mental health and wellbeing at work, including the impact of working on intense cases and proven ways to support their own mental health and wellbeing.

There is a strong link between our mental and physical health and just like our physical health, our mental health needs looking after. Research indicates that one in four of us will experience some form of mental ill health in the course of a year. What’s more, MHFA believes mental health lies on a continuum, which like a spectrum, can change overtime depending on early identification, prevention and treatment.

Having delivered a range of specialist programmes that address key barriers to housing security, employment and education, our practitioners understand the importance of providing appropriate support to people experiencing mental ill health as part of their person-centred, holistic approach. However, we often forget that support professionals – be it, social workers, health professionals or support workers – who provide vital support to others, can also be affected by the intensity of the cases they work with.

Multi-complex needs and intense support

Rujia, our dedicated school-based practitioner, explains how the complex nature and intensity of certain cases means that some personal impact is almost inevitable: “In general, I think when working in this field it is difficult not to be impacted by other people’s circumstances because of the compassion we feel for others.”

“Previously, I worked with someone from our drop-in sessions who needed emotional support on an issue I have experienced myself. I felt a lot of empathy for this client and instantly found myself checking whether I am over-identifying with what she is saying and how best I can help her.”

“It’s important to reflect on our feelings and emotions and check where our responses are coming from to ensure our focus is the client. Being aware of our feelings also helps us to recognise the impact clients can have on us as it can trigger emotions in us that we then need to work through.”

Liz, our NLP practitioner echoes this: “In relation to the type of work that we do my first instinct is to support those who need support the most. Even when I feel like my cup is half empty, I find myself still pouring from my cup because I feel like someone else needs it more.”

Whilst drawing from experience and tapping into our positive traits can offer insight when dealing with cases, it’s important to check what impact a client’s situation is having on us, adds Rujia. “It’s very important to be mindful of whether we are over-identifying because that could make us move away from fully recognising what the client needs. We have to remember that everyone is different and therefore may experience things differently and need different things.”

A reflective approachA reflective approach

As a practitioner, Rujia highlights the importance of reflecting on our own feelings and emotions and check where our responses are coming from: “This ensures our focus is the client. Being aware of our feelings is also very important so we can recognise the impact clients have on us, as it can trigger emotions in us that we then need to work through,” she says.

“Sometimes even when I’m not working, I am thinking about the family and what else I need to do to support them! This can become unhealthy because it can become mentally and physically draining and we all need our break away from work and spend some time in our personal lives,” explains Rujia.

Fortunately, this is something Rujia recognised during a de-briefing session with a colleague: “Upon reflection, I was able to identify why I was feeling so tired. I then had to consciously make the effort to put some healthy boundaries in place by agreeing what goals I can work on with the family, as well as sticking to my working hours unless working evenings was planned for a specific reason. The families we work with often have multiple issues and we are working with for a limited time period, so having boundaries helps me work more effectively and not spread myself too thinly.”

“The families we work with often have multiple issues and we are working with for a limited time period, so having boundaries helps me work more effectively and not spread myself too thinly.”

The impact of mental health has huge social and economic costs; studies reveal the total economic cost in England is estimated at £105 billion per year and that 84 percent of UK line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 24 percent have received relevant training. “It’s that energy and love which is fine but I think if you start to feel like it’s affecting you outside of the workplace it will affect the amount of time you spend at work,” says Liz, “I’ve learnt to lean on some of the support of my manager and team, especially if I feel like I’m having a day where there are a lot of intense cases or I just need some support.”

Mental health in the workplace

When it comes to looking after our mental health in the workplace, Liz and Rujia have found peer supervision particularly helpful. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on my work and the impact of the work on my own well-being and the importance of our own well-being in this field of work. Having a supportive supervisor who understands the impact of working with intense and complex cases is very important, not just for our own wellbeing but the wellbeing of the families we support,” says Rujia.

Reflecting on past cases, Liz adds: “In supervision, we can talk through difficult cases and dissect the different barriers and/or the crisis that individual is experiencing. In that space you kind of offload everything going on at work or personal life.”

“One thing we learnt was the Mental Health Continuum – that our place on the scale is constantly changing and that most of the time there are no absolutes in mental health.”

Mental health in the workplaceSince completing the MHFA training, Tam, Comms Officer at Kineara, believes that she is better equipped to offer a listening ear and support to our team of practitioners, and more aware of what signs to look out for. “I now understand how and why dealing with complex and intense cases can impact the wellbeing of our support practitioners. One of the most important things we learned was the Mental Health Continuum – that our place on the scale is constantly changing and that most of the time there are no absolutes in mental health. Sometimes it’s just taking the time to check in, ask twice and listen.”

The power of mediation

Despite the intense workload, our practitioners are passionate about the work they do. “Once I started seeing work as helping anyone in need which could even be myself, then I started seeing work/life balance as one thing. Supporting people and practicing self-love is part and parcel of who am, so I don’t really see it as I’m leaving work on the coat hanger and going home, I see it as just a part of me,” says Liz.

Crucially, both Rujia and Liz highlight the importance of looking after our own wellbeing to be able to give their best to the people and families they support and be emotionally available for them. “I spend some time over the weekends when I am not working to do something relaxing, this can be something as simple as having a long bath or going out for dinner with a friend,” says Rujia. “This allows me to support people in any capacity in any way I can, even in my community/block or within my family – it doesn’t stop at work! It’s like a way of life – when you see it as a way of life you see beyond the crisis or the issue and you see the person for who they are,” adds Liz.

“Having someone facilitate our thoughts that are there but just need writing down on paper, so it’s seen and heard. Everyone needs encouragement and mediation, nobody can function without the support from another, including us as practitioners!”

Liz adds that practicing self-awareness to inspire the best in herself and others is so important: “I believe everyone is an expert in their own life, they are the only person who has experienced what they are telling you in entirety and full context, so the most important thing is to listen because every situation is a new situation and may require a new way of approaching things. Once they tell you their stories and their journey you realise that anyone could be in that position.”

She adds: “That’s why mediation is so important; having someone facilitate our thoughts that are there but just need writing down on paper, so it’s seen and heard. Everyone needs encouragement and mediation, nobody can function without the support from another, including us as practitioners!”

Find out more about our work. 

Image credit: Mashable/Vicky Leta

Posted by kineara in Community, Latest
How to support your child as they start secondary school

How to support your child as they start secondary school

Starting secondary is a significant milestone in a young person’s life – new schools, new friends, new teachers and indeed new challenges altogether. Whether you’re a parent, teacher or practitioner, helping a young person through this transition can be one of the most impactful things you do for them. But how can we support them? Here our practitioners, team and friends share practical ways we can help pupils deal with such challenges.

1. Developing an identity

Fitting in, asserting an identity or gaining peer acceptance becomes even more prominent in a secondary school context. This undeniable reality can often lead to a dip in academic progress or intensify challenging behaviour.

“My challenge at school was a struggle between being a good student and getting the grades everyone (including myself) expected of me and wanting to be independent and assert my identity; who I wanted to be in this world and who my friends were,” says Sandra, Intervention Practitioner at Kineara.

Helping young people to express themselves authentically and take advantage of extracurricular activities is just one way of facilitating healthy social exploration. Sandra adds that it’s also important for parents and teachers to try to understand why someone is behaving the way they are instead of just trying to change it.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track,” she adds.

2. Bullying and peer pressure

Whether its physical, verbal, social, or online, bullying can take many forms. For parents, identifying any changes in your child’s behaviour, asking questions, and building meaningful relationships with their teachers can all make a difference.

Strengthening relationships between the parent and child, parent and teacher, and teacher and child, is one aim of M2E. “I was lucky that I had a good upbringing with parents who gave me a strong sense of self-worth that made me realise my potential. Without it I may have ended up in more serious trouble that would have been harder to return from,” says Sandra.

During the transition, it can be helpful to try to increase your child’s circle of friends by encouraging them to invite home their friends or participate in group activities. Educating pupils and their parents through assemblies, class discussions and workshops can also help to challenge stigma and raise awareness about the challenges that pupils are facing.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track.”

Reflecting on her own experience, Mel, Comms Lead at Kineara, highlights the importance of having quality support. “For me the main thing was going from a very small school where everyone knew each other to a school with hundreds of kids in each year; this was a bit intimidating at first! The key thing for me was that I had a close-knit group of friends that formed pretty early; they were my peers who I went to for support and we took each other through the whole secondary journey.”

“For pupils who are feeling shy or lonely, we often involve their peers by bringing them into our sessions to participate in group activities such as cooking and baking, which develops the child’s confidence and broadens their friendship circle,” says Gail, Kineara’s M2E lead.

3. Mental health and wellbeing

With 1 in 10 children and young people experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, it is important that we are clued up on the challenges of dealing with mental health, and how we as parents, teachers and practitioners can support pupils. What’s more, a recent Government Green Paper (2017) stated that appropriately trained teachers and school staff can make a difference in addressing mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety and conduct disorder, comparable to those achieved by trained therapists.

In delivering M2E, we’ve found that teachers and school staff can support pupils by  developing their understanding of mental health through relevant training such as MHFA courses, as well as receiving support with their own wellbeing. We have also seen how a school benefits from adopting a joined-up, wraparound ethos that focuses on wellbeing just as much as academic outcomes. As part of the culture, schools could consider activities that have been proven to help pupils manage high levels of stress such as mindfulness, yoga and relaxation/breathing exercises.

The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support must be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

After taking part in M2E, one pupil who was struggling to manage his temper said about the programme: “I enjoy having better relationships with people in school. I use my breathing techniques when someone is annoying me, and I listen to my relaxation before bed and no tech for one hour which helps my sleep.” In this case we found the main outcomes to be significant improvements in the pupils’ overall stress and behaviour, followed by an improvement in concentration and emotional awareness.

There are a plethora of online resources exploring different areas of mental health and wellbeing, from exam stress, eating disorders to responding to traumatic events. We have also written about the real impact of exam stress and why schools need to  focus on supporting mental health during this difficult time.

4. Hidden or complex challenges

For some, personal, hidden, or external challenges will take a toll on social and academic progress through secondary school, including the impact of educational inequality, a lack of adequate support for SEND pupils, family breakdown, or issues with housing. One way of supporting pupils through such a challenge is looking at the ‘whole-person,’ offering empathy and being emotionally available.

“The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support has to be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable,” says Maria, “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 etc. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

Maria explains that not everyone offers holistic support, neither does everyone have to.” As a school, for example, it’s about recognising that there are other organisations that can support with intervention on a holistic level. It’s about partnership,” she says.

Learn more about our education services.

Posted by kineara in Education, Impact, Research
New focus group results reveal more is needed to support vulnerable tenants in the private sector

New focus group results reveal more is needed to support vulnerable tenants in the private sector

Here we report the findings from our recent private landlords’ focus group conducted in July, made up of five landlords with differing experiences and backgrounds.

Participants indicated letting properties across England, from Hackney, Fulham, Wandsworth, Cheshire, Dover/Deal/Sandwich, Cardiff and Barnet.

The challenges faced by landlords varied from helping tenants or dealing with tenant issues, dealing with local authorities to having to pay extra stamp duty on their properties. Interestingly, for the same landlord, helping tenants was also the most rewarding aspect of being a landlord, whilst others enjoyed the financial benefits and the satisfaction of sourcing and refurbishing property for rental.

Reflecting on their relationships with their tenants and the local councils, 80% of participants said councils do not provide adequate support for their tenants, however, one landlord differed, “For me, in my experience of being a landlord in Wales, the council are very interactive with landlords and hold meetings in different boroughs.” As for relationships with tenants, 20% dealt entirely with their tenants from the start, whilst 40% used or continue to use a letting agent to manage the properties.

Speaking on pursuing evictions during the last 12 months, 40% of landlords surveyed said the principle reason was due to rent arrears. One landlord said, “I worked with my tenants but had to send them a section 8 Notice to protect myself. They are still in the property and have now paid back all the arrears. I also delayed a rental increase for another year to help them, even though I was losing money due to inflation!”

Asked what a support service might look like, one landlord said that a wellbeing support service sounded good in theory, but in practice they weren’t sure if it would have prevented the eviction.  Further, 80% of respondents believed that financial support and mediation would potentially prevent evictions, however, the support would have to be tailored to the individual situation.

This reinforces the idea behind the holistic nature of Kineara’s housing support services, which includes advice, guidance and advocacy for all families and individuals we work with on matters of housing, including rent arrears, eviction threats, conditions in the home and more.

The intensive support offers practical, financial, wellbeing and therapeutic support for tenants, as well as strengthening the relationships between tenant and landlord, if needed, and connecting landlords to services that can avoid the costs of eviction while putting resources towards the wellbeing of their tenants.

Find out more about our RSP+ and housing support services.

Posted by kineara in Housing, Research
How self-determination can impact wellbeing

How self-determination can impact wellbeing

From poverty to income inequality, and rising mental health concerns to the housing crisis, many of the core challenges we face today stem from an economic system that maintains inequality and often hits the most vulnerable hardest. However, studies show that feeling engaged and in control of our lives can elevate our wellbeing and development, despite our circumstances.  

Self-determination, which refers to the process by which a person feels in control and empowered over their own life, can significantly improve mental health and wellbeing, according to growing research.

Psychologists posit that self-determination can lead to more positive, sustainable outcomes, including in mental health and emotional wellbeing, resilience, and healthy social and psychological development. In fact, the capacity to make the right decisions for one’s wellbeing and feeling empowered to do so, can result in people leading longer, healthier and happier lives.

Alternatively, feeling a continued lack of self-control and uncertainty in our lives can have far-reaching consequences for our mental health and wellbeing, from the way we respond to and address challenges in our lives, to how we operate in our community and broader society.

At the individual level, people who feel they have lower control over their day-to-day lives are more likely to experience a chronic stress response; their ability to cope suffers and feelings of insecurity about the world often heighten.  This stress response can lead to poorer mental and physical health, which are experienced at a greater rate by disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Although the link between poorer health and socio-economic factors such as low income and educational inequality is well established, the ‘perceived’ lack of control on a micro or individual level, can too, lead to feelings of disempowerment, and in turn, poorer wellbeing outcomes. This is often marked by poorer mental health including depression and anxiety, which in turn, influences health damaging choices like smoking or increased alcohol consumption. Studies suggest that those who exercise control over their lives and make decisions in their best interest, even small day-to-day decisions, are more likely to cope better through stressful situations.

The impact of poverty and structural inequalities

A recent report by George Bangham at the Resolution Foundation suggests there’s more to life than economics, but that it still really matters. Crucially, the report identifies the need for safety, security and stability, particularly in housing and employment.

Bangham presents several examples highlighting the need for security in life, including housing tenure being strongly associated with higher wellbeing and that whilst a job may increase wellbeing, the well-being drop from losing a job is bigger than the wellbeing gain from getting into work.

Among its findings the report concludes: “The best prospects for policymakers targeting future increases in national wellbeing lie in raising job quality, raising incomes, particularly at the lower end, and policies to improve security in the housing market.”

Further studies show that poverty– which today may likely include continued low income and in-work poverty levels – has an impact on the brain and its development due to chronic stress causing toxicity. This, in turn, can impact decision making and cause a perceived lack of control over one’s life.

Notably, those who feel they have little control over their circumstances tend to find greater outer rewards in money and grades, while those who feel in control are motivated more by the inner sense of mastery and satisfaction, according to psychologist Richard deCharm. This highlights the causal nexus between poverty and a perceived lack of control, and those with a perceived lack of control finding greater reward in external conditions such as job and housing security or higher income.

Developing self-determination

With the proportion of people experiencing ‘deep poverty’ in London having increased in recent years and many workers still trapped in precarious jobs and insecure housing, we believe developing resilience and self-determination to address and work through the daily challenges is more important than ever.

Whilst there are things that we can’t change immediately like the socioeconomic context in which we live, there are things we can change. By focusing on what we can change including our responses to situations and the decisions we make, we can support our own wellbeing and positively impact those around us.

Having the right support is also key. Studies have demonstrated that having close friends and family has far-reaching benefits for your mental and physical health, whilst social isolation are loneliness lead to a greater risk of poorer mental health and wellbeing. On a broader level, while policy changes are essential, it is also important that vulnerable people have access to the right support. Findings from a landlords’ focus group conducted by Kineara, found that 80% of landlords believe their tenants would benefit from financial support and mediation, and 60% say their local council does not provide, or could provide further adequate support for tenants.

Holistic practice means understanding how these things intersect; using a holistic, strength-based, person-centred support enables Kineara’s practitioners to meet the needs of the individual or family and build on their strengths to maintain positive outcomes. By working 1:1 starting with where people are and working towards goals that individuals and families choose and aspire to achieve themselves, the tailored approach recognises the importance of strengthening the individual, the family unit and the community, whilst also taking their socio-economic situation into consideration.

Director of Kineara, Maria Morgan, adds: “We know that homelessness can affect someone’s mental health, we know that poverty can affect someone’s mental health, we understand that. So, it’s important for us to recognise those things because it can be a barrier for someone moving on, finding a job, it can be a barrier in so many ways. There’s nothing stronger than recognising and accepting where you are to move forward.”

Developing a level of self-determination is vital for self-development. Being able to guide the course of your life, despite the circumstances, takes focus, proactivity, self-confidence and a willingness to work through adversity. Recognising that you and only you have the power to change where you are in life: mentally, emotionally and practically, is a constant pursuit and a powerful tool for change.

Posted by kineara in Community, Latest, Research