wellbeing

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 Alot of these referrals come with outbursts of aggression or tearfulness or being withdrawn and then when we go back, it always seems to be that the person isn’t confident; doesn’t have good self-esteem; doesn’t have good relationships at home;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
Back to school: Supporting pupil wellbeing online

Back to school: Supporting pupil wellbeing online

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

Key findings:  

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

Free resource (limited time only!):   

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

Download your free resource here

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

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

Practitioner Insights: Five ways to ease loneliness and disconnection

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

1. Actively listening:  

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

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

2. Meaningfully connecting  

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

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

3. Authentically expressing 

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

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

4. Sincerely asking  

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

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

5. Holistically supporting  

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

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

Helpful links  

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

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

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

 

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

A focus group: Life and debt in temporary accommodation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Research
Practitioner Insights: Teaching your pupils during the pandemic 

Practitioner Insights: Teaching your pupils during the pandemic 

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

 

Emotional health and resilience 

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

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

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

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

Challenges for ‘vulnerable’ families  

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

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

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

Working together 

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

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

Further support 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last updated 20.01.21 

Support for parents, carers and families 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helpfulresources and downloadsfor parents and families by Family Links. 

Support for teachers and school staff 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support, guidance and activity suggestions for schools byMentally Healthy Schools 

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

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

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

Posted by kineara in Education
COVID 19, housing and health

COVID 19, housing and health

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

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

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

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

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

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

How lockdown impacted temporary accommodation residents in Bexley 

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

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

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

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

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

How does housing impact health? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes. 

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

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

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

  1. Recognise the challenges facing pupils and their families

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

  1. Introduce creative check-ins and wellbeing activities

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

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

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

  1. Adapting to digital teaching and learning

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

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

Helpful links and resources

NSPCC has put together this transitioning back to school resources pack

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by kineara in Education