Housing Issues: some of the common barriers we see in our work in Southwark

Housing Issues: some of the common barriers we see in our work in Southwark

At Kineara we talk about ‘breaking barriers’ to housing issues as we holistically support those on the verge of homelessness, but what do these barriers look like?

Below we summarise some of the key challenges our clients are faced with, as well as the obstacles our Housing Practitioners often encounter in the process of trying to obtain suitable, long-term housing solutions for our clients. Evidently, most of these barriers are interconnected and demonstrate the complexity of the housing crisis not only in Southwark, but across London and the UK.

1. Supply vs demand for social housing

With less and less social housing available for those who really need it, Councils are relying heavily on the private sector to take on households who should be entitled to social housing which has more affordable rates and increased security of tenure.

We meet many renters who are eligible for social housing, including those with complex health needs or mental health diagnoses, and always support them to register and bid, if possible, to protect the possibility of securing social housing for the long term. In some instances, moving further afield where rental costs are lower may be considered; this however can be highly disruptive, for example to families with children in school, and results in the renter losing their bid for social housing in the borough; understandably, this is a far from ideal scenario.

Considering the lack of social housing stock, as things stand, the private rental sector is the only option for the majority of our clients. This said, the lack of social housing is having a knock-on effect with the private rental market as we discuss below.

2. A flawed private rental market

Essentially there are far too few affordable, good-sized homes to privately rent in London and increasing competition in the market is further driving up costs, putting them out of reach for many of our low-income clients. (In Southwark, rental costs have risen 12% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).

For some, this pressure can be alleviated somewhat by the Landlord’s Incentive Scheme (LIS) offered by the council, which is paid direct to landlords and often covers the security deposit. We’ve seen however that the incentive scheme can in some instances have negative consequences for renters down the line.

A typical example may be where the council has overbid on a property for which there is a lot of competition in order to secure a place for a renter. In some instances, paying over the odds in this way means additional support that would normally go direct to the renter such as a rent deposit loan, is redirected to finance the overbid to the landlord. This means the renter does not get this money back as intended, leaving them with no deposit for their next move.

The LIS can also put the renter in an even more precarious situation as some landlords may be motivated to offer the shortest tenures allowed with the intention of securing further incentive payments for new tenancies. There are also other costs of moving for renters such as removal vans, packing materials, furnishing and storage facilities, which can run into hundreds of pounds, sometimes more.

3. Misconceptions about low income and vulnerable renters

The need for the incentive scheme for private landlords was fueled by the generalisation that those on low incomes or deemed vulnerable are not attractive prospects as renters, because they are assumed to be less secure and less likely to keep up with rent payments. The reality is that many people in these situations are indeed good, reliable tenants as their housing is much more valuable to them and the potential loss of accommodation could have a much more significant impact on their lives; in our experience, motivations to honour contracts, look after the properties in which they reside and maintain good relationships with landlords is high.

At Kineara we find ways of making private renting more secure and suitable for renters by advocating for their needs with landlords, negotiating longer tenancies, helping clients set up a new tenancy and settle into their new home.

To further help (and reassure landlords), we work with clients on their budgets to ensure their income will cover the rent and allow them to live sustainably. We also ensure they are well informed of their rights and responsibilities as a tenant and ensure they are fully benefitting from the support they are eligible for, such as Universal Credit, which can help towards rental costs.

4. Stigma associated with landlords

Landlords have had bad press in the media for many years now and we think it’s fair to say that this portrayal of private landlords as a whole is unfair. It cannot be denied that there are many genuine cases of landlords solely motivated by money and paying little regard to the condition of the properties they rent out or the welfare of their tenants; indeed we’ve already described an example of this above in relation to taking advantage of the Landlord’s Incentive Scheme.

This is not to say, however, that all landlords should be tarnished with the same brush. In fact, we believe that there are many ethical private landlords out there who care about doing social good, who can genuinely be an effective part of the solution to providing safe and secure homes whilst protecting their own investments. It is exactly these types of landlords that we are keen to connect with to find solutions to housing issues where all stakeholders have a good, long-term, sustainable relationship.

5. Pitfalls with Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

Despite rising rents and the cost of living crisis, LHA has been frozen by the government, making the gap between income and rent payments even greater for many of our clients.

In particular, renters under the age of 35 are especially struggling since this age group only qualifies for a shared accommodation allowance which can be substantially less. This presents problems for the many clients we see in this category who are experiencing physical or mental problems that make shared occupation unfeasible. Unless in receipt of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which provide additional support with extra living costs for those with disabilities, clients are unable to afford the cost of a much needed, self-contained property.

6. Language

Non-English speakers are at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to understanding the UK housing process, their rights as tenants and rules around evictions.  With a housing system that is difficult to navigate even for some native English speakers, language presents a significant barrier to many of our clients.

Whilst friends, family, and of course online tools like Google Translate play an important part in the communication process, some areas of our work such as arranging viewings and facilitating conversations with landlords, can be tricky.

Currently in Southwark we are seeing many South American immigrants, many of whom speak no English at all. To counter such barriers and make the housing process easier to understand, we have created some communications in other languages and also work with free translation services where they are available in the community.

Breaking barriers to make long-term sustainable tenancies the norm

In reflecting on these barriers, it is clear that ultimately, the UK government must prioritise providing tens of thousands more long term, secure, safe and genuinely affordable homes. Until then, front line services like ours strive to make a difference to everyday lives in the community, fostering a sense of wellbeing, advocating for the rights and needs of renters, building healthy relationships between landlords and renters, and supporting education around money matters to empower society’s most vulnerable. This, we hope will help break ongoing cycles of poor health, wealth, and education, to tackle such housing issues and make tenancy sustainment more achievable and these barriers less prevalent.

For more information on how we support residents in Southwark with tenancy sustainment, click here

Posted by kineara in Housing
New network launches to tackle ill-health linked to poor housing

New network launches to tackle ill-health linked to poor housing

Today sees the launch of the Health and Housing Impact Network, created by Future for London and supported by Impact on Urban Health.

In response to London’s housing issues and the well-documented links between housing, health and wellbeing, the Network brings together experts from cross-sector groups that will aim to create more opportunities to join up thinking and action to tackle health inequalities.

We are excited to share that Kineara’s founder, Maria Morgan, is now on the steering group for the newly launched network to which she will bring extensive knowledge and experience of housing and wider community issues.

Maria shares her thoughts on the new network here 

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Latest
National Story Telling Week: The power of stories in communicating Kineara’s purpose and impact

National Story Telling Week: The power of stories in communicating Kineara’s purpose and impact

To mark this year’s National Storytelling Week, we share our thoughts and examples of how storytelling plays a vital role right across our stakeholder spectrum. From supporting people through various challenges, to demonstrating the effectiveness of our programs to clients, potential funders, partners and other service users, storytelling through reports, case studies and blogs is an integral part of our work here at Kineara

Everyone uses stories to help them make sense of who they are and the experiences they have had in their lives. Stories help us make sense of the world, recognise patterns, find meaning in things and share that understanding with others. Our stories literally make up our history.

This is why storytelling is an important feature of Kineara’s work and is present in much of our day-to-day activities. We hold space for the narratives that come directly from the people we serve and allow what is most meaningful for them to emerge through active listening and reflection.

Why we encourage storytelling

Our student volunteer Tiyon explains it like this: “Storytelling allows our clients to identify their needs and gives them a chance to reflect, this is the real strength of it. Sometimes in the process we can start to identify cognitive dissonance; this gives us a change to point out to them compassionately.

Many of our clients have felt not listened to in the past. Whilst many of the renters we meet, for example, have a shared experience of housing insecurity or homelessness, no two circumstances are the same. But it isn’t about the ‘facts of the story’, it’s about how the story has been told.

Through the way people tell their story, we can quickly see what is important”, Tiyon continues. “The ‘main characters’ in a story might be the Council, or other services that have been let down by other people/people. We walk people back to the main page, to their main story. We do that by thinking about options and outcomes – reframe the barriers and think about change as a positive thing for the future. Ultimately it’s about helping people reaffirm who they are, their strengths, and the possibilities that are within reach for a more positive future.

Putting client’s needs first

When clients share their stories with us, we can help them identify points of difficulty, barriers and specific needs. With their story told as they see it, as opposed to whatever boxes are ticked on a referral form, we can work towards specific outcomes and bring in additional support that is most meaningful to then in that moment and that respects their story and history. As Tiyon says, “When we do identify their needs they’re not extrapolated from their referrals. They are needs that we hear from their story, and we confirm those together with them.”

Equally important is giving agency to people to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable. For some people, in particular with a mental health diagnosis or experiences of trauma, it can be difficult and even retraumatizing to have to explain their circumstances to each new professional that they work with. In these cases, we tread very carefully and only ask for more detail if we feel it may be relevant for the support. Part of embedding storytelling as practice is that sometimes, client stories are told over time and when they feel it’s right. It is our job to build respectful and trusting relationships with clients so they can feel comfortable doing so.

Stories as impact

Storytelling also forms the foundation of reflection and sharing between our staff and is an integral part of how we support clients facing challenges with their housing, education or wellbeing. We use stories to talk about the impact we have had, because they provide the rich detail behind a wide variety of both the barriers and solutions we work on with clients. It allows us to demonstrate how tailored the support we provide is and that demonstrate that every support journey is unique in the same way that every person is unique.

National Storytelling Week is in our view a worthy awareness day that both highlight the power of stories in all their forms – written, verbal, and digital – in reaching people of all ages and backgrounds. It also reminds us that everybody has a story to tell, so we should spend more time sharing, talking and listening. This is fundamental to how we give and receive support at Kineara.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Impact, Testimonial
‘A fairer private rented sector’: We respond to the Government’s plans for renters

‘A fairer private rented sector’: We respond to the Government’s plans for renters

In June the Government released a long awaited white paper on private rented sector reforms that many organisations and housing justice campaigners hoped would mark the final end to the use of no fault evictions as well as wider reforms to the sector. In reality, while we celebrate the abolishing of section 21 notices, there are wide gaps that the white paper fails to address, particularly for those on the lowest incomes who are routinely shut out from suitable, stable and affordable housing.

We responded to the call for evidence with several concerns we have based on our direct experience working with low income renters facing tenancy insecurity in London. These include:

  • Making it illegal for landlords to not rent to benefits recipients is a positive development but without teeth: direct discrimination against those on benefits continues despite several court rulings declaring it as unlawful. Indirect discrimination manifests in the form of requests to potential renters of a guarantor with £45,000 in income or reference to evidence of income that is x2.5 above the rent are just some barriers to entry for renters receiving benefits.
  • The report makes no mention of the growing gaps between Local Housing Allowance rates and rising rents.
  • Efforts to abolish section 21 leave in place loopholes that landlords can exploit, even in the event that the legislation is passed.

You can read our full response to the Government here.

Posted by kineara in Housing
Understanding the issues facing private renters

Understanding the issues facing private renters

Throughout April May and June, renters that have been supported by our services in the last year joined a team of canvassers to survey private tenants across Southwark, gathering insights into their renting situation.

Citizens Advice Southwark and the Southwark Private Renters Forum wanted to engage local private renters on the issues facing them and provide more opportunities to engage with about their rights as a tenant. For us, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to offer some paid work to renters we’ve supported on our Southwark Private Renters Project.

Led by our student social worker Aimee, and then later by a renter team leader, the team took to the streets knocking doors in Camberwell, Peckham and Elephant and Castle, handing out leaflets and putting up posters with a QR code in busy shopping areas, libraries, GP surgeries, children’s centres and more, for people to submit online

responses. Along with the rest of the Forum, who shared links to the survey on their websites and across their network, the survey received 195 responses from renters across the borough.

For our service users, the opportunity to take on some ad hoc paid work that didn’t interfere with their benefits, but that also provided extra income, was a welcome and offer. It was also a chance to increase confidence and connect to more people, in particular for those who have been out of work for some time or isolated in their community. Many of those who have taken part have been able to spend the money they earned on items for their property or contributing to their rent.

“It has been an amazing experience to be able to provide employment opportunities to residents, especially during a financial crisis. Many of those who have taken part have used their pay to buy items for their property or to help towards their rent.” – Carly Jones, Operations Manager

What did we learn?

The Private Renters Forum has been gathering the results of the survey, as well as insights gathered in several Know Your Rights sessions delivered across May. Much of the learnings we gathered reflects what our own clients have been facing over the last year. For example, many people cited they had issues with landlords not responding quickly enough to disrepair issues; the affordability crisis with very high rents putting pressure on household finances and making tenancies insecure; and stress around not being able to afford properties in their chosen area, with some being forced out of borough to find a suitable home.

The engagement work of the Private Renters Forum in Southwark will continue over the next several months, with more Know Your Rights sessions at local services and further surveys. In addition, a new website, social media channels and events will be set up to continue sharing advice about tenant’s rights.

Meanwhile, the survey is still open for responses from any Southwark-based private renters who would like to contribute to the research – you can fill in your responses here.

And the next Know your rights session is taking place on Weds 10th August at 11.30am – 2pm at St Giles Parish Hall. It is open to any private renter in Southwark and is hosted by a housing solicitor from our partners Southwark Law Center. Find out more and register here.

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, Housing
Event: Shaping support services for private renters in Southwark

Event: Shaping support services for private renters in Southwark

Would you like to know how we’re supporting private renters in Southwark?

We are holding a virtual showcase for sector partners and community groups to hear about our work delivering the Southwark Private Renters Project in the borough. Come along to find out how we are supporting private renters to sustain tenancies and gain greater housing security. Register here.

The 60-minute session will cover:

• How the project is tackling barriers to secure, safe, affordable housing for private renters in Southwark

• How you can refer to the project

• What support do private renters and landlord receive from the project?

• How your service can collaborate with Kineara

• Hear from a client with lived experience about their journey

• Hear from other services in the borough including Southwark Law Centre, Impact on Urban Health and Southwark Council

Everyone is welcome, you don’t need to be based in Southwark to attend.

Register on Eventbrite. Instructions on how to join will be provided on registration.

Posted by kineara in Community, Event, Housing
Linking with landlords: Interview with Aisha

Linking with landlords: Interview with Aisha

At the start of our second year in Southwark supporting private tenants at risk with holistic housing and legal support, we added a new role to the team. Our Housing Link Worker, Aisha, tells us more about how it works.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about the work you deliver and your role on the project?

As a Housing Link Worker, it’s my job to mediate between landlords and tenants to see if I can strengthen an existing relationship to sustain the tenancy, or where someone’s tenancy cannot be sustained, to network and reach out to new landlords and agents and build relationships with them to accept new tenants.

Q. Can you tell me about some mediation you have done with a client and landlord?

Recently, I mediated with a landlord who was taking their tenant to court to evict. The tenant had been issued a notice but at that point was refusing to leave, so I visited them at home to find out more. The client was really upset; they felt the landlord had been harassing her. The tenant had had little contact with the Council, and the landlord also didn’t know what was going on. There were no arrears either – the landlord was entitled to the property back, but the tenant had no-where to go. While I was at the house, I called landlord and introduced myself. I let them speak for a while and explained what I could do to support them both. This calmed them down a lot, and said ‘OK, I won’t come over again tomorrow and I’ll leave it in your hands’.

Since then, opportunities for tenancies have come up and fallen through. The landlords calls and messages quite regularly, to find out what the tenant is doing in terms of moving on. Often tenants don’t update them because so much mistrust has built over time. The landlord thinks the worst, that the tenant is not doing anything. I will get in touch with then to let them know what viewings are coming up, what the tenants are up to, and it eases their mind.

‘Thank you, it was just nice to be able to have someone to talk to when everyone was making me out to be a bad landlord, in fact, I wasn’t getting paid the rent putting me in financial trouble, I appreciate having someone to listen to me and help get me get answers.’

Most of the landlords I’ve worked with just want to be heard. Sometimes they complain they don’t have support themselves from other service or the Council, and that sometimes the advice they give to tenant contradicts what’s right for them. Not all of them have it easy. One landlord was badly affected by Covid; she had reduced rent for tenant so they could keep up with payments, but she lost her job and so became dependent on rent as her only source of income and had to pursue eviction as a result. When it comes to paying off arrears, for example, many landlords are willing to give it some time while we apply for benefits, DHPs and other things to improve incomes. Then we can negotiate repayments in way that is affordable for the tenant and the landlord can trust the process.

Q. You came into a new role in the team in a position we hadn’t had before, the Housing Link Worker. We realized that we needed good relationships with landlords and were able to find suitable properties for our clients. How was it starting off in a completely new role?

What attracted me was the job description, because of experience in the kind of thing, so I wasn’t intimidated initially. But it was quite daunting starting out as it was up to me to start building connections and relationships with agents and landlords in the borough. The first few months were tough! And its hard when tenants have knockbacks – one client called me this week after being turned down by a landlord and she was devastated, and I know how hard it’s been for her.

Q. It can be difficult finding landlords with who are willing to rent to tenants who are low income. What kind of responses do you get from new landlords when you first approach them with a client?

We do work with landlords who rent specifically to tenants referred via the council and so have a longer experience of doing so. But whether they are experienced or not, often its all about relationship building and trust.

One landlord we now work with will take on any client we bring because he trusts what we are doing. They key is once we’ve housed someone with them, they feel more comfortable with new tenants we bring to them. I will often coach tenant before viewings, just to make sure they present the best of themselves.

There are landlords that prefer to deal with myself because of my relationship with the Council and the incentive scheme. We can discuss the administrative side of things, go through tenancy agreements, set up Universal Credit, all of that. For example, some tenants get stressed moving from, say, ESA to UC. Most landlords insist that they have UC, so I can say that I am going to sit down with them and make sure it is all set up properly and this eases their minds.

‘They are both absolutely excellent. They are balanced, honest, friendly, reliable and kind. They respect confidentiality, clearly know the legal and ethical aspects of their role and deal with challenges in a mature way. It’s really obvious that they care about their work and want to do their best. Even if this particular tenant situation does not come to any resolution without legal proceedings, it does not detract from their exceptional attitude and energy in trying to move this on.’

But when it comes to incentives, I’ve had to be quite headstrong negotiating as there are landlords who are aware they can receive competing offers from other Councils. But we try to take advantage of this for the tenant. If the rent is affordable for them, I’ll check in with the Housing officer as to how can be offered. The landlord almost always asks for more, so I’ve begun to negotiate longer tenancies in return, to guarantee that there is more security. So I have got a few 24 months tenancies for clients, at rent that is affordable for them, and we know they will be stable for at least a couple of years. Its about convincing everyone that the terms are right for them.

Q. It’s been hard work by the sounds of it – but are you feeling proud of what you’ve been able to achieve?

Yes! Finally housing a number of clients within the last couple of months has felt great. Particularly one that I’ve worked with for 6 months, who had been in temporary accommodation after being evicted and who has just moved in this week. There have been so many knock backs in that time, and it’s been hard for her and hard for me too. We’ve gone on a real journey together.

Also, building relationships with landlords and bringing them into our fold is something I’m really proud of. I always get excited when I see a text or email from landlords saying we’ve got these properties, or they call me and tell me the properties they got! Its feels like we’re building new possibilities in the borough for renters, and it great to be a part of it.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing
Pupil counselling: Supporting the wellbeing of the youngest in our communities

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

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

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

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

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

Classroom display Pupil counselling: Why and how 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiana’s story: Holistic techniques and amazing outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Name has been changed to protect client identity.

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

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

Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choices

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

“A national injustice”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hands holding hearts- winter appealDonate to our appeal 

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

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

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

Donate what you can today! 

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

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

Wellbeing, warmth and how to take action this Winter

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

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

On wellbeing

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

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

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing describes it like this:

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

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

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

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

Why work on wellbeing?

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

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

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

The answer is, a lot!

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

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

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

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

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Impact