Community support

Funding level: £10,001 to £25,000


Families where children are brought up by a grandparent or other relative (called kinship carers) are some of the most hidden and least supported families in society. Research suggests that around 200,000 children in the UK are being cared for by a kinship carer. Most kinship carers step in to prevent the children going into local authority care, most commonly due to parental drug or alcohol dependencies, or because a parent has died or is in prison. Most of the children have experienced abuse and neglect.

Our project, Relative Experience, will help some of the most vulnerable and isolated families in Tyne & Wear where there are almost 4,000 children in kinship care. With your support we can be there for them.

Grandparents Plus will run the project in partnership with Family Lives, bringing combined expertise in kinship care and family support. Both charities are working in Tyne & Wear already. We will develop local peer support groups, offer befriending from volunteers and support from project workers. We are already providing support to kinship carers in 21 locations across the country but need more funding to be able to continue delivering this vital support and reach even more families.

£25,000 would enable us to:
- Expand the network of peer-led kinship carer support groups in the area, tackling isolation and stigma by enabling kinship carers to meet and support others in the same situation, reaching around 125 kinship carers
- Provide individual befriending for up to 30 kinship carers helping them to cope with parenting challenges and have better relationships with the children in their care
- Provide 1-1 project worker support, information and advice, empowering carers and building resilience

Being a kinship carer can have a serious impact on mental health and wellbeing: 70% of kinship carers say they feel stressed, depressed or isolated; two-thirds show signs of clinical depression; 42% have a long-term health condition or disability - “If it hadn’t been for other kinship carers and [peer support group member] [name of grandson] would have been in foster care and me and Di would’ve been in hospital.”

Our befrienders are there for kinship carers. As often as once a week for up to six months, a volunteer from the local area will visit the family home, sometimes to simply listen, be there while they unload and talk things through.

Times are hard for many families, with changes to the benefits system, job insecurity and the impact of a struggling economy. But for kinship carers, this is often much worse. Many kinship carers have taken in a child at a moment’s notice and they willingly make enormous sacrifices.

Half of kinship carers stopped working to raise children and over one-third rely on benefits as their main source of income. There is very little support available to kinship carers and many are not entitled to any help from their local authority – 'I don’t know where I’d be without [Relative Experience], my bit of sanity in life.' 'I needed help dealing with the questions that my granddaughter asks, things like how to deal with it when she calls me mum.'

Since 2013, Relative Experience has supported 690 kinship carers and their children, trained over 200 volunteer befrienders and developed 21 support groups to become sustainable, and led by kinship carers themselves.

This funding would enable us to help even more carers in Tyne & Wear with practical, financial and emotional support, increase their confidence, connect them socially so they feel less alone and isolated. We will ensure they get the support they need, when they need it.

Relative Experience is a cost-effective wraparound service to help kinship carers feel less isolated, access available support and provide stable homes for the children in their care. Our project has been independently evaluated, and was shown to have a demonstrable, positive impact on carers’ wellbeing and ability to care for their children.

Project Video

Grandparents Plus

Moment of Pride

Life as a kinship carer is hard but many of those we have helped are still determined to help others. As SJ, a kinship carer and volunteer befriender, says, “I just wanted to give back in to something that has helped me so much, give the help to someone else that I received, make a real difference.”

Location: Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom