This report represents findings of an independent evaluation of the Relative Experience North East pilot kinship carer support programme, delivered by Grandparents Plus, Family Lives and the Family and Childcare Trust and funded by the Silver Dreams Fund administered by the Big Lottery Fund.
Relative Experience was designed to trial a peer-led model of delivering support for kinship carers and to raise public and practitioner awareness of the needs of older people who are kinship carers. This report examines the pilot’s performance over the 18 months of the project, considering development of the peer support model, implementation and delivery. The report also considers evidence regarding outcomes and impact produced.
Relative Experience was successful in establishing a peer-led model of support for kinship carers.
Reports from beneficiaries and volunteers suggested that the programme was able to draw on capacity from within the community to deliver valuable support to kinship carers. Despite the vulnerabilities and difficulties faced by kinship carers the programme was able to recruit and develop competent volunteers who delivered high quality support to kinship carers in need.
The peer-led model and the use of informal befriending was an effective approach to work with kinship carers, a group that are often isolated and distrustful of conventional social services. Evidence suggested that kinship carers responded well to the support offered, valuing the emotional support and the opportunity to take time away from their responsibilities to talk about concerns.
Kinship carers were receptive to the empathy and support offered by the ‘friendship’ element of the relationship as well as appreciating the more challenging element presented by the support provided.
The unique character of befriending support encouraged kinship carers to think creatively about their situation and identify solutions within a supportive and non-threatening environment. Relative Experience befriending had particular efficacy in building kinship carer’s self-confidence and reducing levels of anxiety.