Relative Experience Project

“Having a befriender has been life saving for me” – grandmother supported by the project.

Grandparents Plus has joined forces with leading family charities Family Lives and the Family and Childcare Trust to run an exciting new peer support project in North East England.

Funded by the Big Lottery Fund Silver Dreams Fund, The Relative Experience Project is based in Newcastle and offers befriending support to kinship carers across the North East who are over the age of 50. Older volunteers – who may be kinship carers or grandparents themselves – are recruited, trained and matched to families needing extra support.

You can read more about the project at our dedicated blog RelativeExperience which gives everyone involved in this unique project the opportunity to share their experiences, whether they are kinship carers, volunteers, or part of the project team.

“We know from members of our existing support network that seven in 10 kinship carers say they are stressed, depressed or isolated. They also find raising kinship children can be much more challenging,” said Project Manager Alison Blaxland. “It isn’t simply that kinship carers tend to be older – there is also strong evidence to suggest that many kinship children have complex needs and the family has been through a lot.

“What the befriender offers is someone to offload on, someone who will listen in a non-judgemental way and who will help the kinship carer to find the confidence to cope with the problems they face. On a practical level they also offer basic information, including the Kinship Care Guide and referrals to our advice service and other local and national sources of help.”

Grandparents Plus runs the project, recruits the kinship carers and oversee the matching process with befriender volunteers. Project partners Family Lives develops and deliver training for the volunteers, will provide on-going support for them and will assist with the matching process. The Family and Childcare Trust is responsible for overseeing monitoring and evaluation and dissemination.

The pilot project has just come to an end.  An independent evaluation by children’s charity Coram found that kinship carers in the project saw improvements to their well-being, resilience and ability to cope and volunteers also benefited from increased confidence.

As a result of the success of the pilot we are delighted to confirm that the project has secured scale-up funding from the Big Lottery Fund Silver Dreams Fund for the next three years.  You can read the press release here. This means we will be able to extend the project across the North East, work with service providers to improve practice and embed the work and help many more kinship carers.

Edward Timpson MP responds to points raised by Alice and Sheila, a kinship carer and volunteer from the project.

Edward Timpson MP responds to points raised by Alice and Sheila, a kinship carer and volunteer from the project.

The end of the pilot was marked by two events, one in Newcastle and one in London. At both events a kinship carer supported by the project and a volunteer befriender shared their story and spoke about the difference the project has made to them. In London Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children, heard about the work of the project and Danny Silverstone from the Big Lottery Fund England spoke about the reasons why the Lottery is supporting the project for a further three years.

If you live in the North East and would be interested in getting involved in the project please contact the Project Manager, Cath Halse on or call the Relative Experience Project on 0191 200 5034 extn 213

Download the evaluation summary and briefings from the Project:
Coram Evaluation Summary
Relative Experience Briefing 1 – Issues and challenges for kinship carers
Relative Experience Briefing 2 – What is peer-to-peer support
Relative Experience Briefing 3 – Stories from the project


Silver Dreams & Partners Logo update april 2014