A new programme in North London working with some of the capital’s most isolated carers is launching today, thanks to £725,773 of National Lottery funding through the Big Lottery Fund.

Coinciding with Carers Week (12-18 June), Relative Experience, run jointly by charities Grandparents Plus and Family Lives, is a support programme for kinship carers. These are family members who have had to take on the care of children who are not able to live with their parents, most commonly due to alcohol or drug misuse, abuse or neglect.

There are currently around 30,000 children being raised in kinship care across London, with an estimated 200,000 children being raised by relatives across the UK.  Despite the fact that the children in their care have often experienced significant trauma, kinship carers are not entitled to any statutory support, and many are left isolated and struggle to cope.

Relative Experience gives carers support from specialist project workers, as well as access to befrienders and local support groups.  It will run in the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey and Islington, with the support of local councils.

Maxine Campbell works with the programme to assess the needs of kinship carers, and find them the right support.  A kinship carer herself, she knows first-hand how difficult taking on care of a relative’s child can be: “When I first took on care of my niece she was a baby, and it was like walking headlong into the unknown – emotionally, I was on the floor.  It’s been really challenging, and the hardest part was not knowing where to turn to for support.

“It’s fantastic to be working with Relative Experience, because I know how important getting the right help is.  It’s a game changer when you realise that you’re not the only one and there is access to some help, and having support groups and befrienders makes a massive difference.  Through the programme, we’re hoping to raise awareness of kinship care throughout London, and make sure that no one has to go through it alone.”

Joe Ferns, UK Knowledge and Portfolio Director at the Big Lottery Fund, said: “We are proud to be supporting Relative Experience and its vital work to support kinship carers. It is great to see National Lottery funding being used to build peer networks between isolated carers, enabling them to support one another and share experiences.”