What is Relative Experience?

Relative Experience is a tried and tested support programme for kinship carers, which is being delivered nationally in 18 local authorities by charities Grandparents Plus and Family Lives. The programme includes:

  • one-to-one support from project workers independent of social services
  • befriending from trained and supported volunteers
  • support group development.

Since 2013, a successful trial has supported over 550 kinship carers and 800 children, recruited over 150 volunteers as befrienders and developed 19 support groups to become sustainable and kinship carer-led.

With an established programme in the North East of England, additional funding has been secured to expand Relative Experience to the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey and Islington.

Explore Relative Experience North East

Explore Relative Experience London

Who is the programme for?

The programme is open to all kinship carers – this includes Special Guardians, carers with Residence Orders, Child Arrangements Orders and informal arrangements, as well as family and friends foster carers and those with private fostering arrangements.

Most kinship carers step in to avoid the children going into local authority care, with the majority unable to live with their parents due to drug or alcohol dependencies, abuse or neglect. It’s estimated that around 200,000 children in the UK are currently being brought up in this way, many having experienced significant trauma.

Despite their numbers, kinship carers are often isolated, and with no statutory entitlement to financial support, the high incidence of poverty among kinship carers puts placements and the wellbeing of the children at risk.

Why support kinship carers?

Better outcomes for children: Research shows that children who stay within the family experience increased placement stability and benefit from maintained family relationships. There’s evidence to show that as a result of their involvement with the Relative Experience programme, kinship carers felt a lower level of concern about their relationship with the children and the children’s wellbeing.

Lower reliance on statutory services: The Relative Experience programme shows that early targeted support can enable kinship carers to take control of their lives, reducing reliance on state services. Support groups set up through the programme become self-sustainable and run independently by the carers, thus reducing the need for support from the local authority.

Why Relative Experience?

  • Service-user and needs driven: Relative Experience was developed in partnership with kinship carers themselves and has been driven by their specific needs.
  • Cost-effective: It provides 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.
  • Independent: Relative Experience is separate from local authority services, is delivered by project workers, volunteers and kinship carers and gives carers a safe space to discuss their situation.
  • Expert: programme workers and volunteers are trained as specialists in kinship care and can provide non-judgemental advice and support.
  • Flexible: Relative Experience recognises that different needs require different forms of support and provides a range of peer-to-peer services.
  • Self-sustainable: The focus of the programme is on peer-support and empowerment of the kinship carers to enable them to support each other and run the support groups independently.
  • Proven impact: Relative Experience has been independently evaluated, and was shown to have had a demonstrable impact on carers’ wellbeing.

We’re currently working in 18 local authorities.

For more information about commissioning Relative Experience for your area, please contact Kate O'Brien ([email protected]) or call 020 8981 8001.