Kitbag workshops delivered in six local authorities

The BASW 80-20 Talking and Listening to Children (TLC) Kitbag campaign is supporting the take up of Kitbags as a resource for promoting and enhancing communication with children especially, and also with their families. As part of this process the University of Sussex is working in partnership with six local authorities, in the first instance, and will be running workshops to support social workers in their take up of the Kitbag as a direct work resource.

Following on from the BASW 80-20 TLC Kitbag event in April Kitbag workshops have been delivered by Professor Gillian Ruch to local authority practitioners in Bexley, Bradford, Coventry, Oxford, Rotherham and Telford. The reception the Kitbag has received has been unequivocally positive with practitioners in early help and social work teams seeing its enormous potential immediately.


Workshop in Rotherham

During the workshop the participants learnt about the TLC research and our disturbing finding that less than 20% of the practitioners we observed used any form of resources to communicate with children. Our concern is particularly targeted at local authority employers of social workers and on the extent to which a high proportion appear to fail to equip their practitioners with suitable resources to undertake this difficult and demanding work. There are exceptions, of course, with some authorities providing their practitioners with bespoke resources, but 70% of respondents to our Twitter question ‘Does your employer provide you with resources to do direct work with children?’, said ‘No’. This evidence has been consolidated during the Kitbag workshops with most people reporting that they buy their own direct work resources. When resources, for example colouring materials, are provided within a team they invariably disappear or do not get replenished. In contrast to the unsatisfactory provision of collective resources the idea behind the TLC Kitbag campaign is that each practitioner will have their own Kitbag. If individual Kitbag ownership was scaled up across England then all children who have a change in social worker (an all too frequent occurrence) or move across authorities will know that their new social worker will have a Kitbag. As a resource that is fundamentally empowering and child-led, the experiences of consistency and stability associated with reliable access to a familiar resource will further consolidate the empowerment that the children will have already experienced when first introduced to Kitbag. This sense of empowerment has the potential to make a big difference to children’s sense of wellbeing and their willingness and ability to open up about their wishes and feelings.


Workshop in Coventry
Workshop in Coventry

So what exactly is Kitbag? Kitbag was designed and is produced by the International Futures Forum (IFF), a small Scottish charity which seeks to foster ‘practical hope and wise initiative in challenging circumstances’.As part of their wider goal IFF were concerned to produce a resource that would help allchildren develop their emotional literacy and wellbeing. The creation of Kitbags was shaped by the expertise of child mental health professionals – psychiatrists, child psychotherapists, mental health workers – who guided the design of it and its content. In short it addresses all the senses – touch and sight (attractive fabric bag and tactile puppets), smell (the calming oil) and sound (downloadable music). The exception is the sense of taste but no doubt some children will engage in with Kitbag in this way too!  Here’s how IFF explain how Kitbag works:

Kitbag is designed to help people develop the mindfulness, resilience and inner resources we all need to deal more effectively with today’s uncertain, complex and challenging world.  It grew out of IFF’s work on ‘psychological capacity’– the ability to own our psychological responses to being stressed, troubled or overwhelmed, rather than to become the victim of them.

Kitbag provides a safe space and a set of resources to undertake this work without professional help. The main elements are there to encourage reflection, calm states of mind, creativity, self-help, dialogue, hope and a higher purpose in life. When people work with Kitbag they go at their own pace and are encouraged to work on many levels – physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioural. Through regular use we become better able to deal with the challenges of everyday life

Kitbag is designed to be used in families, schools, groups, teams, organisations and communities. It encourages reflective dialogue and is recommended, among other things, to help kick-start difficult discussions. It can also be used to introduce a more compassionate, caring and responsible culture into families, schools, teams and organisations. 


Workshop in Oxford

In the workshop all the participants had an opportunity to engage with the different components of Kitbag and were able to think about how it could be used with children they were currently working. The conclusion of the workshop focussed on the participants assessing how skilled they felt in communicating with children and what helped or hindered them develop their expertise. These ‘time point one’ evaluations will be used as a practice baseline and will be re-visited at ‘time point two’ in six months’ time to assess how Kitbag has impacted on practitioners practice and confidence and to understand how children and their families experience it.

To date feedback from practitioners – ranging from experienced senior practitioners and social work students –   has been positive. For a student social worker Kitbag helped him to develop rapport with an 11 year old boy who he felt rather detached from. A senior social worker reported on her use of Kitbag with an 8 year old girl, Kylie, whose mother had difficulties with alcohol misuse. Kylie found the Kitbag helpful to express her feelings and was keen to use it with her mother to build their relationship.

For anyone interested in finding out more about how to get involved with Kitbag workshops please do not hesitate contact Gillian Ruch –