Each month we highlight a London charity that is helping to make our neighbourhoods better. This time we talked to Stand Alone, which supports people who are estranged from their family. They told us about their work to break down the stigma around estrangement and help those affected to feel less isolated.
Tell us about the charity.
Stand Alone is the only charity in the UK to support adults who are experiencing family estrangement. We offer innovative support, conduct research to shape policy, raise awareness and break down stigma. There is no other support for people who are experiencing family estrangement, who have often been rejected for being LGBT+ or distanced for rejecting forced marriage, or who have experienced unrecognised abuse in their family home. Having no contact with family can be isolating and can lead to disadvantage throughout life.
What was the inspiration for Stand Alone?
Stand Alone was set up by our current Chief Executive, Becca Bland. She was writing articles in the national media about family estrangement, and after writing one about her own estrangement story she received a huge volume of correspondence about the predicament of being estranged from family. Such is the stigma around family estrangement, many of those people felt they were the only person in the UK who had a different experience of family to the close, supportive and loving archetypes we see in the media. Becca felt the dialogue needed to improve and wanted to bring these voices together to create awareness and change.
To help our beneficiaries, we run support groups where people can meet others who have experienced family estrangement in their locality, with the aim of breaking down isolation. Our support groups are a vital space to help people find others who have been through similar experiences.
The charity runs an awareness-raising initiative in the higher-education sector around the specific challenges of estranged young people, who are studying without family support or a corporate parent. These students are homeless over the summer period when they cannot ‘go home’ and throughout their studies they experience severe financial and emotional struggles, which often compromise their retention. Universities did not previously realise the impact of family estrangement for students, and thus our awareness-raising has given voice to a marginalised group of young people.
Why is Stand Alone’s work necessary?
There is no other service or charity that supports people who are estranged from family. Thus, many people have struggled to find others to talk to about the frustration, isolation and the loneliness that can come from not being in touch with family. Furthermore, people wanted to celebrate the positives too, as for many, escaping their family was a move to save their mental and physical health.
What are any obstacles you face?
Funding aside, the major challenge for our support groups has been strategic. Our beneficiaries are passionate, keen and often desperate for our work to scale nationwide. However, our capacity has necessitated us to create geographical hubs where beneficiaries can travel to access support. We have been challenged in managing the disappointment that some supporters feel when we are not setting up support in their particular locality.
What are your funding sources?
We are funded mostly by grants and trusts, who appreciate the innovation of our work. We are working on recruiting more donors too, as we understand that we will need to diversify to survive.
Do you hold fundraising events throughout the year?
No, due to our size and the small number of part-time staff on our team, we haven’t as yet started fundraising events. However, we would really welcome individuals to donate via our JustGiving page.
How can people get involved?
You can check our website to get involved in our support groups.
Read more about Stand Alone’s work on here.