Bereavement Service for Children and Young People thanks to Ride for Eric
My name is Delphine Sayre and I have been a therapist at Cavendish Cancer Care for 12 years and, in addition, help to manage the Young People’s Service here. When Ride for Eric approached us to look at setting up a service specifically to provide support for families who have been bereaved we were very excited at the opportunity to take what we have learnt supporting families affected by cancer over the last twenty five years and apply it to meet a substantial unmet need across Sheffield.
Following on from the tragic death of Eric Codling it was felt that there was an urgent need for such a service and Cavendish Cancer Care was the obvious place to turn to, as we have been supporting children and families bereaved due to cancer for several years.
Our Children and Young People’s service was established 10 years ago and has steadily grown to provide support for families affected by cancer. Our team of therapists are experts in the field, with the skills, training and experience to work safely and effectively with young people, from the age of 4yrs up to 18 years, who can be devastated by illness and loss. Our team use a wide range of approaches to enable children and young people to explore their difficulties and find their own appropriate solutions. Usually this is through one-to-one sessions, but we may also work with children and parents together if it will be more effective. We therefore felt well equipped to consider expanding our present service to include young people who have been bereaved for any reasons that are other than cancer.
Establishing a Service:
With the wonderful support from Ride for Eric, in the last 12 months we have been exploring this new venture and how best to introduce the service to the people of Sheffield: to the people who may not be getting the support they so desperately need. We have recruited more therapists and a part-time administrator to our team to help set the service up, looking at how it will work in the best interests of the clients and our charity. We have networked with a wide range of people and services in Sheffield who provide support for children and families to establish where the gaps are and to build strong and trusting relationships with other organisations and statutory bodies. This groundwork is absolutely essential when establishing a new venture and helps to ensure that our service can be accessed by people from a wide variety of sources: that people will hear about us when the time is most appropriate for them. This could, for example be immediately following on from a bereavement or, conversely it could be several years later.
Through the support, negotiations and contact with other professionals and with the clients themselves that have accessed the service in the last year we have learnt more about the needs of families that have been bereaved. This includes the following:
• Flexibility – we have found that this is crucial when offering support to people whose lives have been rendered chaotic by sometimes sudden tragedy and loss. We aim to learn everything we can about people’s individual circumstances and lives so that our support is aimed at meeting individual needs.
• We need to be available to speak on the phone to clients within 48 hours (on working days) about their circumstances and needs – a quick response is essential when people feel a sense of rising panic about what is happening. We are available on the phone Monday-Friday each week.
• We can usually see a parent/guardian for an initial face-to-face appointment within 2-4 weeks. Provided with a safe and confidential setting, this appointment offers an opportunity to examine in confidence and in a safe setting their current needs; assess the strengths and support they have around them; get reassurance and advice around managing huge changes within the family.
• With the parent/guardian, we can assess how a child is getting on, what is already being done for that child, what more the family can do to support the child themselves and then establish what our service might be able to offer them.
• In these preliminary stages we may be offering some literature to parents/guardians which they can take away to read, with or without the child, and which may provide some valuable tools and reassurance to all involved.
• We would also be looking to signpost families to other services when appropriate, to ensure that every possible source of help is accessed.
• If further arrangements for therapy are to be pursued, a door has now been opened to enable this, even if now is not the right time. Children and parents/guardians will quite commonly change their minds about whether they want to have sessions and it is entirely right that this big step is controlled by themselves.
• Often it is enough for families to discover that ‘we are there for them’; that a service can be accessed at any time in the future, should the family hit a point of crisis. Research and experience tell us that individuals will need and seek support for bereavement at varying times in their lives. Children may need a space to explore their feelings straight away; or it could be 15 years before they wish to seek help. We believe strongly that the urge to access help must ultimately come from the child.
• It is essential that this service is entirely free of charge: thus enabling equity to all children and families.
The Future of the Service:
• We would like to see this service grow and develop in the next few years, through becoming more widely known about and therefore sought after.
• We will be evaluating the service within the next 6-12 months to see what we have learnt so far and what changes need to be put in place to improve the quality of care we can offer families and meet their needs in the best possible ways.
• We would like to extend, expand on and consolidate relationships built within the community and with other professionals to help be part of a network of services and support that can be provided to children and families that have been devastated by the loss of a loved one.