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Innovative new way of working with bereaved families

7th October 2014

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We have seen a big increase in the number of bereaved adults and children needing support after a loved one dies which has prompted us to introduce an innovative new way of working at St Richard’s Hospice.

In order to cope with demand, the hospice Family Support Team is now integrating some support groups which help those who are grieving after a sudden death and the families of hospice patients.

The move has come about as a result of St Richard’s being chosen to run the new Bereavement Support South Worcestershire (BSSW) service two years ago, set up to help anyone in the area who was bereaved by a sudden death.  The South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (SWCCG) commissioned St Richard’s to run the service as it was recognised for its skill and expertise in this area.

As more and more people wanted help from BSSW after a sudden death and our own St Richard’s Hospice family numbers were increasing, we knew we needed to change the way we worked.

We were struggling to offer support to all those that needed help from BSSW at what is an incredibly difficult time for many people. We decided the way forward was to expand our group work to include more of the bereaved people who were referred.

Loss and grief creates such distress whether it is after a loved one has died suddenly, such as in a car accident or a suicide, or from an illness which has been known about for a longer time. We work with their emotions, thoughts and feelings.

Research and our own experience has shown that talking to others in a similar situation really helps. They understand how it feels to be bereaved and very often continue to support each other after our group sessions have finished.

We run the Dragonfly Group for children and young people who have been bereaved and their parent or carer. They benefit from professional support as well as from each other in six fortnightly sessions.

In the next Dragonfly group we plan to support ten families with 15 children aged between five and 14 years old. This includes families who are connected to St Richard’s patients and those referred through BSSW following a sudden death.

The group is run by four staff from St Richard’s Hospice and BSSW plus two specially trained family support volunteers.

Our Family Support Team includes a full time Senior Social Worker, Senior Counsellor, two Family Support Practitioners, Citizens’ Advice Bureau worker and Community Volunteers Co-ordinator.  Part time staff includes two counsellors, family support officer, group work coordinator and family support coordinator. They are helped by 24 Family Support Volunteers, 47 Community Volunteers and six volunteer counsellors.

BSSW staff includes three part time counsellors and one part time child and family support worker plus a Family Support volunteer and three volunteer counsellors.

The high number of referrals from both services has led to the creation of an extra ‘Steps’ group which is a social drop in session for bereaved adults and a second therapeutic bereavement group.

These changes were a brave move which is working well so far and allowing us to support far more people.  We constantly review our work and if someone would benefit more from individual support moving forward with their grief then we can arrange the appropriate sessions.

Sarah Popplestone-Helm, Head of the Family Support Service