Social services staff help mourners

A senior social worker involved in staffing the helpline to cope
with calls from people distressed by the murder of schoolgirls
Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells has spoken of the commitment of
colleagues offering their services voluntarily, writes
Sally Gillen

Jackie Day, one of four social services managers working shifts
on the helpline, said many staff had wanted to help, and “there had
been no problems covering the shifts”.

She added that the deaths of the 10-year-olds, whose bodies were
discovered by ramblers two weeks after they disappeared, had been
“very touching, dramatic and deeply sad”.

Those taking turns to do a three-hour stint on the helpline were
dealing with a range of calls from people who were “very distressed
and needed counselling” to people who wanted to express their
condolences to the girls’ families.

The service, which is offered from 8.30am to 8pm, was set up by
the social services emergency duty team the day after the girls
were found. Day said: “We are having a briefing session before each
shift starts and a debrief after to understand how people are
feeling and what other help we might need to offer. We were very
busy on the first day and the calls tend to come in waves.”

“We have been speaking to our colleagues in education, and there
are plans to provide direct counselling for children once they go
back to school, ” she added.

Michael Leadbetter, president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services, said: “Staff in Cambridgeshire cannot be praised
highly enough for the sensitive and low-key way in which they have
helped their community, and colleagues from other departments,
following the devastating tragedy in Soham.”

He added that “we should all be grateful for their presence and
support to local people in what is and will be a harrowing episode
in our national life”.

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