Aynsley-Green: More help needed for bereaved children

Fewer than 20% of councils are recognising the specific needs of bereaved children in their strategic planning for children, according to new research.

The survey of primary care trusts and local authorities, from the Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) and the children’s commissioner,  also found a third of councils in England lack a specialist childhood bereavement service.

The findings of the survey, which was returned by 51% of local authority areas across England, were presented by outgoing children’s commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green at a CBN conference, where he also announced his new role as patron of the CBN.

“Around one child in every classroom is affected by the death of a loved one. The lack of specialist childhood bereavement services means that countless children are not being properly supported through their grief,” Aynsley Green said.

“The issue is close to my heart as I lost my own father at a very young age. I commend the work of voluntary organisations. However, there is now an urgent need for more trained bereavement counsellors in schools and in communities to help children and young people to deal with the range of emotions bought on by the death of a parent, sibling or friend.

Alison Penny, CBN co-ordinator, said families were “very clear” about the benefits of childhood bereavement services which help them to “make sense of what has happened, meet others in a similar situation, and learn ways of coping with the huge changes and challenges that a death in the family brings.”

‘While the survey revealed excellent services in some areas, that’s little comfort to a family down the road who can’t access something similar,” Penny said.

“These services should be available in every area, for every family to access freely when the time is right for them,” Penny said.

It is estimated that 3.5% (252,000) of the population of 5-6 year olds in England alone have been bereaved of a parent or sibling.

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