Background Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice has been running a Compassionate Neighbours programme since 2018. Over the past five years, more than 270 people have been trained as Compassionate Neighbours; more than 430 ‘Community Members’ (CMs) have been referred for an introduction; and more than 250 pairs of people have been introduced to each other. Many of our volunteers continue their relationships with extended families or friends of the community member they visited after the death of their community member – which is supported and encouraged where it is wanted – and this is an area we have sought to understand further.
Aims To explore the extent to which Compassionate Neighbours provide elements of informal therapeutic support to those who have been bereaved – an extension to the programme’s focus of supporting those at risk of loneliness/social isolation – and the extent to which this complements our existing bereavement support offer.
Method Focused interviews with: Compassionate Neighbours; People who knew the person who died; Health and social care professionals who refer. Analysis of: programme referral data, and hospice’s EPR (SystmOne) data.
Results The relationship between a Compassionate Neighbour, the person they were connected with and their wider support network can provide a unique way to support bereavement. Evidence of need for less ‘formal’ counselling support for some people. Evidence of appropriate signposting to bereavement services for those who may not otherwise have accessed support.
Conclusion Compassionate Neighbours are in a unique position to provide support due to their personal relationship with the deceased. CNs can be especially effective when referrals target those with pre-bereavement risk assessment needs. Compassionate Neighbours are a resource to increase the hospice’s bereavement capacity. The programme has developed a community-led response to supporting those at the end of life, as well as the recently bereaved.
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