Background In 2008 Newham ranked the 2nd in the country for income deprivation, Newham’s Census showed 144 languages spoken and the lowest employment rate compared to other London Boroughs. The Newham Bereavement Service was set up in September 2012. It has been commissioned by NHS East London and City for 3 years.
Volunteers have been trained to provide bereavement support. This initiative enabled a network of volunteers to support their community during bereavement and allow those who might not access professionally led services to get the support they need.
Aim As hospice care moves into a more community based approach, St Joseph’s Hospice’s Newham Bereavement Service has modelled a service providing bereavement support for and by local people. This service is a working partnership between St Joseph’s Hospice and Newham Talking Therapies where volunteers are trained and supported to deal with complex bereavement referrals in one of the most deprived areas in the UK. The service has been the subject of research conducted by Which?, The charity and Consumer’s Association.
Methodology The study was based on semi-ethnographic qualitative approach, designed and carried out in close discussion with Newham Bereavement Service staff and academics. During 2013–14 Which? Conducted participant observations of the recruitment, training and supervision process of volunteers. Following this Which? conducted 21 semi-structured telephone interviews with services users and befrienders, and with managers and staff on the programme.
Results The Newham Bereavement Service is described as on the ‘crest of a wave’ in an area where people are realising that joint partnerships between public service providers and local communities can have a significant impact on complex psycho-social issues.
Conclusion This report places the Newham Bereavement Service within a policy context illustrating a new approach to service delivery where budget constraints and cuts in health and social care have required a community based solution.
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