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P-15 Puppets, paint and tears – the introduction of children’s bereavement volunteers
  1. Karen Neill and
  2. Fiona Wordley
  1. Rennie Grove Hospice Care, Chalfont St Giles, UK


Research shows that around 11 children are bereaved of a parent daily in the UK and 1 in 29 school children are bereaved of a parent or sibling – equating to a child in every class. 6 children also die daily from illness or accident – this results in many young people and families requiring support in order to deal with grief issues.

Recent increases in patient numbers within the Hospice organisation has led to increased numbers of parents/carers needing support in managing children’s bereavement needs.

Children’s grief requires different management to adult grief due to age and level of understanding. It also requires different approaches to enable them to express their feelings and develop coping strategies.

A need for trained volunteers to support children and young people under 18, at home and at school, was identified and role profiles were created. Advertisements were placed in the local press and through local organisations and after shortlisting applications, interviews were held and 7 successful applicants were offered training places.

A comprehensive 10 week training course totalling 25 h was attended covering key aspects of children’s loss and grief, including models and theories, creative working plus communication and listening skills. Following course completion, further interviews were held and 6 volunteers were accepted into the team.

5 volunteers have since taken referrals and each has worked with at least 2 clients providing face to face support either at home or at school.

Ongoing support for the volunteers has continued using group supervision every 2 months plus 1 to 1 supervision available on request. Further training workshops are also facilitated.

Feedback has been positive from clients and families involved in the project and further recruitment and training courses are planned in order to expand the team further.

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