The Islington Bereavement Service is an innovative, community response to bereavement, recently winning the National Council for Palliative Care’s Bereavement Project of the Year (2017). Based on Allan Kellehear’s Compassionate Communities model it ‘draws on existing human and material resources in the community to enhance self-help and social support’. St Joseph’s Hospice has modelled a bereavement project providing support for and by local people. Volunteers are trained and supported to deal with complex bereavement in one of the most unequal boroughs in the UK. There is a growing realisation that joint partnerships between public service providers and local communities can have a significant impact on complex psycho-social issues, this service offers a community solution to a budget cutting environment. A service evaluation was performed to assess effectiveness by analysing how the service impacts on bereaved community members and volunteers. Questionnaires were administered to bereaved community members (n=10) before and after support to assess whether support affected their wellbeing, vulnerability in coping with grief and loneliness. The questionnaire consists of: the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, the Attitude to Grief Scale, the UCLA Three-item Loneliness Scale and cost effectiveness questions. To evaluate the impact the service has on its volunteers, three focus groups were conducted (n=11). Transcripts were analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Wellbeing significantly improved after support. After receiving support, there was no statistically significant difference in loneliness and vulnerability, however, the absolute number of ‘lonely’ community members and community members with a ‘severe’ level of vulnerability decreased. Three main themes emerged from the data: positive experience of volunteering for Islington Bereavement Service, challenges of the bereavement support volunteer role and the importance of bereavement support. Results suggest the service has a positive impact on both community members and volunteers. Limitations of the study and potential implications to the service are discussed.
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