Background The provision of hospice-based support and services to children and young people should be integral to the delivery of holistic care in an adult setting. Opportunities for remembrance, social connection and communication with others are important areas of bereavement support. Evaluation of service provision, feedback from users and staff identified the need for dedicated support available to children. Coordinated and delivered by counsellors, music and play therapists, our GEMS (Grief Every Memory Special) group was established in 2016.
Aims To comprehensively evaluate our GEMS group programme, establishing a better understanding of a) those using the service and how to make it more accessible, b) children’s feelings regarding support that is more therapeutically focused and/or fun-based, c) the role of peer support.
Methods Since 2016, 10 GEMS events have been held in a range of settings. This paper focusses on service evaluation, feedback analysis, internal and external consultation with both children and their guardians. We routinely gauged the number of referrals, visits and recurrence of attendance, feedback of children and families, conducted cost analysis and sought additional financial support to evolve the scope of provision available.
Results Of the 42 children supported: 67% had suffered bereavement of a parent, 21% a sibling and 12% a grandparent. Responses to each GEMS’ event suggested children felt supported and engaged, valuing both fun/leisure activities and those with a therapeutic focus. Written and verbal feedback indicated children frequently engaged better in mixed-age groups and suggested GEMS’ days worked best when following a theme.
Conclusion Evaluation of GEMS demonstrates children of all ages benefit greatly from the provision of activity-based bereavement support from teams of creative therapists and counsellors. This is a relatively inexpensive means of engaging a ‘hard-to-reach’ group, which all hospices should be encouraged to develop. Further focused research will enhance the GEMS programme.
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