Leeds City Council has launched a new service to support the estimated 5% of school aged children and young people living in Leeds who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling.

Leader of the council, Councillor Judith Blake, announced support for the service in her annual budget speech in February. She was joined last month at Leeds Civic Hall by Shirley Potts (Director of Regional Development for Child Bereavement UK) and Andrea Kerslake (founder of the charity ‘Elliot’s Footprint’ and a key campaigner of better support for bereaved families) to officially launch the service.

Delivered on behalf of Leeds City Council by national charity ‘Child Bereavement UK’ (CBUK), the service offers a telephone helpline, flexible one-to-one support and group sessions.

It has been designed based on feedback from parents of bereaved children who identified a lack of flexible and immediate support for young people and families following the death of a loved one. They also identified a need for somewhere to turn to in the longer term.

The service has helped over 20 families living in Leeds since it first started operating in March, from practitioners giving advice on the best ways to talk about death to a young child to a key worker providing regular support for families.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake said:

“We’re delighted to welcome Child Bereavement UK into Leeds to deliver this vital service for children and their families. Whilst there was some support out there through schools and charities, there was no stand-alone service in the city.

“This new partnership will ensure that young people in Leeds have access to support and advice when they need it to help cope with their loss. We look forward to working closely with all partners in the bereavement community to ensure the absolute best support is available whenever a family needs it.”

Councillor Fiona Venner, executive member for children and families said:

“We are committed to working with partners across all sectors to make Leeds the best city for children and young people to grow up in. I am incredibly proud that we have developed a bereavement service especially for children and families so that they have access to timely and compassionate support that is flexible to their needs.

“Bereavements are a sad and difficult time for everyone, regardless of age, and having access to the right support can make a huge positive difference. Child Bereavement UK are already making a difference in Leeds and I’m sure that this fantastic work will continue to be highly valued in our city.”

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, executive member for adults and wellbeing said:

“It’s fantastic that Leeds now has a dedicated service for children and families who suffer a bereavement. Child Bereavement UK are an incredible charity with many years of experience in this field and we welcome them to the city.

“Having somewhere to turn to in difficult times is absolutely essential for dealing with grief and we’re delighted that we can now offer this service to families in Leeds.”

Shirley Potts, Director of Regional Development for Child Bereavement UK said:

“Nearly 800 children a week, in this country, experience the death of a parent. Many more will experience the death of a grandparent or other family member. It’s therefore crucial that they have someone to turn to in these hard times.

“Child Bereavement UK has 25 years of experience in supporting bereaved children and families and now, in collaboration with Leeds City Council, we’re absolutely delighted to have established a service to support bereaved children and their families across the Leeds area.

“Grieving is a natural process, not an illness, but the consequences of unresolved grief issues can be dire. Sometimes struggles with bereavement can be hidden behind challenging behaviour, anxiety or other responses. That’s why we believe in offering basic bereavement support to those who need it.”

The service is available to young people (up to the age of 18) and their families living in Leeds. Fully trained practitioners will meet with them at a convenient location and the services are all provided free of charge.

For more information about the service, visit
www.childbereavementuk.org/leeds or call 0113 350 3598.

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