Bereaved Leeds families calling for better support are backed by politicians

Elliot Kerslake
Elliot Kerslake
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POLITICIANS have thrown their weight behind a campaign calling for better support in Leeds for parents who suffer the sudden death of a child.

A huge gap in services for bereaved families has been revealed by Elliot’s Footprint, which was set up in memory of toddler Elliot Kerslake, who died in 2013.

Two Leeds MPs are now backing a petition launched by Elliot’s parents John and Andrea to demand improvements in bereavement support.

They were given only a leaflet to help them following the sudden death of their two-year-old, who never woke from his afternoon nap.

The politicians urged other city leaders to sign the petition and called for Parliament to debate the issue.

Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West, said: “It’s simply not acceptable that families are leaving hospital with just a leaflet.

“There is a crucial need for this to be discussed in parliament before any more parents walk away feeling how Andrea and John did, not just the day of Elliot’s death, but for the years after.”

As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post last year, research commissioned by Elliot’s Footprint found every bereaved family questioned did not receive the support they needed and many said they had been left on their own.

Only 16 per cent of professionals thought that child bereavement support in the city was effective, with over half of experts consulted unaware who co-ordinated the services available.

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) is also highlighting the campaign, as the petition needs 10,000 signatures to be considered in Parliament.

He said: “This compelling report from Elliot’s Footprint makes a powerful case for better services and support for bereaved families.

“I urge everyone to sign this petition and help Elliot’s Footprint get a step closer to securing adequate bereavement support services in Leeds. This will ensure that no family is left to grieve alone.”

Andrea Kerslake, from Shadwell, said: “We are thankful for the backing of leading MPs and hope more local influencers will step up to support, and to give this important campaign the attention it warrants and ensure that no other Leeds families suffer alone,” she added.

Elliot Kerslake seemed perfectly well when he went for a nap on a Sunday in March 2013.

But three hours later, he was discovered with no signs of life. Medics later said he had probably suffered a seizure brought on by an unexplained virus.

A year after his death, Elliot’s Footprint was launched to help improve support for families like his. Elliot’s parents were sent home from hospital with just a leaflet when he died and were forced to turn to Google to try to find further support.

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A COUPLE have spoken of their heartache after their one-year-old daughter died in her sleep.

Roxie Smith had been ill with a common childhood illness but seemed to have recovered.

On the tragic day in 2015, Roxie’s older brother Lennon woke at 6am – but his sister had stopped breathing during the night.

She had been unwell with the hand, foot and mouth virus and then a throat infection, but recovered and quickly returned to her usual cheeky, playful self.

Roxie’s mum, Claire Lewyskyji, said: “We rang an ambulance and performed CPR on Roxie until the ambulance came. We then went to hospital and sat in theatre while they did all they could to bring Roxie back, but there was nothing, she had already gone.

“The hospital staff wanted to say Roxie had passed away due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but I insisted that I didn’t believe that, my baby was one years old and could walk and talk. I needed to know the reason for her passing.”

“We weren’t offered any counselling or help at all,” Claire added. “We were just given a few leaflets, but I didn’t find any helpful as my baby didn’t pass away from stillbirth, cot death or neonatal complications.”

Claire and partner Damian Smith searched the internet extensively and the only useful link they found was to Elliot’s Footprint.

After months of uncertainty, the family were eventually told Roxie’s illness had developed from the cold sore virus, which had spread to her brain and slowly shut it down.

Claire said: “We miss Roxie more and more every single day and as a family will never be complete without her.

“We are a strong family and we will use our memories to help us each day.”

Three months ago the couple welcomed baby Lacey-Hope, their “rainbow baby”.