Lifeline service to help grieving kids faces axe

Claire Taylor
Claire Taylor
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A CHARITY that provides a lifeline for around 130 bereaved children a year in Wakefield area is under threat of closure after £90,000 of annual NHS and council funding was cut.

Star Bereavement Support Service in Wakefield employs six people who help children come to terms with losing a parent or sibling.

Children struggling to cope are referred to the service by families and agencies including schools, doctors and mental health workers.

One child helped by the service states on the Wakefield Star website: “I was only young when my mum died, I found it hard to talk to my family but Star helped me to talk and feel less alone.”

It is the only service exclusively for children of its kind in West Yorkshire and funding cuts have quashed hopes of expanding it to Leeds and across the county.

Wakefield Council stopped their annual £25,000 contribution to Star Wakefield’s funding last March.

Now the NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group is to stop its annual £65,000 funding from the end of March this year.

Denise Nowell, the chair of trustees at Star Wakefield, said: “We can survive probably until the end of June and after that we will no longer be able to provide the service and the charity would have to close. It is an absolute disaster. We need to find funding from somewhere else.”

Claire Taylor, service co-ordinator for Star Wakefield, said: “It is life changing for the children we work with. We have helped families stay together and helped young people move forward.

“I think it is short-sighted. We do a lot of early intervention work where we stop children needing mental health intervention.”

Carly Speechley, Wakefield Council’s service director for children’s strategy and commissioning, said: “Due to the unprecedented cuts to our funding from the Government we have had make some tough decisions.

“We are able to provide bereavement support for young people through our existing services and in such a difficult financial climate we were unable to continue supporting a similar service from another organisation.”

Dr Phil Earnshaw, clinical chair for NHS Wakefield, said: “Following discussions with Wakefield Council regarding our joint approach to developing children’s service we decided that we could not continue to extend the contract with Star Bereavement beyond the end of March 2015.

“There are a number of other bereavement services that are already available and which will still support these children. As we continue to develop our joint approach to services with the council, should any gaps arise we will tender specifically to meet those needs.”