Calling for Increased Investment in Children’s Bereavement Services
On Bereaved Children’s Awareness Week (November 13 – 17), The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN), a hub of Irish Hospice Foundation and supported by Tusla, is calling on Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman for increased investment in children’s bereavement services to ensure that all bereaved children receive the support they need to manage their grief.
Approximately 100 people die every day in Ireland, and children are among those grieving those deaths. While many children can manage their grief effectively when they have the support of caring adults like parents, family members, teachers, or coaches, there are instances where adults may lack the knowledge to provide adequate support to the child, requiring assistance from outside sources.
Paula Reilly, CEO of Irish Hospice Foundation, said:
“A large number of children experience bereavement in childhood; in fact, two in every one hundred nine-year-olds in Ireland have lost a parent. New literature in Scotland and the United Kingdom has identified that over half of all children are bereaved of a parent, sibling, grandparent, or other close family member by the age of eight and this increases to 62% by age 10. Children’s loss encompasses the death of any important person in their lives, be that a sibling, friend, grandparent, uncle or aunt or another person who is significant to them. What we need to see from government is increased investment so that supports for bereaved children can be expanded as well as the necessary training for the service providers. Children need to receive the adequate support to aid them through their grief and if they don’t, there’s a lasting impact.”
In February 2023, the ICBN conducted a national survey to assess the range of services and supports available for bereaved children and their families in Ireland. The survey gathered insights from 103 respondents, primarily from the NGO/Community and Voluntary sector, as well as statutory services, private providers and schools.
The survey identified three key priorities for investment in children’s bereavement:
1. Expand supports for bereaved children
Investing in a model of support for bereaved children to enhance the capacity of existing organizations and family support services, enabling them to become grief-informed and address the needs of bereaved children at a community level. Additionally, including childhood bereavement as a specific focus in the expansion of the pilot ‘Programme of Counselling in Primary Schools.’
2. Enhance service providers’ capacity and competencies
Investing in quality training interventions that are accessible and affordable for service providers to improve the quality of bereavement support for children. Childhood bereavement should also be integrated into the core curriculum and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for professionals working with children and young people.
3. Ensure effective pathways for children needing additional support
Supporting knowledge sharing at local and national levels to enable appropriate signposting and consistency in bereavement pathways. Additionally, providing investment for up-to-date, evidence-based resources that offer knowledge about appropriate bereavement support for children.
Maura Keating, ICBN Co-ordinator, said:
“Empowering the family is an essential part of supporting a bereaved child or young person. Most children can manage and incorporate the grief with the appropriate support from their family and key adults in their lives. However, this is based on the premise that the adults surrounding the child have accurate and up-to-date information on the impact of childhood bereavement. Sometimes families may not be able to provide this support and they will need to turn to support outside the family and access to these supports are very limited and under resourced.”
About Bereaved Children’s Awareness Week 2023
Bereaved Children’s Awareness Week takes place from November 13 – 17, and the ICBN are coordinating a series of events and initiatives that include professional webinars and online support sessions for parents and carers, as well as local and regional events organised by ICBN members and friends. More detail on events can be found here: www.childhoodbereavement.ie/bcaw/
A teacher and Mum were contacted by ICBN about a 9-year-old boy who had recently started to get very upset about his Dad, who has sadly died shortly after he boy was born. They wanted to understand if the little boy’s behaviour was unusual, as up to this point the boy had seemed fine.
The boy was the youngest of 3 brothers, and the older ones had memories of doing things with their Dad before he died and often talked about things they did with their Dad and in the house they had pictures of the Dad with the Mum and the other boys.
ICBN staff were able to help teacher and Mum to understand that, at age 9, the boy has now developing a more mature understanding of death. At this age, he now fully understood the enormity of his father’s death and was expressing emotions that he could not up to now.
For this little boy, it feels like he is experiencing the loss of his Dad for the first time, as if it had just happened. He needed some information and reassurance which acknowledged the grief he was feeling now and helped him build some memories between him and his Dad.
ICBN reassured the teacher and Mum that this is a common response in the circumstance and that talking to children about the death of a loved one is never be a once-off conversation.
The family and school were also supported to help the little boy build some of his own memories associated with his Dad like:
- sharing stories about how he reacted when the boy was born.
- helping make connections by naming things that they have in common.
- taking some of his Dad’s things and letting the little boy own them as special for him.
About The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN)
The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network, hosted by Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF), works with its members to advocate for bereaved children and young people. The ICBN aims to ensure that all children and young people, together with the adults in their lives, have access to high-quality local and national information, guidance, and support to navigate the impact of death on their lives. The ICBN is jointly funded by the Child & Family Agency (Tusla) and Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF).
About Irish Hospice Foundation
Irish Hospice Foundation works towards the best end of life and bereavement care and support for all. Through education and services, such as Nurses for Night Care and the Bereavement Support Line Irish Hospice Foundation strives to ensure that every person can die and grieve well, whatever their age and wherever they are.https://hospicefoundation.ie/