THE MINISTER FOR Children and Youth Affairs has launched the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network, which has been set up to support those working with grieving young people.
Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs said that bereaved children are “among our most vulnerable citizens” but their voices are often not heard.
The Network is based on the Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) in the UK, which was set up in 2001 and currently has 280 members.
There is currently no data regarding childhood bereavement figures in Ireland, however it is estimated that 3,360 of Irish 16-year-olds in 2011 may have experienced the death of one or both parents and a similar number have lost a sibling.
A Scoping Study which was commissioned by the IHF this year noted a lack of emphasis in government policy on children’s bereavement support provision and found that, while there were some strengths, the current delivery system also had significant weaknesses.
The weaknesses identified by the study, which was funded by the Family Support Agency (FSA) and conducted by Dr Kathy McLoughlin, included inequity and fragmentation of services- particularly outside of Dublin. Long waiting lists for more complex bereavement support needs, the lack of any comprehensive directory of services and the lack of any forum to exchange information and knowledge were also noted.
“The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network is a welcome initiative from the voluntary sector who contribute so much in caring and advocating for children who need support,” Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs said.
“Bereaved children are among our most vulnerable citizens but their voice is often silent. The launch of this Network offers Ireland an opportunity to change the way it approaches childhood grief and could make a significant difference in facilitating the delivery of the appropriate resources for each grieving child.”
Dr Susan Delaney, Bereavement Services Manager at the IHF, commented: “Grief is a normal response and the first point of support for children lies in the family. But when a parent is grieving he or she may not be emotionally available to their children and additional support may be needed.”
“The network will be a very valuable resource and allow for the development of a comprehensive directory of services for healthcare professionals. Ultimately, the Childhood Bereavement Network is about ensuring that every bereaved child gets the most appropriate support for them, when they need it,” she added.
The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) is to host the Network for the first two years and will also seek to source funding for its development.
Membership is open to any interested individual or organisations who endorse the agreed vision and guiding principles, with a target of 70 members set for the first year.
Health care professionals can register their interest in joining the network via the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network’s website.