New hospice volunteers are ready to support children facing bereavement

Rennie Grove children's support volunteers from left to right: Debbie Favell, Mary Owens, Jenny Cowen and Helen Dawson
Rennie Grove children's support volunteers from left to right: Debbie Favell, Mary Owens, Jenny Cowen and Helen Dawson

A new team of volunteers will use art, music or creative play to support children whose relatives are being cared for by Rennie Grove Hospice Care.

The volunteers have been recruited by the Tring-based hospice to offer an expanded support service for children facing bereavement.

Following a careful recruitment and training programme, the team of six are now poised to start their work – extending the support the charity offers to even more children and families.

Children’s Support Facilitator at Rennie Grove Karen Neill said: “We have wanted to expand the service we offer to support children close to our patients for some time and I’m delighted that we are now able to go ahead.

“We had a fantastic response to our request for volunteers and have been able to bring together a team with a great deal of experience of working with children in a variety of different settings.

“They have all now undergone a specially designed ten week training course which will enable them to use their skills to the full to support children facing bereavement.”

The new team will operate as part of the Rennie Grove Family Support Service and will support the children in families where another child or adult is being or has been cared for by Rennie Grove.

After an assessment of a family’s needs has been carried out by a member of the Family Support Team, the volunteers will spend time with the children and help them explore how they feel about what is happening around them.

They might do this through art, music or creative play or by simply listening and talking to them.

Karen said: “Different children and different families have vastly different needs and while some children might need support immediately they are bereaved, for others it might be years before they feel they need help.

“In fact the latest research shows that the more support children are given before their relative dies, the better they cope with the bereavement in the long term and this is why it is so important for us to be able to reach as many children and families as possible.”

One member of the new team is Mary Owens – a retired teacher who worked for thirty years with children with special needs in mainstream schools.

She said: “It came at a perfect time for me because I was keen to do something useful following my retirement.

“Whilst I have worked with children for many years, I didn’t have any previous experience of bereavement and the training course we were given was so useful to make us all aware of how we can use our existing skills in this area.

“I’m now really excited about being able to get started and hopefully make a difference to children at incredibly difficult times in their lives.”

The recruitment is part of a wider review of the Family Support Service at Rennie Grove being undertaken to enhance the service already being offered to patients and carers.

Head of Patient and Family Services Fiona Wordley said: “Our focus is always on providing the best possible support for our patients and families we are keen to look at ways to make sure that as many families and carers as possible can take advantage of the support we offer.

“Using highly skilled volunteers to provide these services is a really effective way of delivering a first class service. We are delighted to welcome our new children’s support volunteers.”