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Vision to meet ‘unprecedented’ number of bereaved children turning to Nelson’s Journey

PUBLISHED: 10:10 18 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:17 18 October 2014

Colin Lang, Nelson's Journey chief executive.
Picture: Denise Bradley

Colin Lang, Nelson's Journey chief executive. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2012

One of Norfolk’s biggest charities, dedicated to supporting bereaved children, needs a major expansion to meet “unprecedented” demand for its services.

‘A godsend for us’

Nelson’s Journey was a “godsend” to one Norwich family left devastated by a family loss.

Julie Smith, 39, said her daughters Libby, 10, and Gemma, six, adored their doting grandmother, Ann Sadler from Lakenham.

But when she died suddenly of ovarian cancer last year, their lives were ripped apart.

“She was like a second mum to my girls, they were with her all the time. So when she died they were really hit hard”, Mrs Smith said.

But when the Smiths, from West Acre Drive in Old Catton, were introduced to the bereavement charity, the whole family’s grief became easier to cope with.

“We were introduced to Nelson’s Journey through the school. They showed the girl’s how to cope with their feelings and helped me and my husband Ady as well,” she said.

“Because I was so upset myself after losing my mum, I found it hard too.

“They were an absolute godsend. They stopped the girls from being scared and allowed all of us to be with other people who have experience the same as us.

“They showed the girls they are not alone and it’s not a bad thing to cry of be upset. I really don’t think we would be where we are without Nelson’s Journey.”

To get in touch with Nelson’s Journey email enquiries@nelsonsjourney.org.uk or call 01603 431788

Nelson’s Journey is considering opening two new sites in Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn even before it has unveiled its main centre on the Norwich outskirts in November.

There was a 40pc increase in the number of children turning to the charity in the first six months of this year, compared to the same time in 2013.

That means a record 600 grieving 0 to 17-year-olds could have used Nelson’s Journey by the end of this year alone.

The Betts family from Bintree near Dereham and the Smiths from Old Catton are one of hundreds of families to have been supported by the bereavement charity.

Charity chief executive Colin Lang puts the dramatic increase down to the NHS no longer providing bereavement care for youngsters – meaning many of those who do not get support drop out of education, develop a mental health issue, have problems with alcohol and drugs or end up in the criminal justice system.

He said: “We have never seen numbers like this before, it’s unprecedented. They just keep going up and up. Now we are seeing these huge numbers, we really need to get some support out there.”

The majority of children referred to the charity are from the Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk areas of the county.

The potential new sites, which would not be owned by the charity like Smiles House in Little Plumstead, would allow bereavement workers to have a safe space to work with the children on a one-to-one basis.

MPs and regional health bosses met earlier this month to work out how to help fund the charity in the coming year.

Individual and business donations make up 61pc of Nelson’s Journey’s funding, with statutory money contributing just 15pc.

At the round table event held in Hethel, Norwich’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) pledged £22,000 but other authorities are yet to follow-suit.

Care minister and north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he favours closer ties between the NHS and the voluntary sector and said he would encourage the CCGs to support bereavement organisations more.

But Mr Lang said the government is being “short-sighted” in its approach to bereavement in Norfolk.

“A service should be provided by the government – we wouldn’t exist without the generosity of Norfolk people,” Mr Lang said.

“Bereavement has always been the second fiddle. If someone drops down dead there’s nothing for that family unless someone develops a mental health issue, then they will get some help.

“The government has got to realise there’s nothing in Norfolk at the moment. A child has got to develop a mental health issue before they get any help.

“It’s just not right that a child has to get to that stage before they get any support.”

Mr Lamb said criticising the government was “misplaced” as decisions about where cash is spent is made locally.

What are your views? Email rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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