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Dealing with child bereavement can be an incredibly emotional time, but how can social workers communicate more effectively with families? In Part 1 of our exclusive interview, we speak with Rosie Mather, South Development Lead for Child Bereavement UK to find out what resources are available for social work practitioners. 




What services are available for social work practitioners?

We support families and educate professionals when a child dies, or is dying, or when a child faces bereavement. A key part of our service is our helpline which is available for both families and professionals to offer support and guidance. We’ve found that we have a significant number of calls from professionals who could perhaps benefit from information prior to meeting a bereaved child, or would like some advice on how to approach a child or family. 

We’ve developed our website to offer a significant number of resources including leaflets, articles, and videos, all of which have been designed with different age ranges in mind. 
We also deliver training courses which have been developed to help social workers better understand and meet the needs of grieving families. Our courses are available across the country and we are continuing to invest in our regional training to enhance accessibility.
 

How much involvement do you have with social work teams?

We work hard to promote our services with all agencies working with families facing bereavement, whether they are working with bereaved children, or parents coping with the loss of a child. Our mission is to ensure accessibility of high quality support and information to all families and professionals . 

We know that people tend to look for us once something has happened, so we are working hard to raise awareness of our services, which will allow us to provide bereavement awareness training for professionals. This has led us to developing regional bereavement advisory groups where we can identify local needs and pathways of support in specific locations across the UK. 

What work do you do with schools and other partner agencies? 

For us, working with schools is vital as it can be a constant for a child who may have been bereaved. We do have a dedicated section on our website for people working in schools which includes an online learning programme for education professionals. 
We’ve worked hard to develop our school resources and have broken it down into different age groups; early years, primary schools and secondary schools so we are confident that there are enough resources to support children of all ages. 

Do you provide advisory support to social workers who may be working with a family dealing with bereavement?

It is always a difficult situation and although we know social workers do have the training to help them, we would like to reiterate that our helpline is always available if you need anyone to talk things through, even if it’s just a debrief after a difficult session. With busy caseloads, it can be beneficial to know that there is an accessible, free service available where you can be given pointers towards useful resources or support services.  

What advice would you give to someone working with a child who has experienced bereavement?

The first questions that people will ask is “what can I do?” and “how can I help?”. It’s important to remember that each child is unique and will cope with the death of a loved one in a different way. There are as many different ways to grieve as there are children . There is no magic formula. 

Children have a much greater capacity to deal with the harsh realities of life than we realise, so most children will not need professional help. Very few children will need the support of CAMHS teams and we need to remember that mourning and grief are natural. It is OK for a child to be sad.

For those working with bereaved families, I would suggest reminding them that children still need to be children. They should be encouraged to go out and have fun with friends or do something that they enjoy. 

If you would like to read more from Child Bereavement UK, why not read the second part of our exclusive interview?

Accessing support from Child Bereavement UK

Child Bereavement UK have a wide range of resources available relating to child bereavement.
Helpline (9am-5pm, Monday – Friday): 0800 02 888 40
Website: www.childbereavementuk.org
App: Grief, Support for Young People (available for free on Apple or Android) 

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