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14 December 2016, 06:00
A mum and dad from Leeds are calling for better support for families grieving the death of a child.
Elliot's Footprint was set up by Andrea and John Kerslake in 2014, after the sudden death of their two-year old son Elliot. The charity commissioned research to be carried out by Brainbox Research. They found just 16% of professionals think that child bereavement support in Leeds is effective and 100% of bereaved families find the current service unsuitable for their needs.
Over half of the 270 professionals interviewed in Leeds do not know who coordinates child bereavement services in the city and almost half of professionals saw the need for one single organisation to coordinate it. Access to communication (42%) and lack of knowledge (22%) were identified as the biggest gaps in child bereavement support.
Elliot's Footprint has presented the research to Leeds MPs and influencers and launched a petition urging the UK Government to give 100% of Leeds parents adequate support following the sudden death of a child. The Charity is appealing to Leeds residents to back the important petition, which requires 10,000 signatures to be considered in Parliament.
Elliot's Footprint was set up by Andrea and John Kerslake in 2014 following the sudden and unexpected death of their son Elliot, aged just two and a half years old. The Kerslakes were left alone, like many Yorkshire families, to come to terms with their devastating loss and try to raise their remaining two children without any appropriate professional support or guidance, an experience which intensified their grief and led them to vow to support others in the same situation.
Charity founder and Elliot's Mum, Andrea Kerslake, explains; "Our healthy, happy little boy went from playing and running around in the morning to being taken to hospital in an ambulance in the afternoon. Elliot went to sleep that afternoon showing no signs of illness, yet he never woke up. Suddenly, we were thrown into a whole new world of intense devastation, filled with immense pain and heartbreak."
"We left hospital later that day with just a leaflet, without our beautiful baby boy and with no guidance as to how we were supposed to support Elliot's siblings, Emily and Oliver, in their grief. This research has proven what we have already experienced first-hand as a family - that there is a serious need for immediate, intensive and family centred bereavement support in Leeds.
32% of professionals who took part in the survey believe there are inconsistencies in services and almost half of professionals saw the need for one single organisation to coordinate it. 63% of respondents believe child bereavement services in Leeds should be coordinated by hospitals and GP services, with another 16% believing the local authority should coordinate it.
John Kerslake, Elliot's Dad, added: "100% of families agreed that, just like us, they had to rely on informal support, such as friends and faith networks, to help them cope with unimaginable grief. Other families, just like us, were sent away from hospital with just a leaflet, so traumatised and helpless that they were driven to Google in search of help and answers.
"Through pregnancy, birth and a child's early years we encounter many health professionals, but when the worst possible situation for any parent occurs, there is 'radio silence' from these professionals. We are urging Yorkshire people to back this important petition and ensure no other family is left to grieve alone."
The report concludes that healthcare and other services across social care and education settings need to communicate effectively with each other about the needs of families, the services available to them and the individual care and support pathway being accessed by individual families. It identifies that families should have the support of a named advocate, joining up services for them, explaining and supporting them through legal processes and helping them identify and access the care services they need.
Andrea and John have also started a petition calling for better support for bereaved families.