, Education correspondent
Monday, February 18, 2013
A Norfolk charity providing vital support to young people affected by bereavement has put out a SOS call to the region’s health and children’s services leaders for funding help.
Last year Nelson’s Journey saw demand for its all-important service increase by 70pc as more and more schools, social workers, GPs and nurses referred youngsters for support.
But with the charity relying entirely on donations, fundraising and grant applications to fund its £350,000 operating costs each year, it found itself struggling to cope.
Colin Lang, chief executive, said: “We were buckling under the strain. With that number of referrals, our staff of three support workers have caseloads of 100 each. We can’t continue under that.”
The charity has 300 children receiving support at the moment and helped a total of 460 young people – at a cost of £437 each – in 2012.
Nelson’s Journey, based in Norwich, carried out a review of its services in December to find ways to maintain the quality of its offering and Mr Lang said he was confident they had achieved that.
But he still needs to fund the recruitment of a fourth social worker to cope with the extra demand. Mr Lang said: “In the 15 years Nelson’s Journey has been operating, we have never said no to a referral.
“How do you say no to a child who is crying out for support?”
His plea for financial help has been backed by the father of two children whose mother was killed in a car crash.
Keith Palmer, of Bradwell, had to cope with the sudden loss of his wife Kelly but his biggest concern was for Jordan, 12, and Kyle, 10, who were in the car at the time of the crash in 2009. He said they had been struggling to cope but the situation changed like “magic” when they went on their first Nelson’s Journey activity weekend.
At a meeting called by Norwich South MP Simon Wright, pictured, Nelson’s Journey appealed to the NHS in Norfolk and Waveney and Norfolk County Council for help.
At the moment the charity receives no public funding when a child is referred to it via social workers, teachers or GPs.
Mr Wright said he was pleased with the response from representatives of Norfolk and Waveney NHS Trust, Norfolk’s clinical commissioning groups, which will take over the commissioning of NHS healthcare on April 1, and Norfolk children’s services.
Speaking after the meeting, Michael Bateman, additional needs strategy and commissioning manager at the county council, said: “We hope to be able to provide a financial commitment to the charity for the year ahead as we recognise the important contribution Nelson’s Journey is making to create positive outcomes for the bereaved children and young people they work with.”