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

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

Colin Lang, Nelson's Journey chief executive.Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

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

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.'

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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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