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Bereavement in the time of COVID-19

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Dealing with bereavement is never easy. It’s even harder during this difficult period, with separation from loved ones at the most crucial time.  

Norfolk Resilience Forum (NRF) has initiated a pro-active approach in offering the right support in the right way to those who need it.  As to the agencies best placed to organise and deliver training, Community Action Norfolk’s experience in working with the Compassionate Communities approach and community support through a range of services was recognised and highly valued. From this week therefore, Norfolk County Council, together with the Working Together partnership, is offering a 30 minute wellbeing telephone support call to anyone registering a death. This is especially important just now when people have not been able to visit hospitals or care homes, to travel to see loved ones or to fulfil the funeral arrangements they might otherwise have wished for. 

Furloughed Norfolk Libraries staff are kindly giving their time and skills to offer a sympathetic, listening ear. Once the call is complete the bereaved person can be referred, if needed, for longer-term support from a fully trained and experienced bereavement volunteer. But those volunteers need, and are entitled to, training on such a sensitive issue.  

CAN liaised with bereavement charity Cruse and children’s and young people’s bereavement service Nelson’s Journey about the practicalities of increasing their capacity, recognising their value and importance in responding to COVID-19 – and also their longer-term scope to deliver even better bereavement services across the county. Cruse and Nelson’s Journey have both adapted their services swiftly, especially in training volunteers to work remotely. And all were agreed that Voluntary Norfolk was the right organisation to identify appropriate volunteers from amongst those responding to the COVID-19 volunteer appeal across the county, and channel them directly to experienced support services. 

CAN has already been delivering training to library volunteers to equip them to offer bereavement support in the most appropriate and sensitive way. Further, CAN managers are looking at ways to make use of new bereavement awareness training packages to help develop the skills of people from a wide range of community groups. 

Jon Clemo, Chief Executive of Community Action Norfolk and Alan Hopley, Chief Executive of Voluntary Norfolk said: “We realise there is a high level of concern that people have not been able to grieve properly and we want to make them aware that this service is available. Providing a bereavement service for both adults and children is very important and we are working with Cruse and Nelson’s Journey to ensure, for the long term, that we can train volunteers.” 

Mr Clemo added: “This is a great example of public and voluntary sector partners working together to bring about a fast, effective response to urgent need. CAN, Voluntary Norfolk and Momentum (Norfolk) already work closely together as the Working Together partnership, so we know who to talk to in each other’s organisations to work towards positive outcomes.” 

More volunteers are welcome, now and in the future. You can register at www.voluntarynorfolk.org.uk 

Read more about the work of Norfolk Resilience Forum here.