Bereavement counselling ends as funds run out

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The bereavement service is to give up counselling clients on Tuesday as it has run out of money after making several unsuccessful applications to potential backers.
The absence of bereavement counselling in Shetland will come as a blow to many people who have lost loved ones. The service, which has run from Market House for the past six years, offered one-to-one counselling.
Last year the service saw 53 clients, a number that has grown with every year, according to Shetland Bereavement Support Service administrator Ellen Hughson. But letters were sent out at the end of the year informing clients that the voluntary service would be ending owing to a funding shortage.
“We have not been successful at getting any funding for the coming financial year. Unfortunately we will be suspending the client service from 31st March, and there will be no bereavement service until we can get new funding,” said Ms Hughson.
“It is very upsetting because there is nowhere locally for people to go. There are national phone lines but a lot of people want to speak to someone face to face.”
Carolyn Coutts used the service for six months after her husband Michael died last March. She said it had been a “great benefit” since she undertook face to face counselling  in August and that it was “sad” that funding could not be found to keep the service going.
She had reached the “natural end” of her time for counselling, but other people were still in need of help. She said it was beneficial to speak to a professional counsellor who was not an immediate friend or family member.
“There is no other counselling you can get in Shetland. You can get counselling through the health centre but you have to have mental illness to qualify. There is nothing for ordinary families going through bereavement and that’s pretty sad, especially when there is funding for other things that are not quite as needed.
“This has been all very quietly taken away and I think that folk should know this is happening.”
The bereavement service won a grant of over £90,000 from the Big Lottery in 2008 that was to keep it running for five years. There was some money left at the end of that period that enabled the service to keep running for another year while it applied to other funding sources.
The service had also been “fairly successful” at raising money locally and had received generous donations, but applications to the lottery, the SIC and the health service had all been unsuccessful. According to Ms Hughson, the lottery had been “fantastic funders”, but had reconfigured its funding categories and bereavement no longer neatly fitted into any funding pot.
Because the intention has been to provide counselling as long as clients needed it, it was necessary to stop taking on new clients before funding ran out. The service’s trustees are meanwhile considering their options, which may include offering a scaled back service in line with the organisation’s budget.
Vice chairman Donald Anderson, who is also a voluntary counsellor, said: “The Big Lottery funding allowed us to expand the service a fair bit, train clients and give one-to-one support.
“We were successful in some of our funding bids, but not enough to keep at the level we were running. We could not guarantee that we had enough funding and took the decision to suspend the one-to-one support.”
Now, the charity is putting together a business plan, reviewing what it has provided and “looking at the next step forward.” The trustees would “think very carefully about how to proceed,” he added.
It would be examining options including phone support and continuing to provide some form of face-to-face service, which had been “very successful” and was not being ruled out in future.
The service had been able to run without the help of the SIC, the Charitable Trust or the NHS, but “cannot continue to survive at the level it had been running” without a major backer.
Ms Hughson is the charity’s sole employee, and only works part-time, and there are 14 counsellors, some of whom are also trustees. Aside from her wage, the service needs money for travel, rent, IT and office expenses and the training and supervision of counsellors by other professionals.
The service has offered one-to-one counselling for both children and adults affected by bereavement and has been in “plenty of demand” since it started. People can come direct to the service but many are pointed in its direction by their GP.
“Year on year this service has been increasing. We are there to prevent problems from arising – you could say it’s early intervention. From the evaluations we get back, everyone is saying how thankful they were that we were there,” added Ms Hughson.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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