Staff who support bereaved families at Isabel Hospice have been recognised with a special accolade at Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce’s business awards ceremony.
The children’s bereavement service at Isabel Hospice in Welwyn Garden City won the Hertfordshire Heroes Voluntary and Charity category at the 10th Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards, which took place this year at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden – the home of Harry Potter.
Held to celebrate the achievements and contribution of the county’s businesses and charitable organisations, the glittering awards ceremony celebrated the winners of 21 categories, which included Family Business of the Year, Most Promising New Business, The Green Award, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Best Use of Technology.
Hospice staff undertook additional training in online counselling in order to adapt the service in response to the restrictions put into place during the coronavirus crisis as well as the increasing demand for our support.
As a result, the Children’s Service, which is funded by BBC Children in Need, has been able to deal with an increased caseload compared to the previous year, with the number of activities, sessions and telephone calls all on the rise. In total, 485 remote counselling sessions were offered to families by a single counsellor over a 12-month period.
The virtual sessions have been so successful that we plan to continue them as a permanent method of support even when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
In addition, bereavement training has also been delivered to four groups of school staff to help better support children suffering loss and bereavement.
Helen Glenister, CEO at Isabel Hospice said: “I am delighted that our children’s service has won the Hertfordshire Heroes Award. Buddhika Arachchige, our Children’s Service Counsellor was instrumental in developing our virtual service in response to Covid-19, which has enabled us to support more young people to express their feelings and respond to grief. Although Covid-19 has been challenging for the Hospice, particularly in relation to fundraising, this story is one of the positives from a difficult time.”
Isabel’s Children’s Service counsellor and co-ordinator Buddhika Arachchige said the changes had been “well received”, adding: “We previously offered virtual support for counselling, but had it not been for the pandemic, we would never have thought of this approach for the type of audience that we normally cater to.
“We observed that this approach was responded to positively by a certain cohort of children. Steps were taken to see children face-to-face as best we could but, moving forward, we intend to keep virtual support as an option for service delivery.”
One child who was supported through the pandemic is 10-year-old Alissa (name has been changed) following the loss of her grandmother to cancer.
Buddhika said: “To Alissa, her Nan was ‘super nan’. Alissa saw her Nan in every important occasion of her life and the loss after this intimacy left a huge void in Alissa’s little world.
“She was feeling like she was going to explode not being able to express her grief and felt played up by her emotions. She had increasing moments of lashing out, anxieties creeping in and was missing Nan. Above all, seeing how much her mum was struggling after the loss debilitated her. Alissa’s mum had the worry that she would not be strong enough for Alissa.
“Alissa was seen shifting her anxiety from one type to another for quite a long time whilst receiving help. She was supported with a range of psychotherapeutic techniques to help her express and validate her feelings and gradually she was able to find her feet again.”
The Children’s Service has also been recruiting and training extra volunteers to support its future activities as lockdown restrictions ease and now has five registered volunteers to support its programme of groups.
Two of these groups – Mindfulness for Children and Children’s Feelings and Sounds – are due to resume at our Hall Grove hub from September.
Briege Leahy, CEO of Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Local businesses, large and small, are at the heart of the growth of our county and our annual awards ceremony is an opportunity to recognise business leaders’ hard work, innovation and contribution to Hertfordshire.”
The ceremony, which took place on September 9th, was attended by several local dignitaries, including the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss CBE CStJ, the Leader of Hertfordshire County Council and prominent business leaders.
Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, recently named the fastest growing Chamber in the UK by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has continued to support its members as businesses navigated the challenges posed by the pandemic.