From respite care to clinical support to fun playtime, the children’s hospice at home service that the Pepper Foundation funds provides essential help and support for families caring for children with life-limiting conditions.

But a really important part of the support provided by a hospice service is providing regular emotional support for families and children. While a certain amount of emotional support is naturally offered by the nursing team as they get to know the families they work with, many families will reach a point where they need more dedicated emotional support and therapy.

This is where the Children’s and Family Support Therapy team at our partner, Rennie Grove Hospice Care, comes in. While the Pepper Foundation doesn’t fund this service, we feel it is important to highlight the network of services that support families.

We spoke to Rennie Grove Children’s and Family Support Therapist, Gareth Bartlett, about the support and counselling services available to children and their families. Gareth has been working as a counsellor/therapist at Rennie Grove since 2019. Prior to his current role, he was a Paramedic Practitioner for London Ambulance Service and Oxford Health, a Counsellor with TIC+, working in schools in Gloucestershire, and has held various other counselling roles.

“Since taking on the role of Children’s and Family Support Therapist at Rennie Grove in March of this year, I have discovered just how much more there is to it than just supporting young people and their families.

Prior to joining Rennie Grove, I had experience in offering support to young people in a school setting as well as working in health settings with both adults and young people. Currently, young people and their families are offered a range of services. Counselling is available to those who have deep-rooted issues that need to be explored, while our volunteer children’s support workers are available to work with any child who needs to work through their grief in a gentler way. Adult counselling and listening services are also available to parents and carers.

Supporting Children & Families

The current caseload of nineteen children and young people is supported by a group of volunteers dedicated to offering support and coming from a range of backgrounds including nursing, teaching and other charity work. We offer all our volunteers the opportunity to get involved with other events such as the annual Light Up A Life services or the recent Art of Grieving exhibition in St Albans. They are also supported in their roles with monthly supervision groups where we meet to discuss our clients in a safe and confidential space, share ideas and experiences, and are committed to developing their skills in their roles.

We have volunteers in the roles of counsellor, listener and children’s support volunteer. The Family Support Service also offers a range of complimentary therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology and massage, mainly through volunteering, so our volunteers are incredibly important to us.

Monthly Group

There is a monthly group running during term times that brings together the siblings or children of Rennie Grove patients on Saturday morning, consisting of a mix of play and talk, which involves working with our play specialist Karen, and there is also talk of running a group for older children and young people. Part of my role is to liaise with the paediatric nursing team as well as the adult nursing teams, to offer advice and guidance on how clients may benefit from talking therapies or emotional support. I am also open to working with schools that are affected by the illness or death of a student and often see children in a school setting.
Outreach is an important part of the role and as well as speaking to schools, I attend meetings with the Bucks Bereavement Network, the Specialist Sibling Support Interest Group and the Buckinghamshire Children’s Death Overview Panel – my other colleagues in the Family Support Team attend meetings that are relevant to their roles and place of work.

Bereavement Support

Outside of working with the Children’s and Young Peoples’ Support service I am involved in running the Bereavement Support Programme at Grove House, looking to develop this in other geographical areas of the service, facilitating induction training, suicide awareness and loss, grief and bereavement programmes, as well as working with the team to develop the Family Support Service continually.

I have found that working as the Children’s and Family Support Therapist has been a busy but very rewarding experience, and the thought of being able to help them deal with the issues and worries that are going on in their lives makes the hard work worthwhile.”

You can find out more about the Family Support Services here.