Between 36,000 and 60,000 Irish children could have experienced a significant bereavement, according to the sponsors of a new network supporting professionals and organisations working with them.

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The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network was launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald at the headquarters of the Irish Hospice Foundation, which will host and pay for it for the next two years.

The 32-county network is an information-sharing hub for those working with bereaved children, young people and their families.

It said it wants to facilitate easy access for professionals to a choice of high-quality local and national services for the bereft, such as guidance and support to enable children to manage the impact of death and the loss in their lives.

While no official figures for childhood bereavement exist in Ireland, the network estimates that last year 3,360 16-year-olds may have experienced the death of one or both parents and a similar number may have lost a sibling.

Bríd Carroll, a counsellor at Family Life Services in Wexford, who did a ground-breaking study of existing services, said her organisation had experienced a 50% leap in demand for help in the past year.

Ms Carroll said boys, who were more likely to suppress emotions surrounding bereavement, are now seeking advice on the changes bereavement brings to their lives.

She also said that a lot of social workers and psychologists in the statutory services are over-stretched and that in some parts of the country, families are forced to wait six months for services.

Minister Fitzgerald said she had recently allocated an extra €3m to counselling services, which includes bereavement counselling.

Courtesy of RTE News.

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