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Today marks the last day of Baby Loss Awareness Week, so Pryers sat down to talk with Charlies Angel Centre, a family-led charity that we have been working with for the past few months to help raise awareness and funds to provide support and counselling to bereaved families.

One of the charity’s founders, Carrie unfortunately lost Charlie, her ‘Angel’ in 2012. The family felt there was not enough support available to help them through their grief. So, in 2013, along with Charlie’s grandparents, Sam, Clive, Ruth and Gary, Carrie set up Charlies Angel Centre. They wanted to provide the service that they felt was missing, organising advice and counselling to other bereaved families.

It all started in Sam and Clive’s spare room where they created a makeshift office. By 2016 as it began to spread to Ruth and Gary’s houses. With more and more people reaching out for support, the family felt it was time to move into formal offices in Leeds. They were offering counselling and support whilst setting up events and opportunities for bereaved families to come together to share their experiences or remember their loved ones.

With the NHS struggling to find resources, many families have been advised that the NHS waiting list for bereavement counselling will be years or months. Charlies Angel Centre can help people within weeks. As a result, they quickly built up a local reputation for helping families. The charity has been so successful, this Summer they had to move to larger premises, and now have a new centre with four treatment rooms and a children’s playroom to allow them to provide support to the whole family. This allows them to offer around 40 – 60 counselling sessions a week.

Charlies Angel Centre have around 45 counsellors who provide support on a volunteer basis, often as trainees who have reached level 4 in their diploma, helping them achieve their 100 hours of training. Many of these stay on and continue to volunteer beyond qualification.

The service they offer is tailored to each individual client. People often get in contact following a bereavement pack being offered at the hospital, but others through word of mouth. The team then see the family within a week to understand their situation and what they need. This personal service allows them to identify if they are ready for counselling. Sometimes, if the loss is very recent, they may need some time before they can commit to a full counselling programme. The client is then matched with a suitable counsellor and offered six initial sessions. As the sessions go on, this is reviewed to identify any ongoing needs.

Having worked with the charity over the last few months it is clear how much the families they’ve helped appreciate Charlies Angel Centre. So much so that some of them have returned as trustees of the charity, wanting to help others the same way the charity helped them.

Charlies Angel Centre are the only charity in West Yorkshire that help families that have suffered a miscarriage of under 14-weeks. Many health trusts don’t recognise it as a loss. They’ve helped many parents, including those who have lost a child from stillborn, through to those who have lost an adult child.

They also offer a variety of events and sessions to reach more families who need support. In September Pryers sponsored their Charity Awards Ball, recognising individuals who have helped bereaved families. They offer a Christmas memorial and have recently introduced a children’s Christmas party to help children who’ve lost a sibling. The event will feature surprise special characters, face painting, a disco and a special visit from Santa. They offer a variety of groups to cater for different people’s needs; a Mens Corner, Grandparents Group, Children Support Group and a Community Group for the whole family. We have recently started supporting them by offering a free legal clinic alongside their weekly drop in counselling clinic every Wednesday.

If you have lost a child and would like some support please contact Charlies Angel Centre through their website or call on 01132 779 969.

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