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Doherty lobbies Health Minister for Core Funding for CRUSE Bereavement Service

5 September, 2007

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty says that unless Health Minister Michael McGimpsey core funds the local bereavement support service CRUSE, this indispensable service to people throughout much of Tyrone and Fermanagh could be lost.

The local MP has written to the Minister making this appeal following a meeting with representatives of CRUSE last Thursday at which the threat to the service became clear.

Mr Doherty said:

"Cruse Bereavement Care has been providing support to those bereaved within the Tyrone/Fermanagh area since 1995. In the last three years they have provided support to 1055 people.

"It also provides personal and professional training for volunteers who deliver the services. In terms of the people who use CRUSE services, the majority are referred by GPs, Nurses, Social Workers, Hospitals and the Probation Board. A minority are self referrals or referrals made by family members and friends.

"CRUSE provides a vital community service which compliments the existing services provided by the Trust, which is already overstretched.

"Until 2005, the local CRUSE branch benefited from funding from the Sperrin Lakeland Trust (renamed WHSCT) which assisted with core expenses such as the provision of a local office and administrative backup. The group also accesses funding from other sources, including CRC and Awards for All. However, such funding is allocated for specific projects and not for core expenses.

"The Trust has allocated £5000 for this year, but the local branch of CRUSE project that this will only sustain them until the end of August.

"To compensate for the shortfall, volunteers have been engaging in fundraising initiatives, such as 'bag-packing' at the local supermarket. Clearly, this is not satisfactory and detracts the volunteers from their primary objective of providing social and emotional support to people who are struggling to cope with bereavement.

"If the funding crisis is not resolved it could result in the withdrawal of this service from the area. Such a scenario would greatly impact on local NHS services which are already stretched with primary and secondary care provision.

"In terms of the personal cost, unresolved grief very often manifests itself in depression, leading to major distress and days lost from work. Without support, those bereaved require drug and psychotherapeutic treatment for which there already is a very long waiting list, which results in further distress for those who have been bereaved.

"The withdrawal of the service would also result in the loss of trained counsellors and dedicated volunteers from the sector.

"A recent audit of CRUSE accounts suggests that the annual running cost of the service would be about £12,000 pa. This would be considered small in comparison to the cost of NHS treatment.

"I have written to the Minister appealing for core funding for the local CRUSE branch, underpinned by a service level agreement between it and the local Trust. Other branches of CRUSE across the 6 counties have a service level agreement with their local Health trust so the precedent has already been set.

"Such an undertaking would ensure that the future of this important local service is secured and the holistic needs of the many emotionally vulnerable people who access the service are met." ENDS

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