Children of inspirational fundraiser launch child bereavement service

The children of inspirational fundraiser Jane Tomlinson have launched a new service to support young people struggling with grief after losing a loved one.

One of the wishes of Mrs Tomlinson’s three children, Suzanne, Rebecca and Steven, was that their mother’s legacy could be used to help other grieving youngsters.

The Owls (Overcoming Worry, Loss and Sadness) service will offer help to children aged between four and 11, who have lost a parent, sibling or other significant loved one.

Rebecca Tomlinson said: “Having lost our mum, we understand all too clearly the impact bereavement can have on children and young people.

“We’ve wanted to be able to do something to help for a long time so to be able to finally launch the Owls service is a really proud day for us all.”

The Jane Tomlinson Appeal is the legacy of Mrs Tomlinson (pictured), from Rothwell, Leeds, who died in 2007, when her youngest child Steven was just 10, after raising almost £2 million for charity.

The appeal fund has established the Owls service according to the wishes of Mrs Tomlinson’s children after identifying a gap in bereavement support services in the Leeds area.

The service, based in Leeds, will offer practical and emotional advice and support for families, schools workshops and activity days where children can meet others affected by bereavement.

It will also offer one-to-one child psychotherapy for those most severely affected, helping children who might presently have to wait months, or longer, for NHS therapy.

A spokeswoman for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal said figures show that a parent with children aged under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK – meaning around 111 children lose a parent every day.

She said children who lose a loved one are more likely to experience problems, such as unemployment, substance abuse and crime, in later life.

Rebecca Tomlinson said bereavement can impact upon a child’s mental health and behaviour.

She said: “No child experiences grief in the same way; even brothers and sisters can cope differently. It can have a real impact, leaving children feeling anxious, sad and even angry.”

She added: “With Owls, we want to reach children when they need it most and when we can hopefully make the most difference.”

Children can be referred to the free service by a carer, health professional, teacher or anyone else close to the child, without having to go via a GP or health visitor.

For more information about the service, which is looking for volunteers to support children on activity days, please go to:

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