These two programmes offer a qualification for people working with bereaved children, young people and their families and are validated by Middlesex University.
Isobel Bremner, who heads-up the Candle Project and is Programme Leader for both courses, reflects on why they have gone from strength to strength since they were set up in 2004:
“These were the first university validated courses in the UK in this field. Since then, they’ve been increasingly recognised as useful and relevant qualifications for people working in the field of childhood bereavement. When they were re-validated, they were commended for their contribution to the personal and career development of students, their impact on the development of bereavement services, and the way in which they model good practice in inter-professional work.
“Other features of the programmes which were singled out at re-validation were the richness of the programme content, the quality of support from course tutors and the specialist librarian at St Christopher’s, and the contribution of practising clinicians – many of whom are experts in their field.”
Isobel also noted that she and her colleagues try to keep in touch with past students to learn more about the impact of the courses on their professional development.
This is of interest as one of the aims of the courses is to enhance students’ opportunities to contribute more actively to childhood bereavement services and to further their careers. Currently, there is no obvious route into managing services and one of the aims of these qualifications is to help fill that gap.
Just over half the students have come from hospices; others came from either voluntary or statutory bereavement services, or from a range of posts in education. Following successful completion of the courses many of the students have moved into new roles supporting bereaved children, young people and their families.
Notable among these is Helen Mackinnon, who moved from being a director of music at the King’s School in Gloucester and hospice music therapist to the role of senior practitioner at Winston’s Wish, and who is now Director of SeeSaw, the childhood bereavement charity for Oxfordshire.
Speaking about the course, Helen said: “There is no doubt that the childhood bereavement course gave me the experience and academic underpinning that led directly to my roles in these two child bereavement charities. I would not have been able to manage the complex role of director without this training; I am extremely grateful to all involved – as well as the great experience of working with other students on the course, many of whom I’m still in contact with.
“I thoroughly recommend the courses to anyone currently working in the field as well as those looking to move into this important and rewarding work.”