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King's Lynn-based charity helps to launch new project supporting bereaved schoolchildren




A project which supports bereaved Armed Forces schoolchildren in Norfolk has been officially launched at a special event at the House of Lords this week.

It comes as Lynn-based Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity supporting bereaved Armed Forces children, said it had identified that many bereaved military children don’t receive the care they need whilst in education.

The charity has subsequently launched a new initiative in conjunction with Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services’ team to provide support to both the children and the schools.

Launch of new Abeona project: Keeley White, head of virtual schools, Norfolk, Harriet Tunnicliff, Virtual Schools, Norfolk, John Fisher, cabinet member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, with the Scotty's team. Picture: SUBMITTED. (30217101)
Launch of new Abeona project: Keeley White, head of virtual schools, Norfolk, Harriet Tunnicliff, Virtual Schools, Norfolk, John Fisher, cabinet member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, with the Scotty's team. Picture: SUBMITTED. (30217101)

The new project, named Abeona – after the Roman goddess who supports children for their parents as they venture out from home – involves enrolling bereaved military children into Norfolk County Council’s ‘Virtual Schools’ network, which was introduced in 2015 to identify, track and support children facing recognised difficulties.

Service children, who have lost a parent, now receive the same support as other vulnerable children in the county.

This means information is regularly shared between the charity, the local authority and schools, that their wellbeing and progress is tracked and monitored, and swift action taken when challenges arise.

Stuart Dark, head of families at Scotty’s Little Soldiers, said bereaved Forces children face a number of challenges.

Mr Dark said: “Not only will they be grieving for a parent but many of the children will have left their military towns after the death and had to change schools, sometimes mid-way through a term.

“The children therefore face recognised high-risk factors throughout childhood, including parental bereavement, PTSD, familial and educational displacement, financial hardship and being around and caring for grieving surviving parents and siblings.

“Unmitigated these can seriously impact on their wellbeing, relationships, development and educational attainment.”

John Fisher, cabinet member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “Children and young people who have lost a parent who served in the military face unique challenges.

“Along with their families, they have paid the ultimate price for their country and are among the most vulnerable in our county, so this partnership with Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a really important one.

“Our Virtual Schools framework is a well-developed infrastructure that is already effectively supporting vulnerable children such as those who are looked after, or those who have previously been in care.”

It is estimated that there are currently more than 1,000 bereaved service children in education across the UK and all these children are a stated priority as part of the Armed Forces Covenant – being amongst those who have given up most for their country.

Abeona has successfully started in Norfolk and it is hoped that local authorities around the UK will follow suit to offer this support to bereaved military children and young people.

Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ CEO, Stuart Robinson, said: “At Scotty’s we take the holistic approach when it comes to the welfare of bereaved military children. The idea behind Abeona is to watch over the children and provide continued support.

“We want to avoid, where possible, dealing with the consequences of lack of support.

“It’s great to see the difference Abeona is already making to families in Norfolk.

“We hope we can roll this out in other counties to provide the same support to families and schools across the UK.”

Abeona was launched at a special event at the House of Lords hosted by Lord Dannett, former chief of the general staff, held on Tuesday, February 25. The event was attended by members of the Lords and members of the Commons.


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