Children’s Grief Centre in Limerick pushes for full public funding

Founder Sr Helen Culhane says only 4% of budget comes from Government

Sr Helen Culhane: ‘A service like this needs to be fully funded if we are serious about helping our children.’ Photograph: Arthur Ellis

Sr Helen Culhane: ‘A service like this needs to be fully funded if we are serious about helping our children.’ Photograph: Arthur Ellis

 

A centre dedicated to supporting children affected by the death of a parent or by parental separation has called on the Government to fully fund its services.

The Children’s Grief Centre in Limerick, has helped “over 1,300 children”, aged four to 18, since opening 10 years ago.

However, its director, Sr Helen Culhane, said it was running at full capacity and needed a new building to meet an overwhelming demand from families of bereft children. She was speaking at a conference to mark its 10th anniversary.

Also speaking at the conference was Olive Foley, whose late husband, Ireland and Munster rugby star Anthony “Axel” Foley, died suddenly in 2016. She described how the centre continued to cushion her family in their grief.

“Anthony died so suddenly, in his sleep, very unexpectedly. So, I was left with two grieving children, and absolutely no experience, and in complete shock myself,” said Ms Foley.

“Children need help and support with discerning their grief and what has happened to them, whether it’s separation of their parents or the [death] of a parent or sibling. They need help and support early on to prevent problems down the road.”

‘Personal thing’

Irish Examiner journalist Daniel McConnell spoke of continuing to cope with the death of his mother Ann in 1991 when he was aged 12.

“Grief is a very personal thing, but for me, I know I would have benefited massively from attending something like the Children’s Grief Centre when I was growing up,” McConnell said.

Sr Culhane said demands for the service had tripled and there were 207 children on its waiting list.

The service has been using premises at the Sisters of Mercy’s Westbourne Convent in Limerick, “but we have now run out of space”, Ms Culhane said .The centre is lobbying the Government to help it build a larger, €4 million centre to cope with the extra demand. The annual estimated cost of running the service is “approximately €150,000”.

“It really is very sad that 4 per cent of our budget comes from the Government, and 96 per cent comes from the general public and from my own congregation. A service like this needs to be fully funded if we are serious about helping our children.”

The services provided allow children to express themselves through play, art, and offering a listening ear in a safe, and non-judgmental setting.