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New support service set up

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A NEW initiative is aiming to bridge the gaps between health services and the families of children who need medical treatment in the UK – and parents with experience of the system are being invited to share their views.

Cheryl Dolbel

Family First is being funded by the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, which was founded in 2011 by Sara and Nigel Crocker in memory of their daughter Grace who died of a heart condition in 2009 aged just 11 weeks.

It is due to officially launch in April and is being run by family liaison manager Cheryl Dolbel (40), who, as a mother to a grown-up daughter with complex special needs, has her own experience of the health system as a parent.

Mrs Dolbel has spent the last month meeting health professionals, charities, parents and other organisations with an interest in the area and now she wants to hear from more families with experience of the system, including those who have spent months living in the UK while their child is treated and those who have to travel over for regular appointments.

‘If there are any families who are currently having to access the UK, or who have in the past and would like to share their experience with me, positive or negative, that would help,’ she said.

‘It is about everybody working together. It is not just for Family First to do everything – it is about highlighting that there are gaps in the service and then thinking about how can we, Family First, and the charities and services, work together to make sure these gaps are filled.’

She added that there was a clear need for the service in Jersey as she had already spoken to a number of parents who had identified gaps in the system.

In one case, she said that a father had spent four days living in the same clothes while his son received emergency treatment in a UK hospital because he had no information about nearby shops or washing facilities.

‘For each family that goes to the UK, I hope to be able to give them a pack, for the relevant hospital, with travel timetables, information on food vouchers and where basic things are like ATMs and pharmacies. It is about knowing where there is a church or a mosque if that is your religion – it is little things like that that are really important.

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‘It is about having the information there for them so that they can then concentrate on the important thing, which is their child.’

Mrs Dolbel, who is based at LV Homecare, which has donated an office and other practical services, such as payroll and HR to allow Family First to launch, has plans for a website, a Facebook support group for parents whose children require treatment in the UK, and to offer support for siblings of those who require treatment in the UK.

She will also put people in touch with the various charities that might be able to help, including financially, and, as a trained counsellor she can provide emotional support.

To contact Mrs Dolbel to arrange a meeting or to share your views, email cheryl@familyfirst.org.je.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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