Hartlepool Bereavement Service set to close by Christmas as funding runs out

Linda Parker manager at the Hartlepool Bereavement Service and chairman Edgar Coulson in the Park Road office, which may close due to lack of funding.
Linda Parker manager at the Hartlepool Bereavement Service and chairman Edgar Coulson in the Park Road office, which may close due to lack of funding.

A dedicated service to support people in Hartlepool through their grief is set to close by Christmas due to a lack of funding.

Hartlepool Bereavement Service, based in Park Road, launched an appeal for money to save it during the summer.

From left: Hartlepool Bereavement Service board member June Markwell, advisor Peter Gowland, manager Linda Parker and chair Edgar Coulson.

From left: Hartlepool Bereavement Service board member June Markwell, advisor Peter Gowland, manager Linda Parker and chair Edgar Coulson.

But - after eight years and helping more than 1,700 bereaved people - the service is due to close its doors on Christmas Eve unless anything changes.

Peter Gowland, who is one of five committee members, said: “We are virtually living on fumes now and are having to turn clients away.

“Our doors are still open but if nothing is forthcoming by Christmas Eve that will be it.

“We have exhausted all other avenues. It’s just so sad.”

According to statistics 20 people die in Hartlepool a week.

Service managers say it comes at a time when demand for their services is increasing.

Doctors refer people to the service where they receive emotional and practical support.

That support can range from one or two sessions to several years.

Chairman Edgar Coulson said: “It took a long time to build up and become as successful as we are.

“Just at the time when there’s great need for our services we will probably have to close due to lack of funding.

“People have gone out the door in tears at this.”

The bereavement service axed one position and manager Linda Parker cut her hours in an effort to stay open as long as possible.

It previously received two lottery grants which paid for the service for its first six years.

But for the last two and a half years it has relied on donations, reserves and committee members.

Linda said: “It is really difficult. I started the agency because I knew there was a need.

“That need hasn’t decreased it has increased. Where are these people going to go? There is still work to be done.

“We work out people’s needs and link in with other agencies to help them move forward. It is not a short term fix.

“We have tried to find appropriate referral agencies which is difficult due to their own waiting lists.”

The service currently has around 55 clients.

Committee member June Markwell said: “It’s so important because it is the only one like it, and if it goes there is none.”