Give us a break! supports and empowers young people experiencing traumatic loss in their lives. The idea evolved from a locality multidisciplinary scoping exercise, which Elizabeth King, Principal Psychologist attended in 2007, aimed at highlighting gaps in provision within South Lanarkshire Council. South Lanarkshire is the 5th largest local authority in Scotland and encompasses a diverse mix of urban and rural environment.
When asked to identify three areas of concern and all attendees highlighted the lack of bereavement resources. It was acknowledged there was a wealth of research available and existing high quality materials but it was felt that these programmes did not meet the full range of social and emotional needs of young people. Jean Aitken, a Macmillan trained Counsellor working within NHS Lanarkshire also attended this scoping exercise. After the event ended, and inspired by the strength of feeling expressed by practitioners, Jean and Elizabeth made a commitment to collaborate to address this gap. They knew they would both have to turn to their organisations for help – Jean to Macmillan Cancer Support and Elizabeth to the local authority. Little did they know that in November 2009 South Lanarkshire Council would be hosting a national launch of Give us a break!, in collaboration with Macmillan Cancer Support and NHS Lanarkshire and with a keynote address from Julie Stokes OBE, Founder of Winston’s Wish, the charity for bereaved children. The launch was covered by Scottish Television and a young person involved in a Give us a break! group spoke movingly on television about the positive impact of attending the group.
Give us a break! is a 8 week programme, written by South Lanarkshire Council Psychological Services and NHS Lanarkshire, for young people aged 10-14 years who are coping with negative change in their lives. The programme acknowledges that loss and grief are a normal part of life and are experienced uniquely by each individual. It supports young people in managing the emotional consequences of loss. The real value of this programme lies in its flexibility, and the solution-focused theoretical framework which underpins all of Give us a break! Many colleagues from a wide range of professional backgrounds contributed generously to the development of the resource and the published materials were significantly enriched by an extensive consultation exercise within the local authority, which included the views of young people and parents who participated in the pilot Give us a break! groups. The programme pack contains an introduction and general information, notes and lessons plans for each week, resource sheets for all activities, and notes on working with parents.
The collaboration with Macmillan Cancer Support has been invaluable. It is unlikely that without the generous financial support and wonderful encouragement from our Macmillan colleagues Give us a break! would not be in its present form, nor would there be the vision for a national rollout. The knowledge base of key practitioners would not have been extended and young people would not have benefitted from being involved in the Give us a break! groups.