2016 GSK IMPACT Awards: SeeSaw

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Part of GSK IMPACT Awards

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  • Posted:Thursday 12 May 2016

An Oxfordshire-based organisation responding to the needs of bereaved children and young people.

One in 29 children aged 5-16 in the UK has been bereaved of a parent or sibling. SeeSaw offers pre- and post-bereavement support to young people. It also provides support and training to teaching staff in schools as well as health and statutory professionals who may come into contact with bereaved children and young people.

What the judges said:

A small charity putting the needs of bereaved children at the heart of the organisation. It works hard to provide appropriate, timely and personalised support when children and their families are most in need. The number of schools it is working in is very impressive.


It’s estimated in the UK that 1 in 29 children by the age of 18 have bereaving a parent or sibling and in the 5 to 16 year old age group, it’s about 1 in 20. Bereavement can have a very significant effect on children’s lives. They can struggle with emotions. Adolescents could have main issues with risk taking, substance abuse, difficult behaviours, school refusal, school absentees and problems with their peer groups.

My son lost his father three years ago. Jacob became very disorganised and not wanting to talk about his dad, not opening up at all, getting really angry in school.

It’s just a lot easier to put yourself into anger. I’ve almost broke my hand in the past because I punched the wall.
In 2012, my partner was killed while he was out on his bicycle and I was left with two children of age 2 and 5 at the time.

All of our world just crashed around us. How do you tell a 2 year old and a 5 year old that a hearse with their dad’s going to come around the corner? I had no idea, and so I phoned SeeSaw and they were amazing.

At SeeSaw we feel that bereavement is not a pathological process, it’s a part of life and as such, we’re not giving a medical model to what we do. We’re working alongside families to help them feel confident to actually deal with what’s happened in their lives and to grow, to face the future with hope but to have our companionships and support along that process.

Working with SeeSaw over the past ten years, I think one of the areas that I’ve been most impressed with is how as a commissioner, you don’t feel that you’re actually propping up the service. You feel that you’re giving very small amounts of money, very small amounts of energy and time to actually oil the wheels of change for what is a hugely effective organisation.

We have a team of eight staff and we have a team of twelve volunteers support workers providing a range of therapeutic and practical and creative activities to help them identify their emotional needs but very much to see them in the context of the family. So in seeing the young people, the surviving parent is talked to as well and helped to support their children and understand how they’re feeling.

My husband and daughter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He deteriorated very quickly. It was identified that George was terminally ill. To support the children, they were connected with SeeSaw. Because we were supported at that crucial time, we are so much further on in our journey.

I’m there to support the whole family but my main role is to support the children because we know that children need maybe someone outside to be able to talk about what they think is happening.

It was always a great meeting with Kathy. She’d bring her dog along, Do Good, so he could go out on walks and do tricks and feed him which was kind of a bit of a break up from talking about these kind of heavy feelings at the time.
So we’ve now worked in over 80% of Oxfordshire schools.

When we have a girl who’s suffering from some kind of bereavement and we want to support the girl as much as we can here, but there are times when they need some kind of support out of school and SeeSaw has been a brilliant resource for us.

SeeSaw often is asked for help in a rapid response model. When we go into schools, if there’s been a pupil suicide, we’re very much supporting school staff in understanding their pupils and their reactions, and we feel if we can help the young people identify their own needs for health and support, then we do reduce the risk of copycat or cluster suicides.

To be able to phone up SeeSaw who can give us that kind of level headed guidance is immensely reassuring to us.

We as a family have been able to deal with our grief and own our grief rather than our grief owning us. Seeing him come through into such a strong little man now is amazing.

I just stopped getting as angry and just wasn’t as upset anymore.

SeeSaw are like my lifeline. They’re like a little family that’s on the outside that just come in and give you that big hug when you need one I suppose!

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Helen Mackinnon

Comment date
13 May 2016
Congratulations to Groundswell - so good to see an innovative charity working with homelessness recognised in this way. Loved being part of the Impact Award final 10- inspirational to meet all the finalists and appreciate the incredible 3rd sector contributions to people with needs not net elsewhere. Helen

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