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Funding lifeline for SA charity to help grieving families

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Bereaved parents are no longer at risk of being put onto wait lists or turned away from grief counselling by a charity struggling to keep up with demand, following a funding commitment from the new State Government.

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A warning that this story contains information and images that may be distressing for some readers.

SIDS and Kids SA – which provides free counselling for the sudden death of a baby or young child from any cause, not just SIDS – issued an urgent plea ahead of the state election, seeking $200,000 a year in government support to keep up with rising demand since the pandemic.

The previous government offered a one-off funding commitment of $50,000 to the charity, which received no ongoing government funding, while the Labor Party met with the organisation and agreed to “examine” the request.

Now the new Labor State Government has agreed to provide $800,000 over four years to SIDS and KIDS SA to help the organisation continue its work.

SIDS and Kids SA chief executive Liza Jankowski told InDaily it was “an incredible gift to the bereaved parents of South Australia”.

“We are incredibly grateful for the $800,000 over four years funding commitment to SIDS and Kids SA,” she said.

“Now, when the workload warrants it, we will be able to increase counsellors’ hours to ensure all newly-bereaved parents are able to connect with a counsellor without having to wait.”

Jankowski said early support was vital and the organisation aimed to make contact with a bereaved parent within 72 hours of referral.

“The funding will provide us with some certainty moving forward and will allow for us to accommodate the increasing number of referrals we are receiving, as well as allowing us to reinstate regular mums and dads support groups which have taken a back seat in the past two years as our counsellors have been so busy just trying to keep up with the general counselling workload,” she said.

In February, Jankowski told InDaily that the charity was facing the prospect of not accepting any new referrals for the first time in its 45-year history because of “unprecedented” demand in 2020 and 2021, since the pandemic, not because there have been more babies and children dying but because “people just aren’t coping”.

“We think that the coping mechanisms and the resilience of the community as a whole is just not there because of the impacts of the pandemic,” Jankowski said at the time.

She said that in 2019, before the pandemic, the charity received 86 referrals and provided 721 grief counselling sessions.

In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, that grew to 116 referrals and 1210 counselling sessions.

In 2021, SIDS and Kids SA received 169 referrals and provided 1515 counselling sessions.

Jankowski said the majority of referrals in 2020 and 2021 – 86 per cent – came from SA government departments: mostly from SA Health hospitals and some from police.

The organisation received no government funding, unlike similar organisations in other states.

As with many charities, the pandemic also created significant fundraising difficulties.

Darren and Kathleen Halsey, who were supported by the charity when their daughter Mia was stillborn four years ago, were relieved and overcome with emotion to learn the charity would now receive government funding and be able to continue its work.

Darren and Kathleen Halsey received vital support from SIDS and Kids SA when their daughter Mia was stillborn four years ago. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

“I feel so grateful for the support of the government funding to allow other families to access a service from SIDS and Kids that is essential to continue for grieving parents and families,” Darren Halsey told InDaily.

“This funding will ensure other families have access to an outstanding and essential service that will continue unchanged without waiting lists or having people turned away.”

They now have a two-year-old son, Archie, who lights up their lives and with whom they will continue to honour Mia’s memory.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said the Government was keen to ensure the charity could continue to support all families who needed it.

“SIDS and Kids SA has for years played such an important role in supporting parents and families when they are going through the absolute unimaginable grief of stillbirth,” he said.

“Their services are so important, and sadly demand is increasing.

“This Government will provide funding to enable them to help more parents and families.”

Malinauskas said the funding was included in Labor’s pre-election costings.

Health Minister Chris Picton said: “This Government appreciates and values the work SIDS and Kids does in our community (and) is making sure they receive funding to continue helping and supporting South Australian families experiencing terrible grief.”

For support, people can contact:

SIDS and Kids SA: 8332 1066

Lifeline: 13 11 14

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