A CORONAVIRUS fund grant is helping a counselling service that specialises in bereavement and life-threatening illness stay operational.

We Hear You (WHY) has been awarded £10,000 from Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund after it lost around £90,000 in fundraising revenue over the last year.

The grant means its team of 19 councillors will be able to continue their free service.

“We were really worried that we would have to start reducing the service just at the point when people are starting to suffer even more, explained fundraising manager Ruth Knagg.

She said: “The grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation has been amazing because it has meant we could continue this service and in fact we have been able to add crisis telephone support for the people we feel are really at risk because of the impact of Covid.”

The group is based in Frome but has expanded its service into hired counselling rooms in Chippenham, Trowbridge, Bradford on Avon and Warminster. After lockdown all of its face-to-face sessions were switched online.

Mrs Knagg said counsellors, who adapted quickly to the new way of working, are dealing regularly with families who have lost loved ones to Covid but are unable to grieve in the normal way.

“They are in the terrible position of being unable to be with their loved ones when they die and then having to choose who from the family comes to the funeral because of restrictions on numbers,” she said. “It is not the normal process of grief at all and it has been enormously impactful.”

They have also seen an increase in cancer patients suffering from anxiety because their treatment has been postponed. “People just feel desperately low,” said Mrs Knagg. “I answered the phone to an elderly lady who had only been out of her house a couple of times since last March and she said ‘what’s the point of getting my coronavirus jab?

"I’m already old and I’ve wasted a year’.

“It was really sad to hear, there’s a sense of losing the quality time that you’ve got left because of having to shield.”

WHY also works with children as young as four who are struggling to deal with the loss of parents or have a family member who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. “Their usual anguish about what their parent is going through is doubly compounded because they are with them all the time and can’t see their friends. Everything is just crowding in on them,” said Mrs Knagg.

The grant has helped the service continue its sessions but it will also be important for helping it prepare for an expected surge in clients in the coming months.

“People are not going to get diagnosed, they are just ignoring symptoms that are not Covid-related and they aren’t contacting their GP,” said Mrs Knagg. She said it could lead to people dying earlier because they have missed vital screenings.

“What we are also expecting is that once the children go back to school there is going to be a real uptick in people coming to us and in the long term there is going to be a massive need,” she added.

“There will be a big tail end of people who have been coping but once things return to whatever new normal, we have and they don’t feel better, then we’ll see a really big impact.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund has already raised £1.2 million and distributed more than £1 million through 200 grants to groups across the county.

Joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “WHY is providing a much-needed service, helping people at their lowest ebb deal with devastating news at a time when they are at their most isolated. Their service is going to be just as essential as we come out of lockdown and the true impact of Covid becomes apparent.

“That is why our fund is so important because it is not only helping groups maintain their services it is ensuring they are still here for the people who need them.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, Go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.