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AUniversity of Ulsterreport has highlighted the ‘devastation and whirlwind of emotions’ that parents experience when they are diagnosed with cancer andthe importance of support offered by a local charity.

The report, written byDr Cherith Semple and Professor Eilis McCaughanat the Institute of Nursingand Health Research in theUniversity of Ulster and the Ulster Hospital,evaluatedtheCancer FocusFamily Support Service.

It found that the service has significantly developed since it was set up over three yearsagoand is providing a much-needed service to parents and children following a parental cancer diagnosis.

The report also revealed a high level of satisfaction from people who used the service - 80% of those who responded to a survey said they would recommend the service to others.

TheFamily Support Service helpslocalfamilies cope with the disruption to ordinary life andlessensthe long term impact on children’s emotional well-being when a mum, dad or close family member has cancer.

It includes family bereavement groups,one-to-one support for a child or a family, andCLIMB (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery), a group programme for childrenencouraging them to express feelings such as anger, anxiety, fear and sadness.

The service also helps parents write books, letters, create films and other memories for their children and families.

Currently one full-time member of staff and one part-time member support an average of 84 local families and 170 children per year.

Dr Cherith Semple and Professor Eilis McCaughan, theauthors of the report,said: “The high satisfaction of the service from itsusers is an indicator that the service is meeting the needs of both children and parents.

"TheCLIMB programme, specifically, allowed children to learn factual information about cancer, benefitfrom peer support and gain strategiesand techniques to deal with negative emotions surrounding parental cancer. For parents, it provided them withreassurance that their children’semotional needs were being met.”

The reportalso acknowledged, however,thatwith anincreasingnumber ofpeople diagnosed with cancer,further developmentsin the health care systemwere essential to prepare and empower parents to cope with this particular aspect of their cancer.

Liz Atkinson, Head of Care Services, Cancer FocusNI, said: “We welcome the report’s findings. We were aware of the great need for extra support for families and set up the Family Support Service to offer them a lifeline during this difficult period in their lives. We will continue to strive to refine our service and bring it to even more families across Northern Ireland.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded from the Cancer Focus Northern Ireland website,

The Institute of Nursing and Health Research is one of three research institutes in Northern Ireland - all at the University of Ulster - which were ranked in the top three in their subject areas among UK universities in the last national assessment exercise.