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Merseyside teenager launches UK’s first online peer support group for children bereaved by suicide

A teenager from Merseyside who lost his father to suicide in 2017 has started the first online peer support group in the UK for kids nine to 17 who have also been bereaved by suicide.

The group enables youth to get together virtually to try out new things and find comfort in the company of others who have gone through similar things.

Merseyside teenager launches UK’s first online peer support group for children bereaved by suicide

Applications for the first eight-week online cohort are now being accepted. The hour-long sessions are scheduled to begin on May 21, 2024, and will include gaming and quiz nights, craft sessions, and pizza parties.

The idea for Alfie’s Squad came in 2017, after then 8-year-old Alfie Fitzsimmons lost his dad to suicide. He and his mum, Allison Furlong, found that dedicated support of this kind for children bereaved by suicide was not available anywhere in the UK. Motivated by his own experience, Alfie set about developing the idea himself and raised more than £30,000 to fund it.

Five years later, at the age of 14, his years of planning and fundraising were rewarded. The pilot programme launched in Autumn 2023, The second cohort, supported by The LFC Foundation, started in spring 2024. With 35 children and families already supported in-person by the organisation.

Media coverage of these first groups sparked an outpouring of interest and support, and requests from both families and professional services about how they could refer children to be part of Alfie’s Squad.

Merseyside teenager launches UK’s first online peer support group for children bereaved by suicide

Never ones to back down to a challenge, Alfie and Allison worked with existing Alfie’s Squad members to develop the online version of the group, so more children would be able to benefit. Alfie and some of his peers from the group also launched a fundraising campaign to support it, taking on a shark dive in an open oceanarium at The Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham, raising more than £10,000

Alfie, now aged 15, said:

“Just after I lost my dad, I saw a homeless man outside my local shop. I realised that although I was having a tough time, there were people less fortunate than me. I used my pocket money to buy the man some food and I decided then that I wanted to do something to help others.

“The idea for Alfie’s Squad came when my mum tried to find me the peer support that I wanted. We couldn’t find a single group for children bereaved by suicide anywhere in the UK. I decided to step up and sort it out myself. I figured there must be other children like me, who want to speak to others in the same situation.

“The first group has been life changing. We started with seven children, and we are now at capacity with 26 children in just six months. This is why we have launched our second group. As word has spread about Alfie’s Squad, my mum gets emails nearly every day from families across the country asking when we can open up in other areas. We realised that there were children around the UK who need what Alfie’s Squad offers, which is why we decided to launch the online group.

“If there’s an opportunity to help more people like me, to give them somewhere to come and meet other people who understand what they are going through, then we will do it!”

Alfie is the driving force behind the group, while Allison is pivotal in helping Alfie to develop and implement the idea. Her work was recognised at the Merseyside Women of the Year Awards in 2023, where she was named Woman of Courage 2023.

The 8-week programmes, both online and in person, include a wide range of activities such as sports, quiz nights, podcasting sessions, graffiti art classes, drumming classes, circus workshops and craft projects. Importantly, the sessions, activities, and formats they take are all led by the children themselves.

If you would like to refer a child into Alfie’s Squad or Alfie’s Squad Online, the process is very simple. All you have to do is fill out the referral form below and a member of the team will contact you within 72 hours to arrange for you and your child to attend a triage session.

The triage is necessary to make sure that Alfie’s Squad is the best way for you to support your child at this point. The form is simple, and the triage process is completed in a sensitive manner.

To find out more about Alfie’s Squad and the referral process, visit the website here.

READ MORE: LIVERPOOL STUDENT WHO ‘LOST’ HER VOICE TO CANCER RELEASES NEW SINGLE AND STARS IN NEW CHARITY CAMPAIGN

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