Karen Bartram, a community matron, who lost her 16-day old son, William, in 2017, presented the BBC Radio 4 Appeal for The Coroners’ Courts Support Service. Karen shared her story and told us how she was supported by the CCSS volunteers. The appeal was broadcast at 07:54 and 21:25 on Sunday 31st January. It was repeated on Thursday 4th February at 15:27. You can listen to the appeal when ever you like by following the link below to the BBC Radio 4 Website.
Please note if you do wish to make a donation to us you must do it through our website and not the BBC page. If you use the BBC page your donation will go to a different charity.
We are so grateful to Karen for sharing her story as part of our appeal as well as author Tracey Waples who wrote the script and Journalist Jamie Bullen who assisted with our press release. We would also like to place on record our thanks to everyone at the BBC who helped make the appeal happen.
So far the appeal has raised the fantastic total amount of £30,870. Thank You so much to everyone who has donated and helped spread the word. The appeal has raised awareness of our work. We have been contacted by many bereaved family members and potential new volunteers. We have also had expressions of interest from Coronial areas that don’t currently have our service. All money raised through the appeal will go towards the running costs of the CCSS and our National Expansion Plan.
On this page you will find out who we are, how we started, the support we offer and the impact we have on the people we meet.
The Coroners’ Courts Support Service (CCSS) is an independent voluntary organisation whose trained volunteers offer emotional support and practical help to bereaved families, witnesses and others attending an Inquest at a Coroner’s Court.
Our organisation was set up by the Founder Trustee who attended an Inquest with her cousin whose son, David, had tragically died in a road traffic collision abroad. As David’s body was brought back to this country an Inquest had to be conducted.
The Inquest for our son David came 10 months after his death in Tasmania in May of 2001. Because I knew I was going to give evidence of identification I went into robotic mode to get through the event at the Coroner’s Court.
But memories remain – of needing to walk through Guy’s Hospital grounds where David had been born 25 years earlier; of getting to a functional building where the Inquest was to be held; of each of us in the family in our own agony, of having no idea where to go, of other people in other kinds of pain, of going into a place that looked like a Court room, of a Coroner who said kind words.
And then it was over and no need any longer for robotic mode. I remember our family going out and I was sitting on a chair outside and feeling again that my heart was broken. I remember the arms of my cousin, Roey, around me seeming to hold me up.
In 2002, we were so lucky to have a cousin who could give us that support and find out and be able to deal with the practicalities. David’s death was and is a tragedy. He had his noble side and I believe he would have been glad that, out of his death, the Coroners Court Support Service was established.
My mother-in -law died after a fall in hospital and a scan showed that this had resulted in a brain haemorrhage. We were told that there was to be an Inquest to which my husband and myself should attend. I had never been to an Inquest or indeed a court before. We were anxious and saddened that this was the way her life had ended. I was a registered nurse for forty years, the last ten of which were spent working in a hospice, so I was used to death and bereavement, but, as they say, it’s different when its ‘your own.’ On the day of the Inquest we arrived at the court and were greeted by a volunteer with respect and warmth. We were asked how we would like the court to refer to my mother-in-law and care was taken to pronounce her surname correctly. These little things mattered. The volunteer explained the procedure to us. On our own, it might have felt awkward being in the waiting room with the hospital representatives, but the volunteer put us at ease and talked to us about my mother -in -law’s life and about her as a person. By the time the Inquest started we knew what to do, where to be, where the toilets were, where to have a coffee during the break and a rough idea of when the proceedings might end. What might have been an ordeal turned out to be an professional, respectful closure to my mother- in-law’s death. On the way home, I said to my husband that I felt with my nursing background and experience with bereavement, this was exactly the type of volunteering I felt I could and would like to do. I am now a trained CCSS volunteer and on my way keen to help others the way we were helped and supported.
My role as a CCSS volunteer is varied - challenging, sometimes unpredictable, but invariably rewarding. It is a privilege to meet individual family members and witnesses on a day that holds such foreboding and uncertainty. The Coroner’s Court is necessarily very formal, so it matters hugely that my first encounter with a grieving relative or an apprehensive witness conveys a simple “here for you” message. Families often arrive with questions, feelings of conflict, or unresolved issues. Some may be resigned, withdrawn or distracted. But, in this atmosphere of such emotion, we aim to try answer simple questions and allay understandable fears. It is often hard for witnesses to acknowledge how daunting it feels to speak in such a setting and though friends or colleagues are alongside, a supportive volunteer nearby in the Court room can go a long way to encourage and build confidence. I have found it so important to listen, show I understand and thereby forge that crucial bond. Our role will be a silent presence once we are in Court, but the significance of our empathy is clear. Those we support start to visibly relax as anxieties subside. The responses from those we help are as varied as their personalities! It might just be a glance with a relieved smile, a sudden unexpected humorous remark during a break, or most touching of all, a wordless hug on leaving after a Conclusion is reached. As everyone leaves at the end of the Inquest, my hope is that simple kindness and compassion on a difficult day will have contributed to helping those I have met move forward in their lives.
Thank You so much for visiting our site. We would be so grateful if you can help spread the word and support us to raise awareness of the vital work that we do.