The Oldham Bereavement Support Service has been in existence since 1988. Reverend David Hirst who was the Vicar of Christ Church, Friezland began what ultimately became O.B.S.S. He set about forming a parish bereavement visiting team. Other parishes in Saddleworth caught the idea and wanted to join and it became Saddleworth Bereavement Visiting Team. All were volunteers and church members and training was given in Christ Church Parish Hall.
Sam Marsden, who worshipped at
Christ Church, was the Team’s co-ordinator and initial training input from Dr Colin Murray Parkes who has written extensively on bereavement and the stages of grief.
The team covering Saddleworth was very successful and soon came to the attention of Oldham Social Services Department who asked Sam Marsden if he would consider setting up a Borough wide service, which they would fund. The only proviso was that it could not be used as a tool for evangelism.
The initial figure quoted was far in excess of that which was finally granted and so O.B.S.S was started on a shoestring with Sam being the Co-Ordinator and conducting all the training. Reverend David Hirst was the first President.
O.B.S.S advertised in the Oldham Chronicle for people to train to be bereavement visitors. Although training was initially at Christ Church Parish Hall, O.B.S.S needed premises more central to
Oldham. After a short time at Dr Kershaw’s Hospice in Royton, a room was rented in Greenacres Community Centre, an office set up, and training moved there.
As members of the National Association of Bereavement Support Services OBSS were rapidly becoming well known in the area and frequently got calls from other fledgling bereavement groups in and around
Manchester asking for advice. Sam Marsden had an idea of setting up a local umbrella group for the different agencies dealing with the bereaved to use as a resource. Sam applied to the Telethon for a grant to set up what became known as Manchester Area Bereavement Forum. Members of OBSS formed part of the first management committee and organised the first Annual Bereavement Conference. Now it is simply called The Grief Centre (MABF) and has become a very successful resource and training organisation.
Greenacres Community Centre was proving to be unsuitable for the work of OBSS due to the noise of a busy community centre going on around it. The management at Royal Oldham Hospital NHS Trust were approached for help and OBSS was offered free office accommodation and use of a training venue and many other forms of assistance.
The Annual Child Loss Service attracted more and more people each year. It started in King Street Baptist Church in the middle of town but because of the increase in numbers attending O.B.S.S were offered the use of St Anne’s Church of England Church in Royton where the service in currently held.
O.B.S.S is a registered charity with a team of trained volunteers who visit people in their own homes or by appointment at the
Royal Oldham Hospital. Our aim is to offer support to those who have suffered a loss, giving the bereaved person the opportunity to use such support to talk through and express their grief as they come to terms with their loss.
Due to an increase in people enquiring if we supported children and young people a couple of volunteers from O.B.S.S started to offer these young people their support. As more and more referrals came into the office, it was felt we needed more members on this team. In 2003 a small team of qualified counsellors who volunteered for O.B.S.S were specially trained to work with children and young people. Due to a further increase in child referrals OBSS now has a strong dedicated team of counsellors who have undertaken specialised training.
9 July 2005, Mayor Councillor Kay Knox officially opened ‘The Whiteside Centre’. A benefactor in memorial of Sean and Lisa Whiteside donated this building to us. The Hospital gave us a site and this is where our Headquarters are. This lovely building incorporates our Counselling room, the Children, and Young People’s bereavement room. This is named ‘The Angel Room’ after the local hostelry, which donated the money to provide us with the equipment required for this specialist area.
We now have a team of thirty volunteers who work on average between three to ten hours a week on our behalf. Some of whom already hold counselling diploma’s, diploma students and people who undertake our specialist training. We have an annual training curriculum and special training for the Child Grief Team. Debriefing/Supervision is given every month to all volunteers.
We are the proud recipients of The Queens Award for Voluntary Services given in 2014 and one of our member Marjorie Gratton has been awarded first prize in Pride of Oldham for which O.B.S.S is again very proud.