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Counselling network in flux

Urgent talks have been taking place this week to determine how to maintain the vital network of support and counselling services in Dunblane with local government reorganisation taking place in nine days time.

The break-up of Central Region into three new unitary authorities, Stirling, Clackmannan and Falkirk, from April 1 has placed question marks over who will take responsibility for the important work with grieving families and a wider community.

Extra teacher supply cover and 19 educational psychologists have been made available at Dunblane primary for the 700 pupils and 26 teaching staff who started their first day back at school today.

A quiet room has been set aside for staff including janitorial and clerical workers. Advisers have begun visiting every school in the region this week to discover what help might be needed for staff in schools outside Dunblane.

Trauma experts from Tayside, who dealt with the Lockerbie and Piper Alpha disasters, have been drafted in to help with counselling and support. Many have been drawn from Central's most skilled and experienced social workers and psychologists. The authority has also drawn on the experience of veterans of Hillsborough and Hungerford.

Central has confirmed that current arrangements within the school will continue for the immediate future.

Stirling and Clackmannan have already established joint arrangements for the future education psychology service and Falkirk has said it will ensure its support for as long as is necessary.

But arrangements for the wider community organised by Central Region social work department, with help drafted in from Tayside and Fife, have not yet been finalised.

Teams of social workers based in Stirling have been supporting the bereaved families and teams have been helping the injured children in hospital.

Practical help has also been offered through a 24-hour helpline and at a support centre with at least 14 staff at the old school house.

A temporary playgroup run by volunteers has opened at St Mary's church hall for the children who were off school until today.

As well as helping the children come to terms with the horrific event through play, it has also emerged as a valuable drop-in centre where parents can talk about their fears of returning children to school and share in each other's grief.

Jan Lawson, one of the organisers, said most children were happy to do activities such as art and badminton. Although they have not been encouraged to talk about their feelings, these have emerged. One little girl making a cardboard picture frame told Mrs Lawson "I'm making this for my friend because her sister is dead."

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