Bereavement services are an often-hidden element of health and care services. Bereavement support rarely makes the headlines, but the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential need for this kind of support. In the first lockdown alone, we estimate that up to 98,000 older people were bereaved of a partner. With people experiencing traumatic bereavements and even more experiencing grief in the midst of restrictions on social contact, the reality is many more people may need to access bereavement support over the years to come.
While many bereavement support providers are funded at least partially through voluntary income, we know that grants from local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) form an important part of the funding landscape. We know anecdotally that levels of investment vary significantly across England and that this can mean where someone lives can be the difference in whether they can access professional support or not. To better understand the commissioning landscape, we submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups in Autumn 2020, asking them about their approaches to commissioning services and their knowledge of the current demand and availability of services in their area. Within this work we have referred to bereavement support that relates to both emotional and psychological support, as well as practical information and advice. This hasn’t included LA financial contributions to burial, cremations and funerals.
This briefing outlines the response to our FOI, our key findings and our recommendations for Government on prioritising bereavement support.
Independent Age estimate based on combining ONS weekly death figures with data from the Family Resources survey. Note that dates do not match exactly the lockdown period due to when data sets are published – figures have been calculated using the closest available data to the beginning and end of the first national lockdown in 2020.
Supporting people bereaved during COVID-19: Study Report 1, Cardiff University and the University of Bristol, 2020