Going through a bereavement can be one the most challenging experiences of someone’s life. It can be a time of immense emotional, practical and even financial upheaval.
However, despite older people often going through more bereavements than any other age group, they are less likely to seek help with bereavement than younger age groups.
Death and bereavement are not subjects that are well recognised or prioritised within UK society. Where policy does exist, it is disparate and unconnected.
The bereavement sector itself is very fragmented, made up of many different providers and there is no one organisation with overall authority for bereavement. One of the most significant challenges that these organisations are facing is funding.
We began our policy work on bereavement in 2018 with the publication of Good Grief: Older people’s experiences of partner bereavement. This report draws together qualitative and quantitative research into older people’s experiences of partner bereavement and sets out some of the policy issues that must be addressed.
We have also produced a briefing which outlines the key findings from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request we submitted to every local authority and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in England. This FOI was designed to look at the level of oversight and the extent of commissioning of bereavement services in England.
Our policy calls
- The government must provide strategic oversight of the bereavement sector through a cross-department bereavement strategy led by the Department of Health and Social Care. This could start with both a cross-government review of supporting bereaved people and commissioning a significantly expanded version of the 2015 National Survey of Bereaved People (VOICES) in England.
- Bereavement support must be made more of a priority area in terms of government expenditure. The government should commit to funding for CCGs to support bereavement providers in their local area.
- We think it is appropriate for CCGs, as experts in their local area, to take the lead on understanding the landscape of bereavement services in their area, although with support from local authorities.
- NHS England must produce clear guidance for CCGs on how to commission bereavement support services. This guidance should include details of research and mapping activities that should be undertaken, as outlined above.