– Key recommendations to support bereaved people still to be actioned by governments across the UK
– No strategy to improve bereavement support from UK Government
– Need to improve people’s bereavement experiences remains critical says Bishop of London
– Urgent progress needed to secure national funding for bereavement support
– Planned Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum review must introduce grief education
The UK Commission on Bereavement (UKCB) is still waiting for action by the UK Government to respond to its recommendations, published nearly a year ago.
Released in October 2022, the report Bereavement is everybody’s business found huge gaps in support for bereaved people across the UK, with over 40% of adult respondents who wanted formal bereavement support saying they didn’t receive any. Of the bereaved children who contributed to the UKCB’s report, half said they did not get the support they needed from their schools and colleges.
The Commission laid out eight key principles for change to ensure that people who are bereaved get the right support that they need. Progress towards these since has been disappointing, with the UK Government failing to commit to a cross-departmental strategy – a key recommendation from UKCB.
There have been some positive examples from across the four nations of work to improve support for bereaved people – including work with schools around grief education in Northern Ireland, a whole government bereavement strategy in Wales, and commitment from the Scottish Government to include bereavement in its forthcoming palliative care strategy. However, further action on the UKCB recommendations is urgently needed right across the UK.
The UKCB believes that the Autumn Budget presents a critical opportunity for the UK Government to invest in emotional and financial support for people at one of life’s most vulnerable moments.
The Commission also urges the UK Government to use upcoming opportunities to promote bereavement support, with the upcoming Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) Curriculum review presenting a key opportunity to introduce grief education in schools in England.
Additionally, the Renters Reform Bill and the Digital Information & Data Protection Bill, present legislative opportunities to improve support through bereavement in housing and death notification. The opportunities are available – they must not be missed.
Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, The Bishop of London and Chair of the Commission, says:
“Despite the publication of the UK Commission on Bereavement report nearly a year ago, the urgent need to improve people’s bereavement experiences remains as critical today as when the report was produced.
“Almost 12 months on, it is disappointing that overall, in England, there remains no clear strategy from the UK Government for improving bereavement experiences in the future, a lack of targeted funding to improve access to bereavement support services, and limited progress on opening up conversations about grief.
“There have been some important initiatives from across the nations in improving bereavement experiences, including work with schools in Northern Ireland, but there is much more to be done across the UK.
“Grief will never be cured, but there are crucial steps we can implement immediately which will help ensure that people get the right support when they are bereaved. We welcome ongoing engagement and conversations with the UK Government, but this now needs to turn into action.”
Rachel Warren, Senior Research and Policy Manager for Carers, Relationships and Bereavement at end of life charity Marie Curie, says:
“Despite grief being something that everyone will experience at some point in their life, there is still a distinct lack of proper support available. By fearing it and locking it away we make it all the harder to comprehend and support each other through it. The Government has an opportunity here to make a real change for bereaved people going forward. We urge them to listen to the recommendations and act.”
Improving grief education
The UK Commission on Bereavement found that as a society, we are still overwhelmingly uncomfortable talking about death, dying and bereavement, and in supporting people who are grieving. The Commission called for key changes to help to normalise conversations and improve support among all communities – including improvements in grief education in schools and other education settings.
Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, The Bishop of London and Chair of the Commission, continues:
“Better conversations about, and understanding of, grief and bereavement need to start from childhood. The UK Commission on Bereavement highlighted that it is imperative that Governments across the UK work with schools and education settings to provide the opportunity for young people to learn about death and bereavement.”
The UK Government recently announced a review of the Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum – it is critical that this review is used as an opportunity to introduce grief education in schools in England.
The UK Commission on Bereavement was an independent commission, set up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which explored people’s experiences of bereavement between 2017-2022. The Commission was steered by a group of third sector organisations and charities: Marie Curie, Independent Age, Cruse Bereavement Support, the National Bereavement Alliance, the Childhood Bereavement Network, and the Centre for Mental Health, working in partnership with Sue Ryder, MacIntyre and academic researchers: Dr Emily Harrop at Cardiff University and Dr Lucy Selman at the University of Bristol.
To find out more about the Commission, please visit bereavementcommission.org.uk.
 Over 40% of adult respondents who wanted formal bereavement support didn’t get any, page 4 of UKCB summary report
UK Commission on Bereavement
The Commission’s purpose was to review the experiences of, and support available for, people affected by bereavement through and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, and to make recommendations to key decision-makers, including the governments across the UK. The Commission was independent of government and was made up of a group of 15 commissioners who were appointed by a steering group made up of third sector organisations and charities: Marie Curie, Independent Age, Cruse Bereavement Support, the National Bereavement Alliance and Childhood Bereavement Network, and the Centre for Mental Health. The Commission worked in partnership with Sue Ryder, MacIntyre and academic researchers Dr Emily Harrop at Cardiff University and Dr Lucy Selman at the University of Bristol.
For more information visit: https://bereavementcommission.org.uk/