THE UK Commission on Bereavement (UKCB) is still waiting for action by the UK Government in response to its recommendations, which were 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 per cent 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 and Data Protection Bill, present legislative opportunities to improve support through bereavement in housing and death notification.

Dame Sarah Mullally, The Bishop of London and Chair of the Commission, said: “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, said: “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.

Bishop Sarah Mullally continued: “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 Commission explored people’s experiences of bereavement between 2017-2022, and was set up as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Commission was steered by a group of third sector organisations and charities who worked in partnership with academic researchers Dr Emily Harrop at Cardiff University and Dr Lucy Selman at the University of Bristol.

* More information on the UK Commission on Bereavement here.

* The report is available in various versions and formats here.

* Source: Marie Curie