With the UK Covid-19 inquiry finally opening this week, a report has laid out the scale and impact of the bereavement caused by the virus, including calling for it to be mandatory that employers should have a bereavement policy in place.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September meant the opening hearings for the inquiry were postponed until this week. Initial hearings to feed into the first module, which will examine the UK’s resilience and preparedness for the pandemic, began on Tuesday.
The UK Commission on Bereavement has published a report examining the impact of the approximately 750,000 excess bereavements that occurred during the pandemic.
The report, Bereavement is everyone’s business, has concluded that more than 40% of adult respondents who wanted formal bereavement support said they did not get any.
Half of bereaved children responding to its survey said they did not get the support they needed from their schools and colleges.
The findings follow one of the largest-ever consultations on bereavement support undertaken in the UK, which included more than 1,000 adult and 100 child respondents to the commission’s surveys and evidence submitted from over 130 organisations.
Employer bereavement support
The “huge gaps” identified in support for bereaved people have led to the commission to call for more funding in this area from all governments in the UK.
It has said there need to be robust strategies put in place to deal with bereavement now and in the future. In addition, the commission has said both schools and employers should be required to have a bereavement policy in place.
The commission argued there is a particular need to focus on better supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
Additionally, many people facing bereavement are among the very hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, with the commission calling for bereavement-related benefits to be extended to key groups who currently miss out and increased at least in line with costs of living.
Dame Sarah Mullally, The Bishop of London and chair of the commission, said the report demonstrated “the urgent need to improve people’s experiences of bereavement”.
She added: “The report sets out our positive vision for how we can better support everyone who is bereaved across the UK. To make this vision a reality we must work together, recognising that grief really is everyone’s business.”
Among its recommendations, the commission called for people who are bereaved to be “sensitively supported” by their workplace during my bereavement.
It also called on governments to establish and deliver a cross-departmental strategy for bereavement “that recognises support following bereavement as a human right”.