Introducing the UK Commission on Bereavement

Millions of people across the UK faced bereavement in 2020, with hundreds of thousands more bereaved than in previous years as a result of Covid-19. Across England and Wales, 614,000 people died during 2020 and 2021, leaving an estimated three million people facing bereavement. This is 75,000 more deaths than the average across the previous five years – with an estimated additional 375,000 left bereaved.

As well as more people facing bereavement, the pandemic has had a profound impact on how those affected have experienced their loss.

Many people have been unable to see family and friends and have had limited access to formal support after their loved one died. Feeling alone in their grief due to lockdown or having to shield or self-isolate had had a devastating impact. The lack of face-to-face contact from primary care and community-based services, and bereavement support services, has been difficult.

There has been a lot of focus on how the UK will deliver an economic recovery from the pandemic, but much less about how society will recover – including the response to the pandemic as a mass bereavement event.

Working in partnership with a number of UK charities, and with researchers leading an academic study on the issue, a UK Commission on Bereavement through and beyond Covid-19 has been established to explore these issues and make recommendations to better support bereaved people.

The focus of the UK Bereavement Commission

The UK Bereavement Commission will explore several priority areas, which may include:

  • Key challenges affecting bereaved people throughout the last five years.
  • Understanding what new challenges emerged as a result of the pandemic, and how it exacerbated existing problems
  • Issues that have been especially challenging to people having the best possible experience of bereavement. Examples include social isolation and loneliness, access to services, mental health provision and financial support
  • Any models of good practice that exist which should be further developed in the future
  • The impact of new approaches to technology use in supporting people affected by bereavement 
  • Understanding how different social groups – including BAME communities, and those living in poverty - can be affected differently when bereaved 
  • Lessons that have been learned about the experience of bereavement during a mass bereavement event like Covid-19
  • Understanding what new challenges emerged as a result of the pandemic, and how it exacerbated existing problems
  • What recommendations should be made to different decision makers about how support for bereaved people could be improved, both now and in the long term

There are vital activities to undertake that will cover all four UK nations. Key activities include:

  • Consultation with people bereaved during the last 5 years
  • Consultation with experts and service providers (including on their own experiences of bereavement in undertaking their work)
  • Review existing and emerging literature about bereavement experience 
  • An open consultation for organisations and individuals to submit experiences of bereavement support  and to make recommendations for change
  • Launch event to open the Commission and share the final report

The Commission launched in June 2021 and a final report will be published from the Commission in 2022.

Bereavement in the UK: Quick stats

39% of bereaved people reported difficulties in getting support from friends or family.

51% of bereaved people with high-level needs experienced high or severe vulnerability.

74% of bereaved people with high or severe vulnerability are not accessing formal bereavement services or mental health support.

The UK Commission on Bereavement works alongside the following organisations:

Supporting organisations