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 three years, including the Covid-19 pandemic, and beyond
- 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 emerged during the pandemic which should be retained and further developed in the future
- The impact of new approaches to technology use in supporting people affected by bereavement through the pandemic
- Understanding how different social groups – including BAME communities, and those living in poverty - have been affected differently through the course of the pandemic
- Lessons that have been learned about the experience of bereavement during a mass bereavement event like Covid-19
- 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
Working with the "Bereavement during Covid-19" research study
The Commission will work closely with a national research project funded by UKRI/ESRC.
The project is titled 'Supporting people bereaved during Covid-19: a mixed methods study of bereaved people's experiences and the bereavement services supporting them.' It's an 18-month project that began in August 2020 and provides foundational evidence and areas for further exploration for the Commission.
Key activities for the Commission
There are vital activities to undertake that will cover all four UK nations. There will be a particular focus on the experiences of communities disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, however anyone who has experienced a bereavement of any kind is welcome to take part. Key activities include:
- Consultation with people bereaved during the pandemic
- 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 during the pandemic and beyond
- An open consultation for organisations and individuals to submit experiences of bereavement support during Covid-19 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.