Letter to the Health Secretary on extending bereavement support

Cross-party letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, regarding our call for bereavement support bubbles in the case of further coronavirus lockdowns.

Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0EU 

14 September 2020

Dear Secretary of State,

Re: Extending Bereavement Support

Six months on from the first death in the UK from COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic has left huge numbers of people grieving for the tens of thousands of people who have died. While necessary, the national and regional lockdowns have been a significant barrier to people trying to cope with their grief. The level of emotional distress at not being able to be with a loved one at the end of life may be damaging for the person left behind, compounded by the grieving process being interrupted and harder to work through due to lockdown restrictions.

A poll of people bereaved since the end of March, commissioned by national healthcare charity Sue Ryder, found that:

  • 82% of people who had lost someone close to them believe grief can last longer if you have lost someone suddenly or you haven’t been able to say goodbye;
  • 62% felt isolated or alone when they were grieving during lockdown, and 59% feel as though their grief has been forgotten amidst the global crisis;
  • 55% of people bereaved during lockdown feeling that their loved one’s death had become ‘just a statistic’.

Their experiences demonstrate the need for better support for bereaved people during the pandemic:

  • 66% of people who were bereaved believe being able to form a bereavement support bubble with another household would be a vital source of support;
  • 61% would find it useful to have bereavement support services more readily available.

In light of these findings will the government change the rules to allow bereavement support bubbles in future local and national lockdowns, if the same lockdown restrictions apply as previously? This would be a small change that could potentially have a significant impact on people’s ability to cope with their grief.

We would like the government to introduce a bereavement support bubble policy, which would enable a grieving household of any size to form a support bubble with one other household in the case of further local and national lockdowns. The rules would follow those for the current support bubbles – members of the bubble must not mix with anyone from a household outside their support bubble, and if a member of the support bubble shows symptoms of coronavirus, the entire support bubble must self-isolate and be tested.

The impacts of bereavement are well documented so it is also vital that bereavement support is more readily available for those affected. What action is the government taking to upscale bereavement support of all types, including formal and informal, to people who are grieving at this time?

Ensuring that people who are grieving can have a support network around them and easily access bereavement support services, even during lockdown, would show the government’s commitment to supporting people who have experienced a bereavement over the last six months, and going forward.

We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you how to take these proposals forward.

Kind regards,

  1. Carolyn Harris MP
  2. Dr Philippa Whitford MP
  3. Munira Wilson MP
  4. Jim Shannon MP
  5. Dr James Davies MP
  6. Richard Fuller MP
  7. Sir Mark Hendrick MP
  8. Dame Diana Johnson MP
  9. Barbara Keeley MP
  10. Rosie Cooper MP
  11. Sarah Champion MP
  12. Claudia Webbe MP
  13. Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
  14. Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Health Group
  15. Jamie Stone MP
  16. Allan Dorans MP
  17. Ben Lake MP
  18. Christine Jardine MP
  19. Paul Girvan MP