Bereaved people in Scotland are not receiving the support they need, according to new research commissioned by Sue Ryder and Hospice UK.
This is particularly concerning as Scotland passes the six-month mark of the implementation of the Carer’s Act, which places a duty on authorities to signpost bereaved carers towards support.
With over 230,000 people bereaved each year in Scotland, almost a quarter of people would have liked some kind of support beyond family and friends but didn’t access it because they didn’t know how (12%), felt uncomfortable asking for it (8%) or couldn’t get the type of support they wanted (3%).
Almost a quarter of people don't know where to find help
People who experience social isolation are also more likely to say they would have wanted bereavement support.
Sue Ryder and Hospice UK both work to support people who have experienced bereavement. Our online community, which provides information and peer support for those who have lost a loved one, has supported over 110,000 people so far this year.
Hospice UK’s member charitable hospices in Scotland provide a wide range of bereavement support to adults and children including one-to-one counselling in person, peer support, art therapy and walking groups. They offer this support to patients, loved ones and people from their wider communities.
We and Hospice UK are jointly calling for a right to bereavement support for everyone in Scotland who wants it.
Everyone in Scotland has a right to bereavement support
“The death of someone close can have a lasting impact on those left behind, and in some cases can lead to problems with health and wellbeing that have a significant effect on a grieving person’s life," said Elinor Jayne, our Policy and Public Affairs Manager – Scotland. "This research shows that almost a quarter of bereaved people would like some form of support over and above that they may receive from family and friends, but don’t get it.
"It’s now time for bereavement support to be expanded across Scotland so that everyone who needs support receives it in a way and at a stage that works for them," she urged.
“It’s clear not enough people are accessing the support they need to help them through the hardest of times, risking long-term, far-reaching trauma and harm," added Eilidh Macdonald, Policy and Advocacy Manager Scotland at Hospice UK. “With just 6% of bereaved people accessing support, more needs to be done to tackle barriers linked to availability, resources, awareness and stigma.
“Local and national planning must urgently address the needs of children and adults in our communities going without support when they need it most.”
"Too many people suffer in silence"
Carla*, who lives in Inverness, has been using our online community since the death of her husband in July 2018. Having been her husband’s carer for a long period, since he died Carla has felt very alone.
“After 50 years of marriage, I now feel that I’ve lost not just my husband but my best friend, my companion, my reason to be," she said. "I came across the Sue Ryder online community when I was feeling particularly low and I now find it very comforting to be able to communicate openly with people who are going through very similar experiences.”
Carla also believes that if someone experiences the death of someone close to them they should automatically be offered bereavement support. Her husband was cared for at Highland Hospice so, in addition to peer support found in our online community, she has been receiving bereavement counselling.
“If you don’t live locally to a hospice or your loved one wasn’t cared for in a hospice, it must be much more difficult to get support," she said. "I think that, if you suffer a bereavement, there should be an easy route to the support that you need as I suspect too many people suffer in silence. It would help so much if there were local groups where people could meet others and share how they feel, and maybe make friends.”
Our Sue Ryder Policy and Public Affairs team and Hospice UK will now be pushing for our recommendations on bereavement support to be taken forward by the Scottish Government, the NHS and integration authorities.