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Covid-19: Bereavement Services

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 13 April 2021

The Government recognise that the effects of covid-19 have increased the demand for bereavement services and highlighted the complexity of grief that these services support. In response, since March 2020, we have given more than £10.2 million to support mental health charities, including bereavement services, to support adults and children struggling with mental wellbeing due to the impact of covid-19.

Last year, along with the Co-operative party, I called for a proper plan for bereavement to ensure that everyone who has experienced loss during this difficult period has the support that they need. Awareness of the services available is vital if people are to get this help. The Good Grief Trust, with which I have been in contact, has said that too many people simply do not know where to turn. What steps is the Minister taking to help signpost families to bereavement charities and support and to increase awareness of the support available to families in need, which also includes support that can be signposted from hospitals when loved ones die?

I thank the hon. Lady for her important question. The mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan published on 27 March this year aims to respond to the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health, specifically targeting groups that have been most impacted. She mentioned the Good Grief Trust, and I mentioned the £10.2 million of funding that we have allocated recently. That is on top of the £2.3 billion a year for general mental health, which includes bereavement counselling, and the £500 million additional spending that we received in the spending review. Some of that money did go to the Good Grief Trust, which has done a fantastic job. It has been signposting services by putting cards in doctors’ surgeries and in A&E departments in hospitals so that people have immediate access to a line, but there are 700 other charities across the UK that are providing bereavement and grief counselling services to many members of the public. We recognise that the demand is high, but the services are there and available.

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will pay a tribute to my father, Mohammad Aslam Khan, who passed away a few days ago. Not only was he a keen cricketer and an amazing dancer, he was also a champion of equality. He was incredibly strong and brave until his very last breath and he shall be missed beyond measure. I extend a huge thank you to all the team at St George’s, especially the marvellous team on Dalby ward, also to Victor and the incredible staff and carers at Ronald Gibson House and to a wonderful nurse called Anne Wheeler. My brother and I saw at first hand that not all angels have wings.

Covid-19 has stripped the humanity out of grieving, with millions being unable to attend funerals, say final goodbyes, or be with loved ones following a death. Last year, the Government provided £10.2 million to mental health organisations to ensure that services could continue during the pandemic. Many people have been relying on the support of dedicated bereavement organisations to help them cope, yet the extra financial support ended on 1 April. Will the Minister please consider reviewing this vital funding immediately to ensure that no one has to go through bereavement alone?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and her brave words about her much missed father. Politics divides us, but grief, for many reasons, unites us across this House. I have personally declared to my hon. Friend that I am here should she need me. I pay tribute to her for her bravery, being here today so soon after the loss of her wonderful father. I hear her request; it is constantly under review. Bereavement services are incredibly important to me personally and to many of us. She mentioned the £10.2 million. There are 700 bereavement charities, including the Good Grief Trust. We monitor carefully how people access bereavement services. We know that there is an increased need at the moment and that is being watched very carefully. My hon. Friend is incredibly brave.