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Bereavement charities urge Government to meet £3-billion cost of trauma caused by sudden death

19 March 2021

Unexpected deaths, which raise trauma issues, have trebled during the pandemic

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THE cost of dealing with trauma caused by sudden death from Covid-19 and other illnesses could be as high as £3 billion, charities have warned, as they call on the Government to continue giving financial support to bereavement services.

Unexpected deaths have trebled to almost a quarter of all deaths since March 2020, owing to Covid, research by the bereavement charity Sudden has found. The shock added to grief was a “potent and grim mix” for families, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said.

One in four deaths since March 2020 was from unexpected or sudden causes, including Covid and accidents, suicides, or immediately fatal conditions such as a brain haemorrhage; this is up from one in 14 the previous year.

For each death, there were at least five people left bereaved and struggling, the charity said. Some of these went on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses, which could cost as much as £64,000 per person to treat.

Early support could help people to cope better with sudden bereavement and avoid long-term illness, it said.

“Bereavement is a terrible thing in any circumstances, as I know from personal experience,” Dr Inge said. “Sudden death means that shock is added to the devastating effects of losing someone you love: it’s a potent and grim mix. I hope those who have experienced unexpected bereavement will receive appropriate and specialist help. They will certainly find love and support at their local church; supporting all those who are bereaved will always be one of our core tasks.”

A coalition of charities, including Child Bereavement UK and specialists in trauma, last week launched a Sudden Bereavement Charter, which calls for support for bereaved families, including practical and financial assistance and rights to time off work.

Emergency financial support for bereavement charities from the Government is due to run out at the end of the month, and needs to be maintained to continue support for bereaved families, the charter urges.

The chief executive of Sudden, Mary Williams, said: “Due to Covid-19, almost a quarter of deaths are now from unexpected causes. The launch of the Charter champions the rights of the suddenly bereaved to access immediate care through the worst time of their lives — and to mitigate the negative impacts on them, society, and the economy.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Behind every Covid-19 death are friends and families grieving their loss.

“The Government has acted decisively over the last year with necessary restrictions to control the spread of the virus. This has sadly limited the ability of the bereaved to access many aspects of healthy grieving, including the comfort of family and friends, funerals, and other rituals.

“We are committed to ensuring those who are grieving get the support they need throughout the pandemic and beyond, and we have given over £10.2 million to charities, including bereavement charities, since March 2020, ensuring services are there for people who need them.”

Read more on the story in this week’s leader comment

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