Companies must do more for grieving people during cost of living crisis
Cruse Bereavement Support is calling on private companies to make changes to improve processes for customers closing down accounts after someone dies.
Our call follows The UK Commission on Bereavement’s recommendations for the private sector to simplify their processes, after 61% of respondents reported struggling with death admin.
Currently, thousands of bereaved people each year are left to organise the closure of their loved one’s accounts and are often met with poor communication and confusion, as well as a lack of knowledge and compassion from staff. This added stress of trying to tackle the death admin process can take a huge toll on those who are already struggling with their grief.
Hannah came to Cruse for support after her dad died from cancer in 2021. She was extremely close to her dad and before his death he managed all of the family’s finances and admin. During his final few months, Hannah took on the role of organising her dad’s accounts in preparation for his death, but this was made even more difficult after he suffered two strokes and his speech was significantly impacted. Despite her anticipatory preparation getting on top of his accounts, Hannah found her experience dealing with the admin after his death, very traumatic:
Cost of dying – your experiences
Last week we launched our campaign calling on companies to improve their processes and training to give a better service to bereaved customers. Over the past few days, many bereaved people have shared their frustrating and sometimes costly experiences with us.
“It was a dagger to the heart when I was already going through something so terrible, and it felt so unnecessarily cruel. Even the word deceased – why do they need to use that word? It’s going to happen to the people who write those letters one day and they will realise how horrible it is, there must be another way of writing it so it’s not so brutal and matter of fact.”
Hannah was recommended to purchase 13 death certificates. This came to a total of £143. Hannah’s family still have many of these certificates in envelopes unused in their house as they did not need them.
In addition to difficulties speaking with companies, those responsible for the estate are also recommended to purchase between five and ten death certificates to send to companies. At a cost of £11, this averages at £55 – £111 per person that dies – without the extra £35 for priority delivery.
We think this is a huge amount for people to pay, especially for those who are already struggling to put food on the table. And first hand experiences like Hannah’s also show that change is needed.
“The reality is, this is going to happen to everyone at some point in their lives, and most people have experienced loss in some form already, so why can’t customer service teams at these companies approach things in a better way? Something needs to change.”
What we’re calling for
We want companies to streamline their processes so that the journey is easier for everyone grieving. We’re also urging companies to invest in training their customer service staff so they are equipped to speak compassionately and respectfully when assisting bereaved customers.
Steven Wibberley, Cruse Chief Executive said:
“We’ve learnt through the pandemic that not all companies require a hard copy of the death certificate – with some allowing copies or a photo instead. We feel it is therefore unnecessary and cruel to encourage people to spend a huge amount on certification that may not even be used, especially if money is already tight. The cost of someone dying really shouldn’t be a financial burden for those who are still living.
“More broadly, the death admin process can be a really traumatic experience for those already struggling with their grief. Being faced with endless documents coldly referring to their loved one as ‘the deceased’ and being passed from person to person on the phone having to repeat the fact that their parent or spouse has died, whilst hoping that the person they speak to that day is able to be supportive and helpful.”
"It’s time that more companies take on the important responsibility of providing appropriate customer service and start treating their customers with a bit more respect and humanity."