The demand for a new Bereavement Standard has never been greater. Britain’s unenviable death toll of more than 105,000 people from coronavirus has made the campaign even more vital. While we’ve made significant progress over the last six months, we have a long way to go. Vicky Wilson, the CEO of Settld, writes about the importance of the initiative in this blog.
Bereavement Standard Debated in House of Commons
Last night, the Labour MP Grahame Morris, initiated an important debate on the Bereavement Standard in the House of Commons. We are very grateful for his support and the more than 50 parliamentarians who are backing our calls. Mr Morris, the MP for Easington, County Durham, was absolutely correct when he told the Commons that there needed to be better coordination and cohesion across government to support bereaved families.
While there is a bereavement minister in government, Nadine Dorries MP, her portfolio is currently non-financial. Other departments, Business, Work and Pensions, Education, and Justice cover bereavement policy too.
What’s slowing progress is the fact that there’s no single minister or department responsible for bereavement matters, which means no one is able to call the shots and push for the Bereavement Standard as a government policy. We need much faster progress if families are to be better supported. The public is behind our campaign. In a poll conducted by YouGov last year for Settld and Cruse, more than 80% of people supported a Bereavement Standard.
So far, more than 91,750 people have signed our petition and many have awful stories to tell about how they and their families were treated when they suffered a family bereavement.
It’s time for ministers to show leadership and take action, and it’s time for service providers and regulators to listen to our calls. Many companies need to improve their treatment of those who contact them following a bereavement.
For many families, the stress of having to deal with end-of-life administration, account closure or transfer, and notifying multiple companies is hard to bear. And it’s not easy.
Many families who are left grieving receive emotional support from charities like Cruse, but they are often left to sort out the administration by themselves.
Things that should be simple – changing the name on a gas bill or closing a bank account – often aren’t.
Existing processes found to be traumatic
Research last year from Settld and Cruse showed that the vast majority of bereaved people described the administration processes as time consuming and stressful. Around a quarter found it traumatic. Many bereaved people reported having to contact companies several times before the issues were resolved.
And we heard just how difficult it is to have to phone so many individual companies to say “my husband or wife has died” multiple times.
What is the Bereavement Standard?
The idea for the Bereavement Standard came from our own experiences. My mum, Julie, and I had to ring countless companies when my grandmother, June, died 16 months ago. It was a painful experience and we both vowed that we’d do something to make it easier for others.
The campaign calls for:
1. An agreed timeframe for companies to respond to bereavement enquiries and settle outstanding customer balances.
2. Dedicated bereavement customer care channels for each company, and appropriately trained customer care staff, to handle such cases and avoid customers waiting on calls.
3. The standardisation of paperwork needed to close an account, with a view to accepting digital documents (inc death certificates) whenever possible.
Along with Cruse, we have hosted three very successful and well attended Bereavement Standard Working Groups (BSWG) and three roundtables – with the energy sector, financial sector and probate practitioners. We’ve had more than 95 participants, from industry, regulators, trade associations, charities, consumer groups and parliamentarians taking part. We are making waves and we are making progress, but we want swifter progress, particularly with the impact of COVID on so many families.
Settld: Automating bereavement admin
My gran’s death also encouraged my mum and I to try to make things easier for others faced with the death of a loved one. So, we founded Settld last year to automate bereavement account closures. I’m delighted that our new service launches fully nationwide next Tuesday. Our website allows people who’ve recently been bereaved to upload the necessary documents and fill in a simple, secure online form.
But we still need a Bereavement Standard, because whether you use a service like Settld to close and transfer accounts, or decide to do it yourself, many of the companies being notified need to improve their standards. While some give bereaved customers great service, others are not so good. We want all companies to adhere to a Bereavement Standard. It will make life easier, simpler and better for everyone.
Please support us by signing the petition.