Cruse Bereavement Care - our work in 2020 | Cruse Bereavement Care

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2020 in review

2020 was a year like no other for Cruse. Find out more about how we have adapted and expanded our help for bereaved people during the coronavirus pandemic, and our other work across the year.

A message from our Chair and CEO

Just over a year ago, as we celebrated the end of a hugely successful 60th anniversary year at the top of the BT Tower we could have little idea of the challenges facing the world in 2020.

It’s safe to say that 2020 turned out to be a very different year, with the months of the coronavirus pandemic some of the most challenging in our history. As soon as the pandemic hit we knew that Cruse would be needed more than ever before, with many additional deaths and all bereaved people grieving under traumatic and isolated conditions.

We are pleased to say that we have risen to the occasion – within an amazingly short time we were able to move all our support for bereaved people to phone or online, and have moved all our training to be delivered remotely.

Not only have we adapted our services to face the challenges, but we have also raised our profile, influencing the national debate and getting our message out to even more people. We’ve held meetings with Nadine Dorries, the new Minister for Bereavement and with Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, and we end the year reaching more people and raising funds through the Telegraph Christmas Appeal. Many charities have seen an income drop, but funders have seen the importance of our work – we raised around £2 million in Covid funds this year, and our supporters have also been raising funds with energy and imagination. 

We’re hugely grateful for this support which will help us as we move into the next phase of our development into a thriving, inclusive charity able to face whatever new challenges the future brings.

“I took over as Chair of Cruse at the end of 2019 really looking forward to giving back some of the enormous amount that I gained from this extraordinary charity. Cruse supported my wife and I when our son James died at nine months old in 1991, and over 30 years later our work is more important than ever before. I am excited by the potential for our new strategy to reach more bereaved people. The developments of 2020 mean it is more urgent than ever that we press ahead to reach everyone who needs us, from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and every section of our society.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, Chair

“Thanks to the hard work, commitment and innovation of our volunteers and staff we have kept going in sometimes incredibly challenging circumstances. I would like to thank every volunteer, staff member and Cruse supporter for their part in making it possible for us to help everyone struggling with bereavement, for whatever reason, in these difficult and traumatic times.”
 Steven Wibberley CEO

Our coronavirus response

One story dominated everything in 2020, one that we are still in the midst of. The effect of the pandemic on the grief and bereavement experiences of millions of people has been huge, and is growing.

Rising to the challenge

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March 2020 Cruse was faced with a huge challenge. How were we going to support the many thousands of people affected? And how could we provide this support while keeping our clients and volunteers safe? 

People were dying in traumatic circumstances, and as the first lock-down started people grieving in isolation without the support of friends and family, and deprived of the chance to say a proper goodbye, or hold a funeral the way they would wish. 

Thanks to the efforts and flexibility of our volunteers and staff we were able to respond incredibly quickly:

  • All in person contact was suspended and support switched to telephone (and later online).
  • Within three days of the Prime Minister’s first broadcast to the Nation we had added a comprehensive new coronavirus section to our website.
  • We also set up a new Chat function on our website,
  • Thanks to some new funding from the Department of Health, the National Lottery, and others, we have been able to expand the support offered via our helpline.

Our volunteers have been hearing first-hand about the terrible effects of the pandemic, and our efforts to increase the support we provide will be ongoing. We’re looking forward to the day when we can go back to supporting everyone in the way that suits them best, whether that’s in person, in groups, on the phone or via Zoom. But we’ll also be looking at how we can take what we’ve learned during this exceptional period about how we can be flexible and agile when supporting bereaved people.

Our services during the pandemic

Watch Andy Langford, Cruse's Clinical Director, explain who we are and how we are supporting people during the coronavirus pandemic.

"So first I called the National Helpline, and the lady who answered was lovely – hugely caring, and we talked for nearly an hour. I was then in touch with my local Cruse, and was offered support after six weeks, all by telephone. 

"The support from Cruse helped me to deal with the trauma of how I lost my Mum, and then I could get into the ‘normal’ grief. My Bereavement Volunteer would just listen, and then she would pull something from what I said, that really helped me to reflect – she just asked me the right questions, which prompted my brain to think in a different way."

Karen, whose mother died in March 2020

Speaking out for bereaved people

During a difficult year we have continued to keep up the pressure on on Government and commercial companies to prioritise the needs of those who are grieving. Now more than ever we are needed to be the voice of bereaved people

Campaigning for change

Over the year we have been working hard to advocate on behalf of bereaved people, be recognised as the leading voice in bereavement care and collaborate with partners to raise awareness of the needs of bereaved people. We have been campaigning, responding to consultations, and our people have been out and about (virtually) taking part in numerous conferences and webinars, and putting across our point of view in the media.

  • We welcomed the introduction of statutory bereavement parental leave and pay, which was implemented in April 2020, following a campaign in which Cruse had participated. We strongly believe that bereavement leave should be for all, not just following the death of a child and will continue to press for this.   
  • CEO Steven Wibberley was part of a Video call with the Duke of Cambridge in early May. The Duke wanted to find out more about what bereavement charities were doing to help bereaved people, during the pandemic. He recognised the challenging work that all our and wanted pass on his thanks to everyone involved in supporting bereaved people during the pandemic.
  • As part of our Bereaved Customers First campaign, Cruse has worked with Settld who have created an online account closure service and are calling for an agreed standard for bereavement accounts closure to be established. 

The increased profile and influence of Cruse has been reflected in increased media coverage over 2020. From the start of the pandemic to the end of the year we had over 2000 pieces of coverage in print, on TV and on the radio.

In July we had a letter from Nadine Dorries MP, whose Ministerial remit was recently widened to include bereavement (for England):

“I would like to express my appreciation for the essential support that Cruse has provided to the bereaved over the last 60 years. The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the essential work of bereavement organisations and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the support provided by Cruse’s national and local services, especially during this incredibly difficult time.”

The numbers bit

During 2020 we supported many thousands of bereaved people. After the pandemic hit, we had to react quickly and creatively to continue to offer our life-changing support while keeping everyone safe.

In 2020 ...

  • We supported 21,675 people one to one (in person before the pandemic, or over the phone or internet)
  • We gave brief support or assessment to 4005 people
  • We supported 3431 people in groups (where it was safe to do so)
  • We helped 5401 children and young people
  • Our helpline answered 15,041 calls 
  • Our new online Cruse Chat held 14,856 chats (after going live on 1st June)

Behind every number is a person with their own unique relationship to someone who has died. It’s our privilege to hear their stories and walk beside them through their grief.

More numbers ...

We’re reporting on the calendar year because so much has changed since March 2020. Our last fully audited figures are for the financial year 2019/20.

Cruse Trustees and Financial Report for 2019/20

2019/20 impact at a glance 

Funding our work

Fundraising is always a challenge, and we are very grateful that in 2020 our supporters stepped up to the mark, and our funders recognised the continuing importance of our work.

Through 2020 we knew it was vital than we continued to raise the funds needed to provide our services. But by late Spring it was clear that the many exciting events we were planning for the year would have to be cancelled to keep everyone safe.  

Luckily our supporters were soon coming up with innovative new ways of raising funds, from colouring their hair to virtual coffee mornings. In October we held our biggest event to date - The Big Coastal Challenge. Participants ran, walked, cycled and rollerskated the combined length of the UK coastline. We didn't quite cover the full distance in October, but some participants were enjoying it so much they carried on into November, finally meeting our target along with raising an amazing £45,000.

We know the future is going to be challenging, but with supporters like these, and funders who have shown how much they value the work we do, we are hopeful we can cover the distance.

Find out more about fundraising for Cruse

"Having benefited from Cruse’s services myself, I know how important they are. Death and bereavement are a fact of life, and those left behind will always need help. When my wife died, she was able to be at home, and her sister and I could be at her side. Many people have not had that comfort during this pandemic.

I found The Big Coastal Challenge a fun way to raise money for an important cause. I have discovered a lot of pleasant, scenic cycling routes on my doorstep that I didn’t know were there before. Exchanging supportive messages with other participants through the Facebook group has been enjoyable, too."

James, Big Coastal Challenge participant


Christmas 2020

With numbers of coronavirus cases rising once more, and many bereaved people facing Christmas under lockdown we knew it was going to be more important than ever that Cruse was there to support them.

Helping over Christmas 2020

  • We know that Christmas is incredibly tough for bereaved people, and always keep our helpline open over the festive season. In 2020 an amazing 136 volunteers took on shifts over Christmas week, and together they answered over a thousand calls, twice as many as in 2019.
  • We added to our Coping at Christmas section and posted some articles and tips to our new blog. Website visitors increased by 50% compared to 2019, with a 600% increase in visitors aged 18-24. Our Grief at Christmas section was viewed 11,000 times.
  • Remembering those who have died is vitally important at Christmas and all through the year. For Christmas 2020 we set up a page where people could leave a personalised message in A Sea of Yellow Hearts, to remember a loved one. The page is a moving tribute to all those who have died and so far 1345 tributes have been left.

“I really appreciate you always responding and being here for me. It really means a lot to me. Happy new year and thank you for all that you do in supporting people like myself.”

Cruse Facebook user


Strategy for the future

After pausing to adapt to the challenges of a global pandemic, we are working harder than ever to implement our strategy and develop our services for the future.

Putting bereaved people first

Our Bereaved People First Strategy has five pillars:

  1. Support more bereaved people – in a way that works for them. Introducing a uniform, straightforward assessment and support process for all those who come to us for help, depending on their need and choices.
  2. Build one Cruse. Ensuring a consistent approach to delivery, operations, communications, and governance across our network.
  3. Increase our profile, reach and influence. Reviewing our brand, increasing our recognition and influence, and campaigning on behalf of bereaved people.
  4. Develop our people. Investing in recruitment, training and development of all our volunteers and staff.
  5. Build a high performing Cruse with increased funding. Developing, implementing and monitoring a fundraising strategy for voluntary and statutory funding.

Events of 2020 have highlighted the vital importance of addressing diversity and equality – both the Black Lives Matter campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic, and the increasingly disproportionate effect the pandemic is having on our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Cruse has established a Working Group work undertaken by this group, together with improvements in data collection and training will help inform priorities for development through the current strategic plan, Bereaved People First.

Read more about Cruse’s Strategy and our performance so far in our 2020 Trustee’s Report.

"I think for a lot of people it’s just about being able to tell that story, and having the space to be able to do that, which is what Cruse offers. We are human beings, and at Cruse it’s about just ‘being’ in that room, not doing, and allowing the space for grief."

Tina, Cruse Volunteer

We'd like to offer a big thank you to everyone who has made our work possible this year - to all our amazing volunteers and supporters, to everyone who has donated to our appeals, and to our many funders. We couldn't do the vital work we do without you!

Trusts and foundations who supported us last year