Cruse Bereavement Care welcomes new research from Royal London which highlights the long term financial and practical impacts of the loss of a spouse or partner. The research found that the financial impacts last longer than expected, with 26% of people reporting lower disposable income in the first year after bereavement, rising to 42% one to three years after. Even three to five years after losing a spouse of partner, 36% of people still report lower disposable income.
The research also revealed a gender gap, with 51% of bereaved women reporting lower household income following bereavement, compared to 35% of men. It also found that 45% of bereaved women reported lower disposable income, compared to only 24% of men.
The practical impacts result from the tendency of couples to split household tasks between them, including tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing, car maintenance, dealing with tradespeople, DIY, driving and dealing with technology. The sudden loss of this expertise leaves the surviving partner scrambling to deal with these practical matters for the first time, while also coping with the emotional loss.
Although losing a partner affects everyone, those reporting the least impact were those with the most plans in place. Those with specific plans in place, including life insurance, funeral plans and lasting power of attorney, were least likely to report reduced disposable income, lower savings or increased debt.
Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive at Cruse Bereavement Care, wrote the introduction to the report together with Alison Penny of the Childhood Bereavement Network. Debbie Kerslake said: “When one of a couple dies, it's not just their physical absence and the emotional pain of the loss that is so hard to bear, it is also coping with the practical and financial impact at a time of such vulnerability. This report highlights the benefits of couples planning ahead and taking action. As well as addressing financial affairs this also includes thinking about how practical tasks are shared out. Anything that can help mitigate just some of the pain is to be welcomed.”
Alison Penny, Coordinator at Childhood Bereavement Network, said: “We welcome Royal London’s report, which clearly shows the financial and practical challenges that accompany the death of a partner. For those with children still at home, there can be particular difficulties, especially if the couple weren’t married and so aren’t eligible for working age bereavement benefits. The report calls for organisations to support people to plan ahead: our Plan If campaign (www.planif.org.uk) helps parents of young children to do just that. Writing a will, appointing guardians, writing letters to a child can feel daunting, but these are the sort of practical and personal plans that can make life a little bit easier for children if their parent were to die before they grow up.”
The research and report have been released during Dying Matters Week (#BigConversation) and are supported by the Dying Matters Coalition. Claire Henry, Chief Executive of Dying Matters, said “Losing someone we love is always horrible, but while we rightly focus on the emotional impact it is too easy to lose sight of the financial and practical impacts. This report shows how the financial impacts fall heavier on women, and last longer than people may expect.
“It also demonstrates the importance of making effective plans well before they are needed. Planning a funeral, making a will, arranging insurance and lasting power of attorney are good not just for our own piece of mind, but also help make things easier for those we leave behind.”
Simon Cox of Royal London said: “The research shows a clear bereavement gender divide, with women faring the worst. While we can’t prepare for every eventuality, and as difficult as it may be to talk about dying, having plans in place will help loved ones left behind be more financially secure and manage the everyday chores and tasks.”
Research Now, on behalf of Royal London, surveyed 500 people who have been bereaved in the last five years between 24 September and 20 October 2015. The qualitative research comprised six in-depth interviews carried out by Trajectory Partnership, with people who had recently lost their partner, conducted in Croydon and Nottingham.