The perceived value of bereavement support and the impact of inequalities on availability and access: Accessing bereavement support


Dr Catherine Grimley, University of Warwick; Dr Briony Hudson, Marie Curie; Rachel Warren, Marie Curie; Dr Emily Harrop, University of Cardiff; Jane Murray, West Midlands Hospice; Gil Hilleard; Lesley Goodburn; Alex Matheson; Dr John MacArtney, University of Warwick


Bereavement, inequalities in access, access, support services


Significant social and healthcare inequalities exist in the provision and access to bereavement services. An aging population and the deaths related to the Covid-19 pandemic mean that more people are experiencing bereavement. This has accelerated the need to address this crucial area of psychological, social and healthcare support.

We aimed to analyse the experiences of those bereaved in the last five years by drawing on data from the UK Commission on Bereavement (UKCB) to explore how age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation were perceived to impact on inequalities relating to access, effectiveness, satisfaction, and delivery of services.

We carried out a qualitative thematic secondary analysis of free text data of 1,119 survey responses of adult members of the public who had been bereaved in the last five years, and of 130 survey responses from organisations and professionals working with bereaved people.

Free text responses from the public adult survey were categorised by group (age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation), and the organisational survey responses were categorised by responses relating to these groups. These were then analysed using qualitative methods. The adult survey and organisational survey were studied separately to identify patterns and themes before combining the themes together.

We found that those over 50 years old often reported not wanting to cause a fuss, saw seeking help as a weakness and were reluctant to access digital support. Family pressures, lack of time, and perceptions of less support available for younger people were reported in respondents under 50 years. Participants from ethnic minority groups found the value of support was compromised where there were language barriers and a lack of cultural and religious understanding. LBGTQ+ respondents valued non-judgemental understanding and a feeling of belonging from support where this is lacking on a wider level. Men leaned towards a preference for more informal and practical support.

Age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation affected many respondents’ access to formal and informal bereavement support as well as the effectiveness, satisfaction, and delivery of services.

This report contributes recommendations which add to those of the UKCB, which can help to reduce inequalities in effective bereavement support.

Front cover of report



May 25, 2023


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