BLOG SERIES: Perspectives on the pandemic
More than a year on from the launch of the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal on 18 March 2020, we have asked our incredible funding partners to share their unique perspectives on the pandemic.
By Andy Langford, Clinical Director, Cruse Bereavement Care
What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve?
Bereaved people have been heavily impacted during the pandemic in communities across the UK. People affected by a death during the last 18 months have seen restrictions to funerals and been unable to access their usual support networks, such as family and friends.
For others, isolation has meant difficult thoughts and feelings have emerged around past bereavements. Loss of life has been compounded by loss of freedoms and face to face contact with our communities, friends, families and professional support and services. While restrictions have eased, uncertainty remains and thousands remain affected by grief.
Some groups have been disproportionately affected by deaths from Covid-19, highlighting the inequalities experienced by many communities in the UK.
What impact did you see on your services as a result?
Overnight, Cruse faced the cessation of safely deliverable face-to-face services, our primary service model for over 60 years. We recognised it was likely we would receive an increase in the complexity of need and demand for our services, including our national helpline, and that we would need to deliver other services remotely to meet the needs of bereaved people.
All Cruse training needed to be converted to delivery by webinar and our existing 4,000+ volunteers trained in remote support techniques. Learning during the pandemic was incorporated, such as supporting bereaved people with the level of trauma being experienced. We also needed to undertake a large recruitment and training drive for new volunteers to meet demand.
Now we are both providing support remotely, which has proven to be more accessible to many people, and taking a step back into providing in-person support where this is most beneficial.
What has the funding from the Coronavirus Appeal enabled you to do for those people you help?
Funding from the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal Fund has enabled us to support thousands more bereaved people through our national Helpline and CruseChat, our online web chat. We have also launched a new Virtual Support Team, to reach more bereaved people without a local bereavement service. We’ve trained hundreds of new specialist bereavement volunteers to ensure that we can respond to demand. The Helpline and CruseChat have provided vital emotional support and signposting to bereaved people who need immediate help.
What challenges and/or opportunities do you foresee ahead?
The pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on bereaved people and it is likely that demand for services will continue to grow. This poses challenges for Cruse and other organisations in meeting need and responding to demand. Bereavement services struggled to meet demand for services before the pandemic, and there is a recognised lack of services that meet the needs of many communities. There are also emerging mental health needs which are exacerbating grief.
The pandemic has also presented opportunities for more collaborative working and new methods of digital and remote support. This has increased the accessibility of support and the speed at which bereaved people are able to receive the help they need.