We believe bereaved people deserve the highest possible standard when it comes to signposting, whenever they decide they need support. We also believe that there should be universal routine referral to support, not least of all at the early stage following a death, so that bereaved people know where to find support whenever they need it and along their grief journey. 

It is important therefore that anyone encountering bereaved people day to day - through their work or in the community - is able to send them to a place to find that support,  confident in the knowledge that here they will find the support and information they need, and a service offered to a high standard. 

What might a quality signposting service look like? We suggest it should have the following;

1. Be a dedicated service

Many organisations try to provide signposting and information. However, this is always limited, referring to the same organisations. Since providing an information and signposting service is not their main activity it becomes quickly out of date. 

AtaLoss offers experience and expertise in providing its signposting and information service. We have a bespoke website, and staff who are wholly dedicated to keeping it relevant, accurate and up to date

2. A range of services and choice

Researching and listing bereavement services across the UK provides important choice for bereaved people. There are reasons why this is incredibly important.

* People are bereaved in different circumstances, and often respond best to service providers that are familiar with the type of loss they are grappling with. They can also benefit by learning from those with a similar experience.

* People often need age, ethnicity, faith and gender appropriate services.    

* There are a huge variety of services delivered in different ways - formal and informal, local and national, practical and emotional, specialist and general, digital and face-to-face, helplines and support groups, telephone befriending and counselling, faith-based and secular. One size does not fit all. Sometimes people need more than one type of support to help them process their grief. Access to the full range of options and opportunities available is helpful.

* Choice also avoids long waits for service, spreads the load, and allows the bereaved person to decide what’s right for them. 

* Not everyone can afford to pay for or travel to support. It is important people do not avoid seeking support because they believe they cannot afford to pay for it. There are many helpful support services which are free of charge.

www.ataloss.org offers a single hub of information where the full range of support services available across the UK can be explored according to the circumstances of loss, the type of delivery preferred, affordability, location, and age of the person needing support. ataloss.org now has over 1400 services on offer which cover the full range and we make a point of highlighting new or smaller services on our website and in our social media. 

3. A library of helpful information and resources

Self-help can often start through books, articles, films, websites, blogs and leaflets.  These can provide valuable understanding about specific problems and be helpful for bereaved people as well as those seeking to support them.

www.ataloss.org has a growing range of resources which can be filtered according to the situation.  It also has pages for specific situations, such as recently bereaved or pandemic bereavement, and articles on lesser-known topics we commission from experts and specialist service providers listed.

4. Helplines and emergency support

In times of intense grief bereaved people can often be confused and sometimes do not know where to turn.  Bereavement can lead to depression and suicide to suicide.  Any central bereavement support service should have a range of helplines that can provide immediate help.

www.ataloss.org provides a range of helplines and its own online live webchat service with qualified counsellors (GriefChat), available Monday – Friday 9am-9pm. This is planned to be extended to all hours.  

5. Accessibility

Many bereaved people are traumatised. They need clear information, sensitive advice and a straightforward, easy to navigate website that doesn't overwhelm or confuse.

www.ataloss.org is designed to be intuitive, with a calm ambience and with bereaved people in mind. The web search facility uses filters which return only the most relevant services. It is accessible to people whose first language isn’t English and we actively seek to offer information for different cultural groups so that everyone is supported. 

6. Geographical equity

Nationwide coverage is essential so that bereaved people can access support wherever they live in the UK. 

Listing national services is easy.  AtaLoss doesn’t just list, it researches smaller and lesser-known support services so that a full range of services for every county is available. Local services, including faith and community groups, seldom advertise or have websites but are providing valuable community support. We have collaborated with Scotland’s bereavement community to tailor our search facility to ensure services can be found in a way that makes sense to the population. 

7. Reliability

Up-to-date, accurate listings are vital to avoid bereaved people being led down ‘cul-de-sacs’ or to services that have ceased to operate. Service delivery and contact details often change, with written information becoming out-of-date.  It is important that listing is preceded by contact with the bereavement service to ensure details are correct. Misinformation, including directing people to head offices or registered addresses, is frustrating and unhelpful for bereaved people looking for support. It is essential that dedicated staff check all service provider listings for accuracy at the outset and regularly reviews them for updates.

AtaLoss is committed to accuracy so that bereaved people actually find support and easily but also to ensure professionals supporting them can use www.ataloss.org as a valuable resource they can confidently refer people to. We have dedicated staff who have established a relationship with the organisations prior to listing and then check on listings at least annually.

8. Comprehensive information

Bereavement impacts the whole of life and needs to be supported in every area.  Information provided should therefore support bereaved people in any situation and at any stage in their bereavement, but especially at the initial critical moment when a loved one has died. This should include practical support, help and advice about the funeral, guidance on helping grieving family members including children, access to helplines and emergency support. It should also include information to help deal with life after the funeral, such as advice on finances, well-being and health, how to remember and celebrate their loved one, dealing with anniversaries and grief triggers. 

9. A free service

For every bereaved person to access the support they deserve, and for professionals to support them fully, we believe that a central UK signposting service should be free. Support offered in a timely way, which encourages self help and with choice to avoid waiting lists, can help prevent mental ill health, many other negative outcomes of unresolved grief, even suicide. A service that contributes to the hierarchy of support (NICE Guidelines), encourages self-help, helps to prevent mental ill health, suicide, and other negative impacts of bereavement (such as debt, addiction, job loss), and also, provides an invaluable resource to professionals, is hugely cost effective in comparison with the treatment of mental ill health. This service needs to be endorsed (to increase use and benefit) and be properly funded but signposting needs to be free at the point of delivery.

10. Lifelong help

Bereavement signposting is not just about helping someone when they are first bereaved, nor is it a one-off thing. Many people begin to grieve before the person dies if their loved one has a life limiting illness. For others their grief journey is delayed for various reasons.  For many, grief is life-long. 

AtaLoss welcomes and caters for the website being directed to by organisations and professionals all along the grief journey, from anticipatory grief through to memorials, special occasions, and life events (potential trigger points). 

You can download the full version of our signposting standard HERE
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If you have comments of suggestions to make on this standard, please contact us direct on [email protected]