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  they will find the support and information they need, and a service offered to a high standard. 

What might a Gold Standard signposting service look like? 

1. Be a dedicated service

Many organisations try to provide signposting and information. However, this is always limited, often referring to the same organisations. A quality and reliable signposting service should be run by experienced and knowledgeable staff, dedicated to keeping data and information relevant and up to date. 

2. Offer a wide choice of services

A Gold Standard signposting service will research and list as many bereavement services as can be found to provide important choice for bereaved people. This is important because.

  1. People are bereaved in different circumstances, and often respond best to service providers familiar with the type of loss they are dealing with.
  2. People often need age, ethnicity, faith, gender and culture appropriate services.
  3. One size does not fit all. Sometimes specialist support is needed. There are many very valuable community organisations providing effective peer support. If listing information is limited, people will not be aware of the full range of opportunities available.
  4. Choice allows bereaved people to decide what is right for them, and accessing more than one type of support can provide holistic/all-round help, e.g. local assistance often complements specialist support.
  5. Choice avoids long waiting lists, spreads the load across services, and allows the bereaved person to decide what’s right for them. Delay in seeking support can lead to mental ill-health. Choice is important for health and well-being.
  6. 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. 

3. Offer a library of helpful information and resources

A Gold Standard signposting service can encourage self-help and encourage understanding about grief by bereaved people and those supporting them through identification of helpful resources such as books, articles, films, websites, blogs and leaflets. 

4. Ensure emergency support and helplines can be found

Any central bereavement support service should have a range of helplines that can provide immediate emergency help if needed. Bereavement can lead to depression and suicide to suicide. 

5. Be accessible

 A Gold Standard signposting website should provide clear information, sensitive advice and be easy to navigate. Being able to access information in their preferred language makes support more accessible.

6. Provide geographical equity

 A Gold Standard signposting service should make provision for bereaved people to access support anywhere in the UK because. 

  1. Someone may die in a different part of the country to their family. Being able to search where they live is essential.
  2. Access to personalised bereavement support should not be dependent on postcode availability. A dedicated team can research UK wide to ensure there is the widest possible choice of service available, identifying gaps in provision.
  3. Many small local services provided by faith, community and informal groups seldom advertise and yet these are often providing valuable and effective support.

7. Be accurate and up to date

A Gold Standard signposting service must be up-to-date and accurate to avoid bereaved people being led down ‘blind alleys’ and to give professionals the confidence they need to refer people to a place where support can be found. A quality service will regularly check listings for accuracy and up-to-date details.  

8. Provide life-long bereavement support

Access to support should be available for everyone whenever they need help to process their grief. Gold Standard signposting should be a vital and integral part of the NHS’s plans for universal Personalised Care.

  1. Helping loved ones and carers facing the loss of someone nearing the end of their life to access information about support should be part of the care offered by Palliative Services.
  2. Universal and routine referral to support at the critical time immediately following the death should be part of the care and support offered to bereaved families by professionals encountering them at this point – health care professionals, funeral directors, medical examiners etc. This should include practical information such as advice about registering deaths and funerals, as well as easy access to bereavement support.
  3. After a funeral, bereaved people often need support and information about how to deal with the ‘sadmin’ such as probate, finances and accounts, as well as personal health and well-being, dealing with anniversaries and how to remember and celebrate their loved one.
  4. Grief can be life-long. People can often delay processing the grief and need support many months, sometimes years after the death occurs. Information about support needs to be available whenever it is needed.

9. Be a free service

For every bereaved person to access the support they deserve, and for professionals to fully support them, a signposting service should be properly funded but free to individual users. A service that contributes to personalised care plans by encouraging early self-help, can help to prevent mental ill health, suicide, and other negative impacts of bereavement and save the tax-payer millions. It should be an invaluable resource to professionals, enabling them to divert bereaved people away from health services where not needed.

10. Recognised, endorsed and valued

There needs to be a better understanding of the negative impacts of bereavement for the need for a Gold Standard to be fully appreciated. However, a properly resourced Gold Standard signposting service could make a major contribution to the personalised care provision required by the 2022 Health and Care Act.  To achieve this, the service needs to be endorsed and supported by professionals, valued and added to by service providers and shared widely with those that need it most, so that everyone always know where to find support and information when they need it.

For further information: [email protected].

AtaLoss welcomes 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). 

Tell us what you think
If you have comments of suggestions to make on this standard, please contact us direct on [email protected]