Young boy looking sadly out of the window

Government responds to call for official childhood bereavement data

Earlier this year Winston’s Wish, in partnership with Child Bereavement UK and The Childhood Bereavement Network, lead a petition to government calling for official data to be recorded to uncover the true scale of childhood bereavement in the UK.

Amassing over 11,000 signatures of support the petition, along with an open letter to the Prime Minister signed by over 30 bereavement sector organisations, was hand-delivered by bereaved young people to 10 Downing Street on 11th July.

Today the government officially responded to our petition:

Losing a loved one is an awful experience, particularly for children. It is not appropriate for a death registration to include the name of any dependent child, but support is available for children.

Losing a loved one is an awful experience for anyone, particularly for a child who loses a parent. As a government, we recognise the profound impact that bereavement can have on a child’s life, with far-reaching consequences that may affect their mental health, wellbeing, and academic performance requiring additional support.

The Government is always looking at how we can improve support for children who need it, including for bereaved children.

The Department of Health & Social Care lead on the nation’s health, including that of young people. Some bereaved children and young people will require support for their mental health, and we are expanding specialist mental health support by investing an additional £2.3billion a year into mental health services by 2023/24. We are also introducing Mental Health Support Teams in schools and colleges across the country. Mental wellbeing is also a topic in statutory health education and includes a range of content relevant to dealing with bereavement, including teaching pupils how to recognise and talk about their emotions.

We also know that schools can play a vital role in supporting bereaved children and signposting them to further support. The support provided by Government is complemented by the tremendous work of charities and organisations who are often best placed to provide the expert support needed, and we will continue to work closely with the voluntary sector to assess how we can provide further support to children.

We strongly encourage anyone struggling with their bereavement to contact their GP who can help provide support, signpost to specialist bereavement support organisations or refer to a counsellor.

One of the most important ways we can support bereaved children is through providing early help that provides a comprehensive range of effective, evidence-based services to support any child, young person or family that needs it. Government has taken a number of actions to prioritise services, including providing over £45m of additional funding to pathfind Family Help (as part of our ambitious plans to reform children’s social care) and investing over £300 million to establish Family Hubs (with the majority having opened by this summer) and transform ‘Start for Life’ services in 75 Local Authorities. Local Authorities are expected to identify emerging problems and potential unmet needs of individual children and families in their area.

Responsibility for recording deaths sits within HM Passport Office, and is overseen by the General Register Office. The purpose of a death registration is to record information about the deceased person and officially record their cause of death. It would not be appropriate for the use of a death registration to include the name of any dependent child on the death of a parent. This information would be retained indefinitely and then be available to anyone purchasing a certificate. Once a death is registered, certified copies of the entry can be obtained by anyone who can provide sufficient information to identify the entry and pay the required fee. There are therefore no current plans to change the law in this respect.

Department for Education

Our statement

We stand firm in our belief that to be able to reach and provide grieving children and young people with the support they need, we first need to understand the scale of childhood bereavement itself.

We believe in the value of this data and its power to transform experiences of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

We will continue to advocate for the rights of bereaved children and young people and hold strong in our determination to build a society where no child has to face to the devastation of grief alone.

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported our campaign so far, we hope you’ll continue to share our journey. We will share more on next steps soon.

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More about the petition…