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The issues that bereaved people face


Publication date:

08 September 2020

Last updated:

08 September 2020


Cruse Bereavement Care

An introduction to Cruse Bereavement Care.

Sadly, the current coronavirus pandemic has made death and bereavement headline news for many months. This, combined with the second round of consultation about the FCA Guidance on the Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers, has meant that working with bereaved clients has become a key issue for many businesses. The Society of Claims Professionals has asked Cruse Bereavement Care to share some of their knowledge and expertise with its members through a series of blogs.


For those who are unfamiliar with the charity and its work, here’s a short introduction.

Cruse’s founder, Margaret Torrie, became concerned with the plight of widows during her work as a social worker and while working with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The world was a very different place in 1959. The post-war 'stiff upper lip' attitude to grief made the UK a difficult place for bereaved people in general, specifically widows. Margaret Torrie saw that the loss of a husband was often a major emotional, social and economic crisis for the woman and for any children, and decided to act. The ongoing impact of her pioneering work has been felt by tens of thousands of bereaved people across the UK over the past 60 years

By 2020 Cruse has grown to be the leading bereavement charity supporting thousands of people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but with a reputation and impact that is global.

Last year Cruse helped over 35,000 adults with 1:1 support and a further 4,500 through groups. We worked with 5,600 children, and took almost 12,000 calls on our national helpline. This could only be achieved thanks to 5,000 volunteers who give an incredible half a million hours of their time every year to supporting bereaved people.

Every day of the year, Cruse has a huge impact on bereaved people’s lives. In the words of one of our clients:

My bereavement volunteer made me realise that it’s okay to have a bad day and gave me the permission to feel sad, scream and cry my eyes out when I felt I needed to. I really don’t think I would have been able to cope without Cruse.”


As well as offering emotional support Cruse hears how bereavement impacts on people’s wider lives – the day-to-day practical and financial impact after losing a loved one.

Far too often, even doing some of the basic administration can be traumatic. Contacting a bank to sort out a loved one’s affairs is unnecessarily complicated. Even changing a name on an electricity bill becomes far more difficult that it needs to be. As bereaved customers, they aren’t always treated with the compassion and empathy needed because many companies don’t have the training, processes and systems in place to make sure they put bereaved customers first.

It is easy to underestimate the emotional burden of making those calls – and telling numerous companies that your loved one has died:

“That’s one of the worst things ever having to say those words over and over again.”


To better understand the scale of the problem Cruse worked with YouGov to talk to more bereaved people.

Out of the 1,600 respondents, 27% said it wasn’t straightforward to contact relevant organisations to tell them about a death. 

And when asked what words they would use to describe the process they said: 

  • time consuming (44%)
  • stressful (39%)
  • upsetting (30%)
  • complicated (24%)
  • traumatic (16%)


Clearly every organisation will be different in the detail of how they deal with bereaved customers, but there are four key points that every organisation can implement to ensure that bereaved customers don’t struggle unnecessarily or have an adverse experience:

  • Plan: Have a written plan in place which outlines what you will do to make sure bereaved customers are treated with empathy and respect.
  • People: Train staff and make sure everyone who comes into contact with bereaved people knows how to respond efficiently and with understanding.
  • Process: Streamline your processes and procedures to be simple and pragmatic. Avoid unnecessary steps and repetition.
  • Paperwork: Ensure your paperwork is easy to follow and only asks for information that is needed. Pass on details of where people can get practical and emotional support.


Working to improve these four areas will also help customers who are vulnerable for other reasons and should improve customer the customer experience for everyone.

Future blogs will look at bereavement and vulnerability, and consider some practical aspects to improve how you work with bereaved customers and clients.


For more information about the services Cruse offers, including training and consultancy services, please visit or for emotional support call the National Helpline on 0808 8081677

Please note, that customers based in Scotland should contact our sister charity Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland (; Scottish Helpline 0845 600 2227

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Claims Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.