Local Belfast charity to play vital role in Covid-19 response support
The UK’s largest bereavement charity, Cruse Bereavement Care, has received a much needed financial boost from the Department of Health and Social Care to help it respond to an increase in demand for its services due to the pandemic.
The charity, which has a local branch in Belfast, was awarded funding by the Government in June to provide additional support through its existing National Helpline to bereaved people affected by the pandemic. The funding has also allowed the charity to develop its current infrastructure, including increasing the current Helpline team through new recruitment, reallocation of staff and the training of existing locally based Cruse Bereavement Volunteers with key telephone skills; extending the opening hours of its Helpline; and creating a new webchat service. 
Since the pandemic began the local Cruse branch in Belfast has continued its work supporting those who are bereaved through the pandemic or other circumstances. In Belfast there have been 251 Covid-19 related deaths since the pandemic first began back in March.
Siobhan Holland, Area Chair for Belfast at Cruse Bereavement Care said: “These are unique times for everyone and we are yet to see the full impact that the pandemic is having on the thousands of people across the UK who have been bereaved and the lasting impact this will have on their mental health. We know from experience how devastating any death can be but in the current circumstances people are facing some of the most challenging situations imaginable.
“The social distancing restrictions and limitations on funerals since March has meant that many of those left behind have been grieving in isolation, alone, unable to seek much needed comfort from friends and family, and on top of that – many will have been unable to say goodbye or attend the funeral. What we are seeing now with an increase in calls to the Helpline month on month, is that these people have just put their grief on hold but now is when this grief is starting to be realised.
“Our team here in Belfast is proud to be part of the national support network and pleased to be able to extend our National Helpline services to support those affected by this awful virus. In addition, our team of volunteers has also been supporting non Covid-19 related deaths so it really has been all hands-on deck to ensure that those who need it can access the necessary guidance and advice on dealing with grief and loss. If you or anyone you know has suffered a bereavement, we urge you to get in touch with our Helpline for support as having someone to talk to can make all the difference.”
The training of the new volunteers has also allowed the charity to prepare if there is a second wave of the virus and the subsequent uptake in demand for its services in the coming winter months. The average call time to the National Helpline has already increased from 15 to 18 minutes in the last three months.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Cruse Bereavement Volunteer for the Belfast branch, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nadine Dorries, Minister for Bereavement (Non-Financial) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light on the invaluable assistance that bereavement support charities and organisations provide.
“Cruse has done an amazing job over the last 60 years in ensuring that people who have lost loved ones are supported in their time of need, and they continue to do so during this incredibly difficult time.
“I am delighted that this funding will help to ensure that Cruse can meet the increased demand.”
The current UK death toll sits at just over 41,777, meaning over 250,000 extra people are now grieving as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and since the start of June the charity has received more than 15,000 calls to its helpline supporting bereaved people.
Cruse Bereavement Care has been providing life-changing support to bereaved people across the UK for over 60 years. The services are provided by a network of 5,000 trained volunteers up and down the UK.
 The webchat operates via a 3rd party called GriefChat and there is no commercial gain for Cruse, the purpose of the service is to increase access to free bereavement support within the UK and we pay a nominal fee to GriefChat to deliver the service on our behalf. GriefChat is a safe space for grieving or bereaved people to be able to share their story, explore their feelings and be supported by a qualified bereavement counsellor. Cruse introduced the webchat to its portfolio of services in June this year and have already received over 5,000 chats from people looking for support.
 Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51768274
 The number of people who suffer intense grief as a result of what is considered a traumatic death such as suicide, is 6 (Helping people bereaved by suicide: Their needs may require special attention, Keith Hawton, Sue Simkin, BMJ. 2003 July 26; 327(7408): 177–178). Deaths from the coronavirus outbreak are being considered ‘traumatic’ given the situations in which people are dying, and the wider contextual situation in which people are grieving.