Almost 40,000 children bereaved each year by loss of a parent

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Never before published data suggests that last year an estimated 40,000 children and young people across the UK faced the death of a parent.

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New data suggests around 40,000 children are faced with the death of a parent each year

The estimates, published by the Child Bereavement Network – part of the National Children’s Bureau - are based on local authority age banded mortality statistics for 2014 from the Office for National Statistics and 2011 census data on the proportion of adults living with dependent children, as well as the average number of children by family size.

The aim of the data, which has been released to mark the start of the first ever UK Children’s Grief Awareness Week (19-25 November), is to help services supporting bereaved children to understand their local community better and prioritise filling gaps in provision so more children and their families get the help they need.

The theme of this year’s Children’s Grief Awareness week, which is being ran by the charities Grief Encounter and the Childhood Bereavement Network, is ‘Supporting parents and carers, supporting grieving children’. It is in recognition that while parents and carers are the first line of support for grieving children, they often need help themselves.

Alongside the publication of the data, the Childhood Bereavement Network has highlighted concerns that widowed parents, particularly those with young children, will be worse off as of April 2017 when the current system of Widowed Parent’s Allowance is replaced by the Bereavement Support Payment, which will be paid over a much shorter time and stopped at the first anniversary of a person’s death. It also won’t be paid to cohabiting partners.

The charity estimates that under the new system, three-quarters of widowed parents will be worse off. While it says that parents with long-term financial needs should be eligible for support through Universal Credit, on condition they are actively seeking work from six months after a death, it warns that they may still have to go back to work or start working before their grieving children are ready.

Joanne Anning, chair of the Childhood Bereavement Network and chief executive of Plymouth bereaved children’s charity Jeremiah’s Journey, said, ‘After the death of someone close, children need support in their grief, to be nurtured and to feel a sense of continuity, helping them weave together the threads of their past and their future. The care they get from those close to them is one of the biggest factors affecting how they learn to live with their loss. It can be a daily struggle for parents and carers to support their children when they are grieving themselves.’

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