National Bereavement Service

We are an independent, impartial and not-for-profit organisation providing emotional, practical help and advice for people when they experience a bereavement. Our service includes help for those experiencing traumatic death such as homicide or suicide as well as information and advice to people preparing for future incapacity and death.

Through a free helpline, email or webchat, professional advisors with a wealth of real-life experience offer immediate emotional support, provide practical guidance on what steps to take next after the death of someone close, and refer those seeking counselling to trusted organisations. By guiding people through legal and other requirements following a death, providing advice on probate and support with other practical arrangements such as organising and paying for a funeral, the NBS helps clients to make the right choices to suit their circumstances.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

We receive calls from people who express suicidal ideation or are extremely distressed following a significant bereavement. Our safeguarding policy addresses this situation, allowing us to call for emergency help if appropriate and adequate information is given to us. Meanwhile we will maintain contact with someone in danger of self-harm for as long as is needed by them. Information on the Samaritans is a regular feature of the psychological signposting we offer to anyone who calls for whom self-referral to other organisations is indicated. Other support organisations refer their callers to us for the practical information and advice service we offer to bereaved people as this is not something within their remit. We are members and supporters of SASP who signpost to NBS, and we work closely with the Homicide Service caseworkers and their families which often involves victims of both homicide and suicide.

What are your current priorities?

One aim as an organisation is to increase general knowledge about death issues and bereavement on an ongoing basis. Secondly, as there has been an increase in our service usage since the start of 2023, we will also be focusing on recruitment to maintain our response times and service levels as well as developing our bereavement training programme. We would also like to improve our community involvement by bringing increased diversity to our board and meeting representative groups.

What challenges are you currently facing?

The main challenges we are currently facing is generating income/achieving financial sustainability. The National Bereavement Service provides a free helpline to support bereaved people with practical information and advice from the time a death occurs and through all the practical tasks that confront bereaved people. We also assist with pre-death planning and preparation. For service users, we provide immediate emotional support with signposting to longer term sources of support that best match the needs of the bereaved person. The unique feature of the service is that information and guidance provided is impartial and our bereavement advisors are not given sales targets nor do they receive any incentives for signposting to particular legal services. The service is subsidised by providing some paid for services to businesses such as dedicated bereavement helplines for both customers and employers, as well as our bereavement training programme which we are hoping to continue to develop.