40,000 children hit by the death of parent each year - local support needed for grieving children

For the first time, we have today published estimates of the number of children in each local authority who are bereaved each year of a parent. The data suggests that last year across the UK almost 40,000 children and young people faced the death of a parent. The data will help services supporting bereaved children to understand their local community better and prioritise filling gaps in provision, so that more children and their families get the help they need, wherever they live and however they have been bereaved.

Alison Penny, CBN’s Coordinator said

‘It’s extraordinary that we collect official data in this country on the number of children affected by their parents divorcing, but not on the numbers affected by a parent dying. It’s a sign that we don’t pay enough attention to this huge change in children’s lives – despite recent tragic events reminding us of the powerful impact of loss. These estimates will go some way to filling the information gap, and help us to understand more about where support is needed.’

The estimates are released to mark the start of the first ever UK Children’s Grief Awareness Week (running from 19 to 25 November), which aims to raise awareness of grieving children and the support available to them. Coordinated by Grief Encounter and the Childhood Bereavement Network and supported by organisations up and down the UK, the week has a theme of ‘Supporting parents and carers, supporting grieving children’. This is in recognition that while parents and carers are the first line of support for grieving children, they in turn often need our help.


Parents and carers shouldn’t have to cope alone. While family, friends, colleagues and schools all have a part to play in supporting them, the benefits system too needs to underpin their hard work in caring for their grieving children. However, from April 2017, the current system of Widowed Parent’s Allowance will be replaced by Bereavement Support Payment, which will be paid over a much shorter time and stopped at the first anniversary of the death.

Alison Penny, CBN’s Coordinator, said

‘The Childhood Bereavement Network estimates that three quarters of widowed parents will be worse off under the new plans, and those with younger children will be disproportionately hit by the cuts. Families with longer term financial needs will get this through Universal Credit, on condition that they are actively seeking and available for work. Those conditions will be relaxed for six months after the death, but that may still mean that they have to go back to work or start working before their grieving children are ready.

‘We’re worried about other changes to the welfare landscape too: limiting the child element of Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to two children to new claimants from 2017 will mean that widows and widowers with larger families – born when both parents expected to live to support their children into adulthood – will suffer.

‘And despite being designed as a benefit for the 21st century, the new Bereavement Support Payment won’t be paid to cohabiting partners. Last year, nearly a third of babies were born to parents who were living together but not married. None of these families would qualify for the payment if one of the parents died.’

Joanne Anning, Chair of the Childhood Bereavement Network and CEO 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.’

To get involved visit: http://www.childrensgriefawarenessweek.com and use the hashtag #ChildrensGriefAwareness


For more information please contact the National Children’s Bureau’s media office on 0207 843 6045/47 or email [email protected]. For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.

About the data
The estimates are adapted from data from the Office for National Statistics, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

The Childhood Bereavement Network has calculated these estimates by combining each local authority’s age banded mortality statistics for 2014 (Office of National Statistics) with its 2011 census data on the proportion of adults living with dependent children, and the average number of children by family size.

The current population of 5-16 year olds has been calculated by taking the percentage of 5-16 year olds who were reported in a nationally representative sample of 7,977 as having been bereaved of a parent or sibling at some point in their childhood (Fauth et al, 2009), adjusted to account for changes and local differences in age-standardised mortality rates. This has been combined with mid-year population estimates from 2014.

About Children’s Grief Awareness Week
The Childhood Bereavement Network is teaming up with Grief Encounter www.griefencounter.org.uk and organisations across the country to coordinate activity throughout Children’s Grief Awareness Week (19 to 25 November 2015). The week incorporates international Children’s Grief Awareness Day on 19 November www.childgriefawarenessday.org which was initiated in the US in 2008 by the Highmark Caring Place and has been taken up by organisations across the US and across the world.

Please use #ChildrensGriefAwareness.

Visit http://www.childrensgriefawarenessweek.com/ and http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/campaigns/childrens-grief-awareness-week.aspx for more information.

About the Childhood Bereavement Network

The Childhood Bereavement Network, based at the National Children’s Bureau, is the coordinating hub for services across the UK that offer direct support to children and young people who have been bereaved of a parent or sibling. Our members find creative and therapeutic ways for children and their families to begin to understand what has happened and to live with and beyond their loss. For more information and a directory of ‘open access’ services, visit www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk

About the National Children’s Bureau
The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues. For more information visit www.ncb.org.uk