Calls For A New UK Bereavement Standard

For some time there have been calls for Ministers to introduce a UK Bereavement Standard that would help alleviate the trauma that families go through when they have to make repeated calls to numerous utility and other service providers to close accounts of those who have died.

One company, Settld, that has created an online account closure service after being awarded a UK Government COVID-19 grant, is calling for the government to set an agreed Standard for the bereavement case account closure, that service providers would have to meet.  A petition calling on ministers to take swift action has been launched on Change.org and has the backing of the national charity Cruse Bereavement Care.

Vicky Wilson, Founder of Settld, said:

“Many families, who are already grieving for lost loved ones, are being put through additional unnecessary suffering because there is currently no single, centralised service to close accounts of all types. This means that bereaved relatives are forced to ring up multiple companies, sometimes several times, to state that their husband or wife, son, daughter, or grandparent, has died. It’s a process which can take weeks to resolve.

“Settld wants people to be able to grieve for their loved ones rather than deal with stressful bereavement bureaucracy. We will help lighten the load for families grappling with grief by dealing with some of the red tape, via this free automated account closure service.”

Steven Wibberly, CEO of Cruse Bereavement Care added:

“In the aftermath of a close relative’s death, people should be able to spend time with their families grieving, rather than spending hours doing admin.

“Last year, we launched our ‘Bereaved Customers First’ campaign which aims to reduce the emotional burden bereaved people face when contacting businesses regarding the death of someone. It is vital companies are compassionate and simplify their processes to ensure they are fit for purpose and are not causing their bereaved customers further distress, at an already very difficult time.

“Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic has left thousands more people bereaved. Anything that can be done to simplify this process for bereaved people will have a huge impact.”

Last week, Settld along with 30 representatives from more than a dozen utility companies and other stakeholders in the sector took part in a roundtable meeting, at which they gave broad support to a new Bereavement Standard.

There is currently no approved process for closing accounts when someone dies – with some companies demanding a death certificate before closing an account, others seek different proof and paperwork. It can take up to a month, with repeated calls, to close just one account.

John Stapleton, a former BBC TV Watchdog presenter is also backing calls for a Bereavement Standard. He said:

“As I discovered when my wife Lynn Faulds Wood died recently, having to deal with organisations such as utilities can be extremely harrowing, at a time when your emotions are already at a very low ebb. I would therefore welcome any initiative that eases what I consider to be an often unnecessary and time consuming burden.”

To close government accounts, personal representatives may use the “Tell us Once” while the Death Notification Service informs most banks of the death, however there is no service which deals with all other accounts.

Settld looks to help provide this much needed service which contacts multiple companies, in one go, via a simple web application. The service will also assist local authorities, who close accounts on behalf of vulnerable adults or those without next of kin, and law firms who often have to go through the same lengthy processes for probate clients.

At the end of last year when Vicky’s grandmother died, Vicky and her mum Julie had to go through the stress that many COVID-19 victims’ families are facing at the moment. That experience led to the launch of this week’s campaign. Vicky said:

“Settld will bring an end to some of that unhelpful bureaucratic pain. We hope to offer at least some pain relief to those who are dealing with loss and ensure that end of life affairs can be settled quickly.

“We have been selected from over 8,600 applicants for this UK Innovate government grant. Now, we urge ministers to heed our calls to introduce a Bereavement Standard which all service providers can get behind on behalf of their customers.”

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