Information during the Covid-19 pandemic

We understand this is a challenging time for everyone providing support to people affected by suicide. The landscape is changing rapidly, with implications for your service, staff and those impacted by suicide. There is emerging Government guidance, changes to the bereavement pathway, the coronial system, and much more. Many services have adapted their operations to continue offering support safely.

We thought it might be helpful to put together this page of information from across the sector, to help you transition to new ways of working. It would be really helpful if you could let us know of anything else you think would be good to have included.

National Strategy Updates

Information may change as the situation develops, but below are sources of the latest information from PHE, NHSE and other government bodies, and and organisations.

The Government published guidance on how we might work safely during Covid-19 on 11th May 2020. The Guidelines are in response to the UK beginning to consider how we might return to work,.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector, Guidance to help with running your charity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Government guidance, (updated 31st March 2020)

The government’s updated advice for the care of bodies and the deceased; COVID-19: guidance for care of the deceased, Advice primarily designed to assist people required to manage bodies of deceased persons infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) may be helpful for those who are working with people along the bereavement pathway.

Here is the Coronavirus Act 2020, which was published on 26th March 2020. It is now law, and the sections on ‘Registration of deaths and still-births…’, ‘Inquests’ and ‘Residential tenancies: protection from eviction;’ might be particularly helpful

Funeral Services

Government guidanc on funerals and crematoria was first published on 23rd March, and then updated on 19th April 2020. The guidance suggests that funerals must be conducted at the crematorium or graveside, and not in a place of worship (such as a religious building). Funerals can be attended by immediate family and very close friends in as few numbers as possible. This is determined locally, and people allowed to attend include:

Partners and spouses
Parents and carers
Children, and their significant partners

Many crematoria have limited this number to 10 people. Where the person who died does not have 10 relatives attending, some crematoria allow close friends to attend the ceremony. Anyone who is considered at high-risk from COVID19, who is recommended to self-isolate, or has symptoms of COVID19, shouldn’t attend. On 19th April, the guidance was updated to include the following advice:

  • those who have symptoms of coronavirus COVID-19 must not attend and must stay at home
  • limiting the numbers in attendance to as low as possible to ensure safe social distancing. Numbers can be determined by the size and circumstance of the venue
  • observing social distancing guidance across all aspects of attending a funeral
  • people who are extremely clinically vulnerable (shielded) can attend with measures put in place to reduce their risk
  • people self-isolating because someone in their household is ill may attend if they do not have symptoms themselves

As a service along the bereavement pathway, you may find funeral directors, registrars, and coroners are operating remotely, and with a reduced service. Below are some organisations who may be able to help with up to date information and advice:

Quaker Social Action have up to date information and support on funerals and funeral costs, including how COVID-19 affects funeral arrangements, costs, and ideas to make a funeral meaningful.

The Tell Us Once Service lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. They are still operating, working remotely.

Inquests and Coroners Court

As of 23rd March, the Chief Coroner for England and Wales has advised that no physical hearings should take place unless they are urgent and essential and only if suitable arrangements can be made to ensure social distancing. They should not take place if the inquest requires witnesses from NHS services and Police, which may take them away from frontline duties. It’s important to note that coroners and their officers are now working remotely.

The Coroner’s Court Support Service has a national helpline, which is open as normal, and can advise you how to find information about the Coroner or Inquest process. You can contact them by phone  0300 111 2141 or email: [email protected] 

Support Services

Many support services are still delivering services online, by telephone, or other forms of remote communication. We have put together a case study with The Tomorrow Project about how they have approached remote working. You can read more in our case studies section.

Adapting your service

Services have taken time to fully consider how they might adapt their services to be effective remotely, and have been working with clients in this way for several weeks. Many services have chosen to focus on their core offer to avoid having to cancel appointments, and add additional services in the coming weeks. There is some guidance from the National Bereavement Alliance on how to get started with social media, managing resources and income, and alternatives to direct support.

Working with clients remotely

At a time like this, many people may see your service as an anchor in the chaos. This makes it so important to stay in touch with them in a way they are comfortable, and feel able to use. We have put together a form for clients to complete about how they would like to receive remote support, and their virtual/online capacity.

When working with clients remotely, it’s important to consider how you can keep people safe. You may wish to consider how to end your sessions safely – so that attendees are not left “disconnected” – and make and share plans about how to leave a session, what happens if you or they get disconnected, and explain guidelines for the session, before they begin, and when you will contact them again.

The BACP published guidance on 6th April on Coronavirus and Practice for clinical and counselling services, including working safely online and working online with children and young people.

National Helplines

All of the national helplines in suicide prevention and mental health are continuing to operate as normal.

NHS staff Covid-19 mental health helpline

The NHS, in collaboration with Samaritans, Hospices UK and SHOUT! have launched a mental health support helpline for health workers on the frontline. The helpline is run by trained volunteers, and is available by phone, or through a text service to anyone working on the frontline, and in the NHS. The phone line will be open between 7am and 11pm every day and the text service will be 24/7. The phone number is 0300 131 7000 while staff can text FRONTLINE to 85258

Looking After Your Own Wellbeing

It is so important that you look after you and your team’s wellbeing during this time. Someone said, “the moment you feel you don’t have time to look after yourself is the moment you most need to”. Below, we have included a few links with tips on how to look after yourself. If there is anything we can do to support you through the Central Hub, please get in touch through our contact page.

The government have a guide on how to look after yourself, physically and mentally: Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19)

Every Mind Matters, through the NHS, have a guide to Mental wellbeing while staying at home

Asking us for support

Do make contact if you would like to have a chat or need support and advice on anything. We are very much here for you and may be able t connect you with someone, who has already solved your problem or challenge.

Keep in touch, take care and keep safe.