This week in Leinster House we met with Oireachtas members as we held a briefing for TDs and Senators detailing the impact of bereavement on home life in Ireland, including the impact on employment, health and the overall financial burden.
The briefing was hosted by Deputy Sean Sherlock, Cork East TD, and Labour Party spokesperson on Social Protection. At the briefing Paula O’Reilly, CEO at Irish Hospice Foundation highlighted the long-term financial impact of bereavement and called for a recognition of the need to invest in services and supports for bereaved people and for Government to establish statutory bereavement leave for all employees.
This is the first study in Ireland that examines the real financial impact of bereavement from funerals to the longer-term impacts on employment and a person’s wellbeing. The study included interviews and focus groups undertaken by researchers at University College Cork (UCC) and a national survey of 1,000 people asking them about their experiences of bereavement, conducted by UK firm European Economics.
The report also highlighted that bereavement and grief are significant issues in workplaces with 67% of all the respondents saying that they were aware of people who have struggled to perform or be productive in work after someone dies.
Paula O’Reilly, CEO at Irish Hospice Foundation said:
Not all of the financial costs of bereavement are apparent in the days and weeks immediately after a death. Changes in household income and the financial aspects of the impact of bereavement on employment and psychological wellbeing may take some time to manifest and can have long lasting effects. This briefing was an opportunity for us to highlight the need for signposting people to the financial and emotional supports that are available to them. We also advocated for the need to introduce statutory bereavement leave for employees, as this is a formal acknowledgment of a bereavement in their workplace.
Dr. Caroline Dalton, Director of BSc Undergraduate Nursing and Midwifery Education, at UCC said:
Speaking to those who have been bereaved about the impact of the death on all aspects of their lives has highlighted some key issues. There is significant stigma and reluctance to talk about who pays for a funeral and this may be preventing people from accessing supports that they may be entitled to. Honouring the person who died and ensuring that they get a good send-off is hugely important, with 75% of respondents feeling there is a lot of pressure to provide a decent funeral. But beyond that, we noted that over half of people in employment changed their work arrangements following a death while 37% of bereaved people said their health had been affected.
The study highlights the importance of people planning ahead for their death so loved ones left behind are better equipped to cope financially and to ensure their well being is supported throughout the grieving process.