Child Bereavement

Every year in the UK, 23,600 parents die leaving dependent children:

  • that's a parent of young children dying every 22 minutes. 
  • They leave around 41,000 children newly bereaved each year.
  • By the age of 16, around 5% of young people will have had a parent die: around one in every 20 sixteen-year olds.
  • In total, in the UK, around 309,000 school age children and young people (5-16) have been bereaved of a parent or a sibling.
  • Many more have been bereaved of a grandparent, friend or another important person.

Figures from The Childhood Bereavement Network: October 2014

Thy Will Be Done supports the Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN)

CBN promotes Plan If

"Plan If" is a campaign and linked resources that have been developed by the Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) in order to help more bereaved children after a parent has died.

They believe in the importance of parents making plans in case they die while their children are still young.

Practical tasks, such as

We hope that ‘Plan If’ will play a part in making society as a whole more aware of and more prepared to talk about parental death, and in this way, play a part in helping bereaved children and young people respond to a death.

The quick response to ‘why have a Plan If?’ is to ask if you are confident you know the answer to these questions:

  • Who would my children live with if I died?
  • Would my family have enough to live on? Would they, for example, be able to stay living in the same house; attend the same school; keep life going much the same?
  • Who would inherit everything I own? Am I really sure about that?

There are many other important, personal reasons to put together your Plan If. You will find information to help you prepare all through their website http://www.planif.org.uk

A survey of 2000 parents of 0 - 17 year olds was conducted  in September 2014

Three out of four believe it is important for all parents to have made a will; however, only ONE in four parents of children aged 17 or under have an up-to-date will.

  • 44% of those without a will said they hadn’t got round to it
  • and 37% hadn’t thought about it.
  • 15% hoped it wouldn’t be needed yet
  • and 9% said it was too difficult to think about. 


One half (51%) of those responding to the survey who had children aged 17 and under said that they had NOT made guardianship arrangements. Reasons included:

  • hadn’t thought about it (46%);
  • hadn’t got round to it (21%);
  • too hard to think about it (15%);
  • hoped it wouldn’t be necessary (25%) and
  • unable to agree on suitable guardians with the other parent (7%).

Just 1 in 3 (37%) of those we asked thought that someone in their family would know how to access their financial information including details of accounts, insurances, pension and employment arrangements, and also would know how to access their online accounts.

Only 1 in 6 of those we asked had written a letter to be read by their child or children after their death. Reasons offered for not having done so included:

  • 53% had not thought about it;
  • 20% hope it would not be needed
  • and 15% thought it was too difficult to decide what to say.
  • 17% of people found it too upsetting to think about. ‘I’d never be able to stop writing, I’ve got too much to say to them’

Secondary Losses

Too often, a parental death can lead to children experiencing ‘secondary losses’, that is to say that many other changes will follow the huge change of no longer having their mum or dad around. For example, the family may have to move home if finances change. This may lead, for example, to a child losing their safe and familiar surroundings (their bedroom, garden den, kitchen table).

Moving house may mean moving school and thereby losing friends, favourite teachers, the corner of the playground at lunchtime, their place in the class.

And moving house and school may mean losing the security of the local known community, the sports club, youth group, place of worship, corner shop.

Putting in place at least some of the Plan If ideas can help reduce the number of unnecessary changes for children and families after a death

Life insurance

The point of including a section on insurance in the Plan If suggestions is the importance for children and young people, when a parent has died, of experiencing as few other disruptive changes as possible. The key question to ask is ‘if I were to die tomorrow, could my family afford to stay on in this house, with the children going to the same school and doing most of the things they like to do?’

Without insurance, your family may find that they have little to live on if you were to die; this can be particularly true if you are the main or sole wage earner and if your mortgage or rental payments are dependent on your salary. It is also especially relevant for single parents.

If you have insurance already, or have a vague idea that you may have insurance already, it is absolutely crucial to check now that it will cover all you hope it would cover if you should die unexpectedly.

One of the main reasons, we are told, for families being in financial difficulties after a parent has died has been the assumptions that ‘I think it’s covered through work’ or ‘I took something out with the mortgage, I think’. This is a time to take a deep breath, take up pen and paper and work out what your family would need to maintain their current lifestyle if you were to die. Then actually check that you have those arrangements in place: the links below may help as prompts.

A good place to start is by speaking to one of Thy Will Be Done’s FCA regulated IFAs who will come and speak with you, without obligation, and go through all of your options with you. These include Family Income Benefit Plans which can pay the guardians of your children an agreed monthly amount until they are 18, rather than a ‘’lump’’ sum that could be squandered or lost through divorce, bankruptcy or even death if paid up front.

The next important step, if you are in paid work, is to check what arrangements your employer has for death in service payments.

Many firms offer a ‘death in service’ benefit, usually as part of a pension scheme. This is a lump sum, usually tax-free, normally paid to a person nominated by you in the event you die while working for that employer. This arrangement ends when the employment ends. As part of your Plan If, check that you have nominated someone to receive this and then make a note that this arrangement exists. The scheme is not obliged to follow your wishes (if, for example, you have nominated a non-dependent but you have dependent children) but will in almost all cases.

Again, have in the back of your mind the question ‘is this actually enough?’ Most employers offer a payment of around 2 years' salary: that is not going to be anywhere near enough to cover housing costs let alone protect your family’s lifestyle in the future.

 Thy Will Be Done is proud to support the work of


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