Psycho-social and bereavement support for families at risk during pandemic | Western Cape Government


Psycho-social and bereavement support for families at risk during pandemic

18 August 2020

The Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez and the Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, are urging all individuals and families in need of psycho-social support and bereavement counselling, to utilise government’s services during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Minister Fernandez said, “Minister Fernandez said, “In such unprecedented times, individuals might find themselves having to deal with the loss of a family or community member without appropriate grief and bereavement support. 

The current decline in household income also presents additional trauma whilst travel and work restrictions were applied, businesses shut down, and unemployment increased during the pandemic, leaving many individuals and communities traumatised.”

Minister Fernandez added: “We are working transversally to deal with the psycho-social impact of the pandemic. Government departments are joining efforts and combining resources to ensure that we can meet the demand for psycho-social and bereavement support during these times."

It is well-documented how an outbreak of infectious disease and the anxiety that is prevalent during health and/or humanitarian crisis often leads to psycho-social consequences for the affected population. Physical and social isolation due to social distancing and/or a quarantine process might leave individuals, families, or communities to lose emotional bonds with their significant others, thereby contributing to weakening social support. Further, social stigma and discrimination arising from the spread of misinformation may also intensify stress responses among people presumed to be affected by the disease (Journal of Korean Medical Science, 2020).

In the context of the COVID-19 National Disaster, the Provincial COVID-19 Coordinating Council determined that the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) should take on the role of providing psycho-social support to individuals and/or families affected in various ways by COVID-19.

The provincial DSD with the support of its NPO partners and its volunteers utilises various awareness programmes that are integrated with psycho-social interventions, to help all those individuals being impacted by the COVID-19. The department has also formed partnerships with various NPO partners, to establish support groups in vulnerable communities for COVID-19 Survivors.

In response to the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, psycho-social support and bereavement counselling being provided by Government to individuals and families has been tailored to meet the specific needs of a client. The support being provided include; debriefing, counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. To mitigate the challenge of accessing services during this period, psycho-social services are also being made available via telephonic services, to prevent the further spread of the virus.

During the period starting from April 2020 and ending July 2020, 45 998 clients accessed DSD and DSD-funded psycho-social support services.

The Provincial COVID-19 Co-ordinating Council further determined that the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) should take the lead in engaging the religious sector to strengthen bereavement support to families who have lost members to COVID-19.

DCAS has worked with partners to provide relief to citizens through its sport and arts and culture relief funds and expanded access to psycho-social and bereavement support through:

• A partnership with the religious sector to scale up their ministry and support to families in need and offer bereavement support linked to funerals. The task team of religious leaders and WCG meets bi-monthly.

• The launch of the enrichED web portal, a well-being and resource portal, for after school, NGO and sport practitioners. A virtual training session on some of the resources on the portal was held in June and two further sessions are planned, one for 26 August and one in November.

• Focusing residents on the importance of support with a call for a minute of silence at noon every Wednesday, in memory of all those who have lost their lives and loved ones to COVID-19.  

Minister Anroux Marais said, “Because the pain of bereavement is never easy to manage alone, we reiterate that we are here to support and care for each other. As part of the Western Cape Government’s Whole of Society Approach, we wholeheartedly thank our spiritual leaders and various counsellors for their insights into and assistance with the spiritual and social wellbeing of our citizens. We acknowledge the exceptional work done by our religious leaders, frontline workers and essential services during the COVID-19 lockdown period, while we continue to engage in our joint efforts to combat this pandemic. From the Whole of Government Approach, we express our gratitude to each district municipality and Western Cape Government Department for their cooperation and support during these extraordinary circumstances. As we continue to proactively engage all stakeholders to stay safe, save lives and stay strong, we remember those who have gone before us and hold those in mourning in our thoughts and reflections. While we physically distance, we are socially connected and together we will not only combat this pandemic but unite as a caring people to overcome it’s psychological implications as well”.

Contact number and further information:

If anyone requires any form of psycho-social and bereavement support, please contact us on our hotline on 0800 220 250, to be connected to your nearest local office.

We urge the public to access credible information on

For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below:

Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Tel: 021 483 9217

Cell: 083 661 4949