The five main banks in Ireland are to set up dedicated phone lines to help bereaved customers, in an effort to improve the care of those who have lost loved ones.

Access will also be given by the financial institutions to any available funds of the deceased to assist with covering the cost of the funeral.

The measures are a number included in a common commitment agreed by AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank through the Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB).

"Losing a loved one is a traumatic event in anyone's life, and banks should work to ensure they help those who are grieving as much as possible," said Mr Justice John Hedigan, Chair of the IBCB.

Marketing materials addressed to the deceased will also be stopped as quickly as possible by banks under the plan.

The institutions have also committed to using straightforward and understandable language in order to make information on services that are available to bereaved customers easily accessible.

Reviews of the processes for dealing with bereaved customers will also be carried out on an ongoing basis as part of the measures.

The banks are also pledging to support bereaved customers throughout the process, treating them with empathy at all times.

Information to help those who have lost a loved one will be made available through the websites of the banks and the IBCB.

The development marks the first collaborative announcement by the IBCB, which was established earlier this year to improve culture across the banking sector following the financial crisis.

Its research revealed that dealing with banks after the loss of a loved one was a major source of stress and anxiety for many people.

According to the IBCB, between them the five signatory banks help around 50,000 bereaved customers each year.

However, feedback to the IBCB has found that there is a low level of awareness of the support services available from the banks for people who find themselves in this situation.

The initiative has been welcomed by the Irish Hospice Foundation.

"Empathy and prompt, sensitive communication are key and this systematic approach will help staff to better support bereaved customers all over Ireland," said Sharon Foley, Irish Hospice Foundation's chief executive.

The IBCB said that through its work on this matter it has found that there is a wider societal issue about the importance of people proactively preparing their financial affairs, such as through making a will for example.

It said it would now help address the problem through financial education and collaboration with other organisations and the industry.