Councils asked to introduce safe and innovative approaches so that bereaved families can attend funerals
Local Government Minister Simon Clarke has written to all the councils in England to ensure that family members can attend the funerals of their loved ones and that the wishes of the deceased are respected during this pandemic.
In the letter, the minister wrote: “Losing a loved one is difficult and painful at any time, but during this pandemic it is even more so. Families should have the opportunity to pay their final respects to those they love, and it is important that people can be laid to rest with dignity and that their final wishes are respected”.
Local authorities were asked to work with faith groups and funeral directors to develop safe, sensitive and innovative ways for funerals to take place.
He praised councils who are already working hard to ensure that family members can attend the funerals of their loved ones and that the wishes of the deceased are respected during this pandemic.
Local Government Minister Simon Clarke MP said:
“Nobody wants to have to consider funeral plans for a loved one at this difficult time – but it’s important that funerals are not delayed.
“Many councils have already put in place innovative arrangements so funerals can take place in a safe and sensitive fashion. I want all councils to consider how best to facilitate funerals so close family can attend and mourn their loved ones in an appropriate way.
“This will help to ensure that people can be laid to rest with dignity, and that their final wishes and beliefs are respected while we protect the public from the spread of coronavirus.”
A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson told the Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle:
“Even in normal circumstances funerals are very emotional and difficult, and with the restrictions in place to keep people safe during this outbreak it is even more challenging to give people the opportunity to grieve for a lost loved one.
“To help we have introduced a webcasting system at the Norse Road Crematorium, which allows families to stream the service over the internet for free during this period. These streamed services are password protected and enable people who are unable to attend, to witness the service in the comfort and safety of their own home if they wish.
“We will continue to follow the Government’s guidance on managing funerals at this time; to keep the public and staff safe and finding ways to enable people to attend funerals and honour the wishes of those who have passed away as much as we can.”
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson said:
“Central Bedfordshire Council is not a burial authority, local cemeteries within Central Beds are all run by the local town and parish councils or by the churches. Therefore, whilst we would support the principles outlined in the letter, the Council does not operate any cemeteries itself on which to apply these principles.” [added 15:50 20 April 2020]
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said that many councils across the country have already introduced innovative approaches to support the wishes of the bereaved, while creating the closest experience to a normal cremation or burial as possible whilst keeping crematoria staff and those attending funerals of loved ones safe. A list of these councils was requested, but was not provided.