Covid-19 response – from the funeral, burial and cremation sector

Limiting attendance at funerals

A group of seven organisations representing the funeral, burial and cremation sector have issued joint guidance on the number of mourners attending funerals following the Government’s announcement on limiting attendance to immediate family only.

 The Death Management Advisory Group (DMAG), which is regularly liaising with government on the sector’s response to COVID-19, comprises the Association of Private Crematoria and Cemeteries (APCC), Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA); Funeral Furnishing Manufacturers’ Association (FFMA); Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM); National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).

The members of DMAG are aware of the important and central role of the funeral ritual to the grieving process for many families. However, during these extremely challenging times the transmission of the Coronavirus at funeral gatherings to the elderly, frail, those in vulnerable groups along with funeral directors and crematorium staff cannot be overlooked.

The full statement follows below:

The question concerning the number of mourners attending funerals is high on the agenda of all service providers. In considering this matter, the members of DMAG are aware of the important and central role of the funeral ritual to the grieving process for many families. Attendance at a service to ‘say goodbye’, provides many people with comfort and any proposal to limit this important religious, and non-religious, occasion must be carefully considered.

However, during these extremely challenging times the transmission of the Coronavirus at funeral gatherings to the elderly, frail, those in vulnerable groups along with funeral directors and crematorium staff cannot be overlooked. Nor can the fact that many elderly people will be concerned about attending funerals but will feel compelled to go out of a sense of duty. 

Further advice by government has now been given, the guidance reads:

“Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses – including pubs, cinemas and theatres – to close. The Government is now extending this requirement to a further set of businesses and other venues, including: places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
 
”In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
 
”They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.”

In keeping with the advice already given by government, along with various faith and no faith groups, the DMAG now recommends the following to all funeral directors, cremation and burial authorities.

The primary purpose of this advice is to reduce the number of individuals attending funerals in order to protect the bereaved, funeral directors, cremation and burial staff from becoming infected.

Service Attendance Advice

In the ongoing delivery of services to bereaved people, Burial and Cremation Authorities adopt a risk-based approach taking into account government advice, vulnerable groups and the importance of protecting the key workers outlined in recent government advice. 

In considering reducing the transmission of the Coronavirus through gatherings at funeral services in chapels they must consider limiting attendees to members of the immediate family who are not in any of the high-risk categories and are not self-isolating.

 The immediate family being:

  • Spouse/Partner
  • Parents/carers
  • Brothers/Sisters
  • Children (and partners)

Limiting attendees must be done sensitively and taking into account individual circumstances. For example, if the deceased had few, if any immediate, relatives but close a friend wished to attend the service, that would be reasonable, or in the case of the death of a grandparent, attendance by the grandchildren would be appropriate.

 It is important that funeral directors and cemetery and crematorium staff work closely, supporting each other to deliver as far as is possible in these difficult times a meaningful opportunity for the bereaved to say goodbye, whilst endeavouring to protect all those involved.

 Updating the guidance in this manner provides a proportionate response to the changing situation, with Burial and Cremation Authorities, funeral directors and the bereaved receiving greater clarity.
 In this fast moving situation, it may be necessary to update this advice in the coming days. As soon as the Government issues further advice we will inform members of any new requirements.