It can be difficult knowing where to go when you lose a loved one at the best of times. And with the current continued, if looser, restrictions on social gatherings here we look at what the emergency legislation and current guidelines will mean to you if you lose someone in the immediate future.
To protect your health and that of funeral workers special measures continue across the board, something no-one in the business takes lightly. However, some measures remain mandatory, and some are voluntary because there is a need to protect the living. After all, if funeral workers are sick or isolated, they can’t offer you any of their care in your time of need.
What To Expect From Your Funeral Director
You should expect to be asked what your loved one died of. We are trained to handle the deceased of any cause and we have the appropriate PPE.
Although our offices are open again for face to face arrangement interviews, we can continue to offer a ‘virtual’ arrangement using telephone, video calling and electronic document signing. Remember all our prices and coffins etc, are published on our website www.welhamjones.co.uk
If a face to face meeting is important to you, we would ask you to follow these steps:
Please make an appointment. To maintain social distancing, we will limit access to two people per household and only one household at a time. If more family members wish to be present please understand and explain, or consider using ‘facetime’ or another video calling app.,
Do not be offended if we ask you to confirm that you have had no contact with anyone testing positive for coronavirus, or whether you have any symptoms,
Accept the sanitation offered when arriving, and
Sit the other side of the acrylic ‘sneeze’ screen from our staff
You will request the Medical Certificate Cause of Death (MCCD) from the hospital bereavement office or GP surgery as usual, but it will be emailed directly to the registrar. Occasionally it may be sent to us along with any hospital release notes allowing us to take your loved on into our care. Registration, whether via the library service in Bexley & Kent, the Registration Service in south east London (Bromley and Southwark), the Medway towns and Sussex, will now be conducted too by telephone. You will likely have to make an appointment on their usual numbers requesting a call back on an agreed date and time. Certified copies for probate will be emailed and, to speed the process up, the authority to cremate or bury your loved one, the Cremation Form 9 or ‘green,’ electronically to either your nominated funeral director and/or the chosen cemetery or crematorium.
For cremation the Coronavirus Bill, which became law on 23rd March, has had the most impact. Previously three independent doctors had to attest to the cause of death. Firstly the doctor issuing the MCCD, who also had to have seen your loved one within 14 days of their death and again after death before completing the Cremation From 4, an independent doctor who also had to see the deceased, speak to you and any nursing staff before completing the Cremation Form 5, and finally the Medical Referee at the crematorium before approving the cremation by signing the Cremation Form 10. Under current special measures any doctor, if requested by the doctor who looked after your loved one and is unavailable due maybe to isolation, can issue the MCCD and complete the Cremation Form 4. And that is having seen your loved one within 28, not 14, days, and again after death by video link wherever they are lying if this is more expedient. There is no confirmatory Cremation Form 5, the need for which is continues to be suspended, although the Medical Referee does still have the final say in completing the Cremation From 10.
Along with most funeral directors, we will endeavour to have all documents signed and served, wherever possible, electronically.
Types of Funeral Services now Available
As of 8th August it is compulsory to wear a face covering to attend an indoor funeral, unless you are on the exempt list.
Crematorium chapels remain open and the restriction on numbers is being slowly lifted. Presently circa 30 people may attend but are requested to socially distance by remaining in household groups. With the move to a one metre separation, the capacity might increase. Graveside services, largely spoken unless you bring along a portable speaker, in a churchyard or cemetery will continue. But the big change is the re-opening of churches for funeral services subject to their ability to ensure your and their safety. Numbers will be restricted, orders of service will be required as no hymn books are likely to be provided, and there is still to be no singing, which is something considered high risk. It is likely that organists and choirs will also not be available and so portable music systems seem to be the best solution for now.
You still won’t be able to touch the coffin before, during or after the service and there are to be no handshakes or hugs in accord with social distancing guidelines.
The advantage in using a crematorium, though, continues to be that the service can be streamed and/or recorded to allow those unable to attend to participate either on the day, or shortly thereafter.
With any of these choices there is the opportunity for a later memorial service in church or chapel with the cremated remains should you have had your loved one cremated.
Pretty much all service celebrants and clergy will also restrict you to telephone conversations in preparing the funeral service for your loved ones and will gain your approval by email.
The Funeral of a Coronavirus Victim
As the virus and its effects have been tempered somewhat, and the use of PPE shown to be effective more normal funerals are available for its victims. This is subject, of course, to common sense and self-isolation for those who have come into contact.
Viewing the deceased
Welham Jones’ chapels and viewing rooms are open again and your loved one can be dressed in their own clothes.
Our limousines have been fitted with hygienic screens are back in service. We will ensure it is safe for you to travel by ensuring it is cleansed after each journey. You should be aware that we will wear a face covering and will open the doors for you, but not be able to assist. It is also required that mourners now need to wear a facemask if travelling in the limousine, especially if you are mixing households.
As the ‘lockdown’ continues to be eased it looks as though limited gatherings might be possible from July 4th. We will be please to liaise with venues on your behalf and, of course, drop you there after the funeral if using our limousines.
Subject to supply we will provide PPE (if necessary) to enable family bearers to carry the coffin.
Donations in lieu of flowers should be made on-line or by cheque to our office ONLY please. Cash on the day continues to be frowned upon.
And what of the cost for a funeral? Well, given that almost all services are either an unattended cremation, or a limited service using a hearse only, we have two specially priced packages with limited service options. Should you need the services of a funeral director during this crisis, more than ever you should ‘shop around’ and ensure that you aren’t paying for services and options that you can’t have due to the restriction imposed on us all.
None of this is something that we, as committed as we are to provide you with the highest possible level of service, take lightly. However, the safety of those that have lost a loved one and require our service, and our staffs’ wellbeing is of paramount importance to us in this awful time.
Simon Welham & all the team at Welham Jones