York council updates its rules on cremations – as petition to allow families to attend hits 2.5K

York Crematorium. Photograph: Minster FM
10 Apr 2020 @ 3.58 pm
| News

City of York Council has relaxed the rules a little over its funeral ban at York Crematorium – but mourners are still not allowed to attend.

An outcry followed the council’s decision to ban funeral services and mourners at the York Crematorium.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell called the measure “completely insensitive” and “a step too far”.

Now the acting head of the council Ian Floyd has responded to the criticism.

He said today (Friday):

  • I know this is a terrible time for so many right now. I am sorry for the impact of this decision that we have had to make to protect all concerned, including you and your loved ones.

    I have listened to you and working with your funeral director you may still have some of your wishes met through small celebrant-led ceremonies in chapels of rest before the cremation.

    We can also invite celebrants or minister to read your words during the private cremation and record this for you. We also are working hard to arrange for remembrance services when restrictions are lifted.

    We know this is not as much as you would hope for and my thoughts and condolences are with every family during this unprecedented time.

Why are we making the changes at such short notice?

We appreciate this is very short notice, but we must take clear public health advice to ensure everyone is protected and that we limit the risk to the public, our staff and partners, including funeral directors.

The council had already introduced social distancing measures at the crematorium before the national guidance was published and our measures were in line with these guidelines. However, the health and safety of staff, funeral directors and mourners is paramount and it was clear that we needed to do more to protect the resilience of this part of the City’s pandemic response ahead of the peak of deaths which we are anticipating will start to happen within the next 4 weeks, based on national modelling. We are following Public Health England advice for when there is sustained transmission of coronavirus in the community and people may be infected without showing symptoms. There are also circumstances in which Covid-19 may not be given as the first cause of death but the infection come to light during the medical review process before burial takes place. As there can be up to 14 services a day at the crematorium, it is vital that the number of people visiting is kept to a minimum to minimise the chances of spreading coronavirus.

There can be up to 14 services a day, with up to 10 or 5 people at each service, meaning that in one day, over 150 people could potentially visit the crematorium. It is vital that the number of people visiting the crematoria is kept to a minimum, in order to minimise the chances of spreading coronavirus.

We also have a very small skilled team providing a critical service, if they became infected we would have a further public health risk in not being able to undertake cremations at all.

These changes are in line with a number of other local authorities who have taken the same action, in some cases earlier, during this unprecedented situation.

What happens if we have a service planned at the Crematorium?

The cremations will continue as planned but unfortunately, this means that services in their current form will not be able to go ahead. The celebrant/minister can still attend and we will still provide a short video within the chapel free of charge for those services that have been booked.

What about future service bookings?

At the moment, any new bookings will be undertaken as ‘Direct Cremation’ only. However, the option for a 10 minute service by a celebrant/minister can be added.  

Are there any exceptions to this new rule?

Sadly not – these are unprecedented times. We want to ensure that the bereaved families have the opportunity to celebrate their loved ones life’s and we are working to seek support from other faith agencies across the city to do this once the coronavirus outbreak is over.

Will we be able to collect our loved ones ashes?

Yes, the ashes will continue to be available for collection and where the families wish to scatter these in the grounds we can arrange for this to happen once it is safe to do so.

For more information:

All the latest information on the steps the council is taking during the corona virus outbreak including York crematorium are available on the link below: www.york.gov.uk/coronavirus

‘This is morally wrong’

York Crematorium. Photograph © Google Street View

A online petition calling for the decision to be reversed has been launched by Kelsey Dobson.

She writes: “York council have today made the decision to ban families from attending funerals, even when deaths are unrelated to coronavirus – a decision of which directly impacts my Auntie, along with many others grieving for their loved ones.

“Families are currently being told thatThis is morally wrong they are barred from attending the crematorium on the day of their loved one’s funeral. This is completely unacceptable.

On Friday afternoon the petition had nearly reached 2.5K signatures.

These are some of the comments on the petition:

  • This is totally unfair and over the top. Just hold the ceremonies outside, the virus spreads very poorly in a natural environment, it’s easier to observe social distancing and avoids transmission on surfaces.

  • I think it’s shocking that there can be 50 people in a supermarket social distancing but a family member can’t have a hand full of people there to send off their loved ones! As long as social distancing is still abided by they should be able to have a send off that they rightly deserve.

  • I’ve lost two people very dear to me and cannot now go to their funeral and give them a decent burial. This is morally wrong.

  • My next door neighbour just lost both his parents on the same day to the virus and it’s been traumatic enough not to be able to be with them at the end, or say goodbye after death. I can’t imagine the trauma of not being allowed the most basic of goodbyes at the crematorium.