We need a more co-ordinated approach to funeral and bereavement policy matters

3 min read3 hr

It’s axiomatic that the Covid pandemic has brought pain and fear, heartache and loss. It’s meant unexpected challenges for all kinds of people in all kinds of spheres. Prominent among those who have dealt with the worst of Covid’s effects, alongside hospital and care workers, has been the funeral and bereavement sector.

With this ever in mind, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Funeral and Bereavements has worked hard over the past year to support the sector and ensure its voice is heard at the very heart of government.

Principally, the group has led on a campaign to persuade ministers to remove the arbitrary limit on the number of mourners who could attend funerals. This included other commemorative events during lockdown, enabling an easier grieving process for an estimated 40,000 families. Furthermore, the group engaged with every Police and Crime Commissioner after reports emerged that funeral directors were being fined for mourners breaking pandemic restrictions, to ensure no one in the sector was penalised for a situation out of their control.

The funeral and deathcare sector approached the challenges of the past 18 months with its customary dedication and commitment. The devotion professionals showed to their communities epitomises the very best of Britain and we should, as a country, thank them for it. Even though the initial shock of the pandemic is behind us, and pressure on the sector has begun to recede, we must maintain our focus on supporting funeral and deathcare workers in constituencies up and down the country.

As chair of the APPG, I have heard first-hand of the work the sector has done over the past year – it has been a privilege to do so. Having gained an understanding of the scale and character of the issues they faced, I encourage all parliamentarians to read the APPG’s annual report, published in September, that documents the efforts of the sector since the onset of the pandemic. Looking forward, the APPG has several policy priorities that aim to build on our achievements over the past year.

The funeral, bereavement and deathcare sector, comprising well-regarded businesses across the country, is vital to our constituents in their time of need

For too long, the particular responsibilities of separate government departments, with little connection between them, has led to an un-coordinated approach to funeral and bereavement policy matters. This has resulted in time-sensitive issues which impact bereaved families not being responded to swiftly. One of our main objectives is to establish a cross-departmental working group that brings together relevant departments to respond to critical needs. This would not only ensure the sector’s voice is heard, but also make sure that bereaved families going through some of the most difficult times in their lives continue to receive the support they deserve.

The group is working with its associate members, the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), an umbrella body comprising the key organisations in the funeral and bereavement sector, to make sure funeral and deathcare managers and workers gain recognition as Category 2 responders within the Civil Contingencies Act.

This recognition would guarantee that the sector can adequately react to future crises through inclusion in critical responder discussions at local levels. We cannot, and must not, return to a situation where those on the frontline meeting emergencies do not have the equipment needed to secure their personal safety.

Those working in the sector will continue to serve communities across the UK. We should, as parliamentarians , support them as they continue to support our constituents. Given the nationwide reach of this sector, and its salience to those we represent, the APPG and DMAG welcome the participation of colleagues in all we are trying to achieve.

The funeral, bereavement and deathcare sector, comprising well-regarded businesses across the country, is vital to our constituents in their time of need. I invite interested colleagues to join the APPG. To find out more about our work, and of the sector more widely, please do visit www.appgfunerals.co.uk.

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