Families may be forced to postpone funerals, ministers are warned

Grieving families will postpone funerals for weeks unless 30-person cap on mourners is relaxed, ministers are warned

  • Heartbroken families may be forced to postpone funerals, ministers warned
  • The 30-person cap on mourners is set to stay in place until June 21 
  • But families may decide to delay funerals so they can give their loved one the send-off they deserve

Heartbroken families will postpone send-offs for their loved ones for weeks unless ministers relax the rules, funeral directors have warned.

The cruel 30-person cap on mourners saying a final farewell is set to stay in place until June 21 under current restrictions.

But families may decide to delay funerals so they can give their loved one the send-off they deserve, the National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) said. CEO Terry Tennens told the Mail: ‘The danger is that families will start postponing funerals next month and wait until June 21 or thereafter, when in theory the restrictions will be lifted.

‘When we were coming out of the first wave – towards the end of May and early June – families were holding back in the hope that they could have larger numbers attend.’

Heartbroken families will postpone send-offs for their loved ones for weeks unless ministers relax the rules, funeral directors have warned

He said the lead time for a funeral is two to four weeks, depending on the region. He added: ‘Some [families] might say, “Well, actually, let’s delay it for a couple of weeks so that we can be in stage four in England”.’

He said postponing meant there was a risk that storage capacity at funeral directors could be seriously tested.

And he warned that it would have an impact on the grieving process.

‘It’s not good for families either in their grieving,’ he said. ‘It is quite important to come to that point sooner rather than later.’

His comments come amid a clamour of calls from MPs, charities and religious leaders to relax the restrictions earlier than planned.

In our campaign, The Death Of Decency, the Mail is urging ministers to reconsider the 30-person limit, introduce lateral-flow tests to reduce the need for social distancing and lift all limits on open-air services. There was anger following the final of football’s Carabao Cup on Sunday when 8,000 fans were allowed into Wembley.

Ministers have hinted in recent days that the Government is looking again at the restrictions.

Yesterday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government ‘will always look at how we can do better’ when it comes to funerals.

Asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari whether it was time to urgently review the restrictions, Mr Zahawi said: ‘We will always look at how we can do better when it comes to making sure that people can say farewell to their loved ones.’

On Wednesday, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Funerals and Bereavement wrote to Boris Johnson demanding he take action to prioritise those who have lost loved ones.

Committee chairman Sir John Hayes said he was ‘concerned that as other sectors of the economy reopen and as larger events begin to take place again, this cap on mourners is unnecessary and unfair on those wishing to attend the funeral of a loved one’.

‘On behalf of the funeral and death care sector, I would seek a modest and reasoned approach to lifting the 30-mourner limit, as has happened in Wales and Northern Ireland,’ he wrote.

The Government’s roadmap limits mourners to 30 until June 21. The only relaxation due at the next stage – from May 17 – is lifting the cap on wakes from 15 to 30 people. On Monday, Scotland raised the limit on mourners attending a funeral to 50, while Wales lifted the cap on outdoor wakes to 30.

My hero dad saved 77 lives. He won’t get the day he deserves 

By Amelia Clarke 

A lifeboat commander who helped saved 77 lives will not get the funeral he deserves, his daughter has said.

Many friends of Harry Roberts will line Morecambe promenade today for his last journey but the service is limited to just 30.

Mr Roberts died aged 62 this month after a five-year battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

His daughter Amy, an NHS cardiac physiologist and volunteer press officer for the RNLI, said: ‘People always called him a hero which he never saw himself as… We’ve had a lot of people asking when the funeral is and they know they can’t come. We’ve had so many emails and texts saying, “I’ll just stand outside”.’ In light of the messages, the family asked mourners to pay their respects by lining the promenade while socially distancing instead.

Harry Roberts MBE and daughter Amy Roberts. Amy says her ‘hero’ lifeboat commander father won’t get the funeral he ‘deserves’

‘That’s the only way people can say goodbye and watch as he goes past,’ said Miss Roberts, who also worked alongside her father for ten years as a crew member at the Morecambe RNLI. ‘We’re expecting a lot of people to do that.’

The 28-year-old said those he had saved during his 34 years of service would have wanted to attend too. ‘It won’t be the send-off he deserves,’ she said. ‘There won’t be enough people there. If he had had his funeral in a normal situation, there would have been so many people. It just would have been a completely different situation.’

Mr Roberts, a painter and decorator, bravely manned a hovercraft lifeboat in the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster in which 23 Chinese cockle pickers died after being trapped in rising tides.

He manned the lifeboat for around 22 hours and despite overwhelming tiredness, he and his crew still responded to an emergency call the next day. Mr Roberts was later awarded an MBE for his services to maritime safety.

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