By Jaymi McCann 29 March 2020 • 11:21pm
Funeral directors are facing strain on deciding how many people can attend services, which has left immediate family members excluded.
THE government should ban funerals during the coronavirus pandemic because of mounting pressure on undertakers to adhere to strict limits on the number of attendees, which has resulted in the exclusion of grandchildren, experts said.
The Good Funeral Guide (GFG) has highlighted the strain being placed on individuals including funeral directors and crematorium workers, who have been given “impossible decisions to make”.
Last week the government prohibited large gatherings like weddings or baptisms, but not funerals, leaving decisions over how many people can attend with individual crematoria.
Fran Hall, CEO of the not-for-profit organisation, said the lack of clear direction is “causing untold anguish”.
She added: “The choice of who can and cannot attend a funeral shouldn’t be on the individual funeral director or the celebrant. It is unbearable and unfair for everyone.
“No-one can enforce these rules, so we are asking individuals to police the situation. If 10 people are allowed in and 50 turn up what happens then?
“There is just exhaustion and emotional overload in the industry, as they are having to sit with families and explain that you can’t have all the grandchildren, only a few immediate family but cannot get close enough to comfort them.
“If there were directives that funerals should not be attended by anyone it would be fairer and safer for everyone. “It seems brutal, but what people are getting now is half a funeral. If we are approaching a situation where the number of deaths escalates we will have to ban them.
“If directives were given from government everybody would be in the same boat and can organise something more special in the future.”
A group of funeral industry organisations issued guidance in the wake of Boris Johnson’s announcement last week. It said that only spouses, parents, siblings and children are immediate family, but went on to clarify that if numbers allow grandchildren should be allowed to attend.
Families whose grandchildren could not attend their beloved grandparent’s funeral have told how “heartbreaking” the situation is for everyone involved.
Funeral professionals have backed the GFG, saying the pressure they are under is making their job impossible and that their safety is at risk.
Jo Williamson, of Albany Funerals in Kent, said: “This week I had a funeral where the family were going to have 300 but we ended up with six.
“The grandchildren couldn’t go, it was absolutely heart breaking to have to have that discussion with them.
“It goes against every bone in your body not to comfort someone in their time of grief. I have been close to tears every day, I haven’t slept a full night in two weeks.
“The guidance about safety around the body of someone who has has coronavirus keeps changing, PPE is getting harder to find and we will run out.
“I am having to decide when to wear PPE and when not to. “We are at our wits end and know it is going to get worse.”
The Telegraph has contacted the Cabinet Office for a response.