Deaths, funerals, cremations and cemeteries

Death registration and funeral protocol (COVID-19)

The changes below to standard procedure have come from “Guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19)” published by Public Health England and by directives from the General Register Office.

This guidance was updated on 21/07/2021. As further official information about Covid-19 is confirmed this guidance may be changed accordingly.

Contacting the Funeral Director:

  • You will need to contact the Funeral Director as soon as possible about the death and burial/cremation plans so they can start preparations and timetable you into their schedule.
  • Bereaved family members will want to go through the grieving process with dignity and respect for the deceased, and all services in place will support you to enable this to happen. We urge you during these difficult times to make arrangements with your Funeral Director for the funeral to take place as soon as is possible. Your Funeral Director will advise you on how to proceed with this, with the upmost of care.
  • If your faith requires a quick burial, i.e. Muslim, Jewish and Gypsy/Roma you will need to ask for a Short Notice Burial.

Contacting Your Local Place of Worship:

  • Your local place of worship may be used for the funeral service.
  • It is advisable that those attending continue to wear face coverings in enclosed, crowded spaces and to check in using the QR code displayed at the place of worship. You may also choose to take a free lateral flow test to help manage the risk of close contact.
  • You may also wish to contact your local place of worship by telephone so that arrangements can be made for a priest to attend the funeral at the cemetery or crematorium.

Contacting the Register Office:

  • Within working hours (Monday to Friday 9am until 5.30pm) please contact the Register Office on 01709 823542 (option 2).
  • The on-call Registrar for the out of hours burial service can be contacted on 07748142634, 07717456795, 07557312859 or 07584217127 on Saturdays or Sundays between the hours of 9am and 1pm. The service is available on both May Day and May Spring Bank Holiday.

Changes to the Death Registration Process:

  • The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), which would previously have been given to you in a sealed envelope, will now be scanned and sent electronically from either the GP, Bereavement Centre or Coroner’s Office directly to the Register Office. This will include contact details for the next of kin.
  • The Registrar’s Office will then contact the next of kin to arrange a telephone only appointment to register the death. You will be asked how many death certificates you will require, certificates cost £11.00 each and you may need a number of these to deal with the deceased’s estate. You will be asked to order and pay for any certificates required at the time of booking the appointment and the certificates will be posted to you following completion of the registration.
  • Please note where there is no Coroner involvement, the General Register Office requires a death to be registered within 5 days.
  • All death registrations will now take place over the phone. You will not be required to attend the Register Office in person.
  • After the death registration appointment has been completed the Registrar will send the Green Form 9 electronically to the Crematorium, Funeral Director and notify the hospital mortuary as appropriate. This will allow the body to be released.

Performing of Ritual Body Washing:

  • Guidance will be given by your faith leader and Funeral Director on how and where this will take place if required.
  • Where it is not possible to determine if COVID-19 was suspected or confirmed at the time of death, you are not advised to take part in rituals or practices that bring you in close contact with the deceased. There is likely to be a continuing risk of infection from body fluids and tissues where COVID-19 infection is suspected or confirmed.
  • If aspects of faith or beliefs include close contact with the deceased, you should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) under the supervision of someone who is trained in the appropriate use of PPE and follow the guidance on care of the deceased. Your faith leader and Funeral Director will give guidance on who has been given this training.
  • HSE guidance "Managing infection risks when handling the deceased"
  • PPE guidance from The Royal College of Pathologists
  • Guidance for the donning and doffing of PPE equipment
  • Because of the increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness, it is not advisable for people who may be clinically extremely vulnerable to have any contact at all with the body of the deceased, regardless of whether PPE is worn.

Cemetery and Crematorium Protocols and Procedures

Please follow these protocols and procedures to ensure a consistent approach is used throughout. This will ensure all requirements are met sympathetically and protect religious rights, beliefs and most importantly keep everyone safe.

Family Representative:

  • 1 immediate family member must be chosen as a point of contact between the council and the Funeral Director throughout the process.
  • If immediate family members are in self-isolation, then someone from their extended family can be chosen as their representative.

How many people can attend the Cemetery/Crematorium?

  • Restrictions have now been lifted within the chapel at the crematorium with the maximum capacity now being 161 including the balcony space.
  • Waiting rooms at the crematorium chapel will now be re-opened for families to use.
  • It is advisable that those attending continue to wear face coverings in enclosed, crowded spaces and to check in using the QR code displayed at the crematorium. You may also choose to take a free lateral flow test to help manage the risk of close contact.
  • Health and safety measures will remain in place to continue to protect visitors and staff, including: Sanitisation of chapels and public areas, Hand sanitising stations will remain available, and staff will continue to wear face coverings.

Who can attend the Cemetery/Crematorium?

  • A Minister of Religion to lead the religious rites (appointed by the family) or the attendance of a celebrant to lead the service.
  • Funeral Director.
  • 161 mourners maximum in the crematorium chapel with no restriction on the number of mourners allowed at grave side burial.

Mourners who are travelling to England from abroad:

  • You are required to quarantine for 10 full days after recently arriving into England from an amber list country.
  • This does not apply if you have been fully vaccinated with an NHS administered vaccine in the UK more than 14 days ago, or if you are participating in the test to release scheme.
  • You are also required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 full days if you have been in a red list country.
  • Some people have a limited legal exemption to leave self-isolation or quarantine following international travel to England, in order to attend a funeral. This exemption does not apply to attending a commemorative event.
  • For details of these legal exemptions and guidance on how to safely attend please see the full guidance document.
  • Even if a legal exemption from self-isolation or quarantine applies to you for the purpose of attending a funeral, you are strongly advised to consider arrangements to participate remotely, for example through video link, in order to avoid attending in person. This will help reduce the risk to others present at the funeral and will play a direct role in stopping the spread of the virus.

Mourners who have COVID-19 symptoms, are self-isolating, or are in quarantine:

While there are some exemptions, due to the risk you may pose to others, you should not attend if any of the below apply:

  • you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • you are self-isolating due to a positive test result
  • you have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
  • you are in quarantine after recently arriving into England from an amber list country. This does not apply if you have been fully vaccinated with an NHS administered vaccine in the UK more than 14 days ago
  • you are in a managed quarantine hotel after arriving into England from a red list country

Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate immediately, follow the stay at home guidance, and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. You should self-isolate at home while you book the test and wait for the results. You are legally required to self-isolate if you test positive.

Some individuals may have a legal exemption to leave self-isolation, or quarantine following recent international travel, in order to attend a funeral. These do not apply to attending a commemorative event.

Mourners who are extremely clinically vulnerable:

Mourners who are in an extremely clinically vulnerable group should be facilitated to attend, should they wish to do so.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else. However, if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you may wish to think carefully about the particular risks associated with attending a funeral, and consider taking precautions

Actions to reduce their risk of infection could include:

  • Follow the guidance in guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.
  • try and enable them to participate remotely where this is possible (for example by live streaming), should they wish to do so
  • consider reminding other attendees that there are individuals who may choose or need to maintain distancing. It is important that you don’t identify anyone, single anyone out, or release personal or confidential information

Consider limiting close contact:

From 19th July, social distancing measures will no longer apply, and you do not need to stay 2 metres apart (or 1 metre plus mitigations) at a funeral or commemorative event. However, limiting close contact reduces the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.

Given the exemption for some people to leave self-isolation or quarantine to attend funerals, you may choose to limit the close contact you have with people you do not live with. You may also choose to take a free lateral flow test to help manage the risk of close contact.

It is important to consider that others may wish to take a more cautious approach and we should all be considerate of this and provide the opportunity and space for others to reduce close contacts if they wish.

Although not required to do so by law, the government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded areas. You should respect other attendees and staff who may wish to adopt a more cautious approach.

Support following a Bereavement:

Listening Ear

A support service was launched in April 2020 that provides access to free, confidential support during the Coronavirus Pandemic for those who have lost a loved one and those who need support, guidance and advice. This service is called Listening Ear.

Who can refer you/others to the Listening Ear service?

  • Self
  • Police
  • Primary Care Staff
  • Hospital bereavement services staff
  • Mortuary staff
  • Funeral directors
  • Coroner’s office
  • GP’s
  • Crematorium and bereavement services staff
  • Community and Faith organisations

For meaningful support, advice and guidance call freephone 0800 048 5224 or visit Listening-ear

Available Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm

RotherHive

To support mental health and wellbeing a new service called RotherHive has been launched online. RotherHive provides a range of verified practical mental health and wellbeing information, support and advice for adults in Rotherham which includes bereavement support.

RotherHive

Tell Us Once Service

When you register the death the registration officer will ‘capture’ the information and issue you with an access code to use the Tell Us Once service provided by the Department for Work and Pensions in order for you to notify central and local government agencies about the death of your loved one.

You will be asked for specific information to cancel things like a passport or driving licence as well as the National Insurance number of the person who has died. Tell Us Once can notify:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – to deal with tax and cancel benefits, for example, tax credits and personal tax
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - to cancel benefits or entitlements, for example, State Pension, Universal Credit or Income Support
  • Her Majesty’s Passport Office – to cancel a British passport (you’ll need the passport number and town of birth)
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - to cancel a driving licence (you’ll need the licence number) and remove the person as the keeper of up to 5 vehicles (you'll need the vehicle(s) registration) Road tax is not transferable - You must re-tax the vehicle(s) before being driven
  • the local council – to update records, cancel services or benefits, for example Blue Badge or Housing Benefit
  • public sector or armed forces pension schemes – to stop pension payments (you’ll need their National Insurance number)

You'll also need the name, address, telephone number and their permission before giving the details of:

  • the surviving spouse or civil partner, along with their National Insurance number and/or date of birth
  • next of kin (closest relative by blood or marriage)
  • the person or company dealing with the deceased’s estate/affairs (property, belongings and money)

Additional help

We know that this will be a difficult time for you and others. For bereavement and loneliness support Gov.uk and the organisations below can give you help and advice:

Cruse Bereavement Care www.cruse.org.uk or call 0808 808 1677 in England/Wales. Cruse Scotland www.crusescotland.org.uk or call 0845 600 2227

The Silver Line www.thesilverline.org.uk or call 0800 470 8090 for 24-hour confidential advice for older people

Government guidance about what to do when someone dies