During a debate on funeral plan regulation in the House of Commons on 19 January 2021, the Shadow Economic Secretary Pat McFadden MP (Wolverhampton South East) spoke powerfully about the work of funeral directors and the impact of the restrictions on bereaved people, during the pandemic:
“Every faith and tradition has its own way of saying goodbye to loved ones. In my family, it is an Irish funeral tradition, which usually involves a full wake, an open coffin in someone’s house, a full funeral mass and some kind of gathering afterwards. It is a big occasion.
“The ability to say goodbye properly is so important to grieving families, whatever people’s faith or tradition. There are many ways of having a funeral, but what they all have in common normally is that family and friends come together to bid a final farewell to a loved one they have lost. With COVID, that has not been possible over the past year, at least not in anything like the normal way. We have had around 90,000 COVID deaths, but the funeral rules have applied to everybody, regardless of the cause of death.
“Nobody in the past year has been able to have a proper funeral. The numbers are severely restricted. Wakes cannot happen. People cannot visit somebody’s home to pay their respects in the usual way. That has caused an awful lot of heartbreak to grieving relatives, and is a very painful consequence of the pandemic. Perhaps we have not talked enough about what the country is going through. We should record our thanks to funeral directors throughout the country who have tried to deal with this in the most sensitive way, trying not only to look after the dead but to help families under the severe restrictions. Of course, funeral directors have also had to do what they could to protect their own staff, with personal protective equipment and other measures, when handling funerals.
“I spoke to one funeral director in my constituency yesterday, Susan Ellsmore. She runs a relatively new company; it is only three years old. She spoke of the difficulties imposed by the inability to have face-to-face contact with grieving families, of the pain imposed on families by the restrictions on numbers, with families having to make terrible decisions about who can come to the funeral and who cannot, of the financial pressures that people are under trying to pay for funerals when they might have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and of the broader effects on the country of so many people not being able to say goodbye properly and, in a way, having grief and the normal displays of grief delayed.
“I conclude by thanking Susan, and all companies like hers that have had to cope with those awful consequences of the pandemic. In a debate that is about regulation we should not forget the most human side of all this, and the impact that the past year in particular has had on grieving families.”
Full details of the debate can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-01-19/debates/bf10bf2d-2f92-4d2a-bc83-7f6fa662801c/DraftFinancialServicesAndMarketsAct2000(RegulatedActivities)(Amendment)Order2020