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Latest advice for funeral professionals – SAIF and NAFD updates

Funeral associations are receiving regular updates from Government with guidelines for the current pandemic. We will look to include the latest here whenever there is new information. The latest update from SAIF includes guidance on face coverings in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with links to Government websites, plus links for physical and digital badges for those who are exempt.

SAIF Update – 10 August

When and where to use face coverings in England

On Friday we shared news about the requirement from Saturday 8 August for clients to wear face coverings when visiting funeral homes, and mourners when attending funeral services indoors at crematoria and burial chapels, as well as places of worship.

Further details on the new rules can be found on this Government webpage, which advises the public that "you are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it."      

SAIF reminds members that funeral staff are NOT legally required to wear a face covering in the presence of clients, although business owners may wish to consider such a policy as part of health and safety obligations. The Government states: "Employees should continue to follow guidance from their employer based on a workplace health and safety assessment. Face coverings are not required by law for employees as employers already have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment." 

Separately, crematoria staff should be aware of the exemptions which allow mourners to remove face coverings during a funeral service. However, to help avoid potential misunderstandings, you may want to draw clients' attention to the official template badges for people who are exempt from wearing a face covering, which can be viewed here. Clients who are exempt from wearing a face covering can also use a digital badge on their mobile phone stating their exemption. This can be found here. The Government is clear that "those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering."

It is also worth bearing in mind that social distancing rules continue to apply and clients visiting your premises wearing face coverings does not remove the need to keep two metres' distance. Social distancing guidelines can be found here.

Scotland clarifies venues where face coverings are required

As reported on Friday, Scotland has also widened the number of indoor venues where face coverings are mandatory. This now includes crematoria, funeral directors' premises and places of worship. Further details can be found here.

Face coverings in Northern Ireland

From today (Monday 10 August), it will be mandatory to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. SAIF is trying to clarify whether this covers funeral directors' premises, places of worship and crematoria and burial ground chapels.

Current guidance for Northern Ireland states that "It is not mandatory to wear a face covering in a business that is able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments. This might include, for example, a cinema, a hairdresser or a solicitor."  Given that this is how many funeral directors operate, we are hopeful that face coverings won't be required. Watch this space.

SAIF Update – 7 August

Guidance for Northern England lockdown updated

The DHSC has updated guidance on the restrictions in place in the north of England affecting Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire. The lockdown rules state that "funerals can still go ahead in these areas, but they must have no more than 30 people, and comply with COVID-19 Secure guidance and venue capacity. People living outside of these areas can travel to these areas to attend a ... funeral, but they should not meet with another household in a private home or garden." 

SAIF interprets this to mean that wakes should not go ahead. Funeral directors offering a limousine service in the local lockdown area should be aware of advice about travelling which says that people "should try not to share a car with those outside your household or social bubble."

SAIF Update – 23 July

Updates to rules surrounding face coverings in various parts of the UK

England

Face coverings in funeral homes

We are glad to advise that funeral directors and their clients are exempt from face coverings inside funeral homes under legislation released for implementation on 24 July 2020. The legislation can be viewed here.

Please bear in mind that the two-metre ruling still applies between staff and clients at the funeral home, and if this is not feasible in your premises, then the one metre plus rule applies, where for safety, a face covering for staff and clients is expected to be worn. Please see this guidance by the NHS for further information.

Full details about face coverings rules for shops and enclosed spaces can be found here.

NHS Test and Trace update:

Public Health England has issued further guidance relating to Test and Trace in England with respect to collecting customer and visitor data. It states that businesses should assist the service by:

  • keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business
  • assisting NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed

The guidance also adds: "Businesses that take bookings, such as restaurants, hotels and hair salons, already have systems for recording their customers and visitors. If you do not already do this, you should do so to help fight the virus."

SAIF interprets this to include systems for the collection of personal data of attendees at funeral services, which should be managed by the applicant (via the crematorium) or chief mourner (via the funeral director). We see it as a crematorium's responsibility to collect the mourners' data, not at the funeral service, but prior to the service.

Wales

Limousines and funerals

SAIF understands the First Minister has indicated that face coverings will be required for public transport. Officials are believed to working on the details of the regulations and guidance which is potentially being prepared for rollout in the coming weeks.

However, the use of limousines for transporting families must follow the two-metre distancing rule, and hygiene measures (hand sanitisers, face coverings etc).

We understand this to mean single households can use limousines and should await further guidance from the Senedd.

Face coverings in funeral homes

We are informed that there isn't a currently a plan to revise guidance to require the use of face coverings in other settings such as retail. But officials have cautioned that this is "a rapidly evolving situation" so we may need to make further adjustments to guidance in the near future. We will be sure to keep you updated.

In some circumstances in Wales where it might be difficult to keep two metres' distance from people outside of your household or household bubble, the Welsh Government's advice is to use a three-layer, non-medical face covering. Further details can be found here.

Clients do not need to wear face coverings when visiting funeral homes, but follow the two-metre social distancing rule.

For Test, Trace, Protect, the lead mourner invites attendees to the funeral service: family, and close friends. The lead mourner holds this information, should the NHS need to trace and isolate.

Chapels, churches and crematoria mourner numbers are determined locally under the two-metre ruling.

SAIF will update members as soon as the Welsh Government provides clarity and further guidance on these matters.

Northern Ireland

Face coverings in funeral homes

In Northern Ireland, face coverings are not compulsory but the Department of Health recommends that they should be worn when visiting a funeral home to view a body or for an indoor funeral service in a church or funeral home.

Limousines and funerals

The Department also recommends against the use of limousines by people not from the same household. Further information about this guidance can be found here.

SAIF recognises that the Northern Ireland Department of Health's advice regarding limousines differs to SAIF's and would urge members to defer to any local official guidance in such circumstances.

Scotland

For information about rules around face coverings in Scotland please email SAIF Scotland's Government Liaison Officer Joseph Murren at govliaise@saifscotland.org.

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Funeral Services – release of papers

Today the CMA published the working papers for public scrutiny, including SAIF’s paper which can be viewed here.

The CMA is due to unveil its provisional model of regulation of funeral directors across the UK in the next two weeks. SAIF has been providing members' data to the CMA to show the impact of Covid-19 on funeral firms and asking the Authority to address the seismic impact on the funeral market with restricted and limited funerals. We await its response and will alert you to the outcomes from the CMA’s provisional model of regulation.

The CMA will be consulting funeral directors and holding hearings on this provisional model during the autumn. The Authority's final decision on regulation is due in March 2021.

SAIF Update - 2 June

SAIF develops protocols and risk assessment for limousine use during the pandemic

SAIF, supported by the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), has developed a new policy to help facilitate the reintroduction of limousines to funerals, provided certain conditions are met. It comes as acrylic dividing screens are made available by a range of suppliers to protect drivers from infection from passengers and vice versa. The policy, which covers advice on communicating with families, alighting, and vehicle cleaning procedures, can be downloaded here

SAIF to consider lockdown advice as easing begins

In response to the Government's phased easing of the lockdown and the reduction in the number of excess fatalities, SAIF is currently considering further guidance for funeral directors and will update accordingly. In the current phase, the following measures are suggested:

  • Review staffing requirements/working arrangements, taking account of annual leave/sickness and need to maintain social distancing in the workplace (teams may be exhausted after dealing with high numbers of services at the peak of the virus and may need time off to recover)
  • Consider counselling/support for teams
  • Reinstate normal service length (if this had been shortened to provide for more services per day)
  • Remove extra service times – weekends, weekdays (if these had been introduced)
  • Review number of mourners allowed using revised risk assessment
  • Allow memorial masons to erect memorials – subject to social distancing
  • Reopen cemeteries and crematorium grounds to normal opening hours
  • Reinstate scattering/burial/placing of ashes where no witnesses are to be present
  • Reinstate fees to usual amount (if these had been reduced to reflect reduced services)
  • Liaise with local faith groups over plans to reopen places of worship

Scotland to refresh guidance on funerals

The Scottish Government has issued refreshed guidance on funerals today (2 June). There will be no substantive changes other than information about signposting people to Test and Protect, Scotland's track and trace system, as well as to information regarding face coverings, which may be used as a further precaution for people attending funerals. This can be viewed here.

Welsh Government ‘stay local’ policy

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government, which is operating a traffic light system for easing the lockdown restrictions, has announced a stay local policy to replace the previous stay at home requirements. This requires people to not travel more than five miles from home, however, there are exemptions, including funerals:

You are also allowed to visit a cemetery, burial ground or garden of remembrance to pay your respects, and to attend a funeral if you are invited by the person organising the funeral, or are the carer of a person attending the funeral. (Though this is subject to limits on numbers who can attend, in order to ensure that 2-metre distancing can be kept).

Further details can be found here.

Death Management Advisory Group guidance for burial and cremation authorities in England

DMAG has produced a guidance document for burial and cremation authorities in England, as restrictions are eased for crematoria and cemeteries.
“The list of measures in each stage is not necessarily exhaustive, and there will be local conditions to take account of. Authorities will need to be mindful of laws, regulations and Government guidance before introducing any changes or entering the different stages.
“The guidance document currently applies to England; Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions in place, although the suggested stages for cemeteries and crematoria would apply throughout the UK.”

18 May – NAFD update

Updated guidance on care of deceased with suspected or confirmed Covid-19

Following consultation with the NAFD and others, Public Health England has published an update to its guidance on care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus (Covid-19).

The updated guidance includes information on:

  • the PPE required for activities involved in the management of the deceased (including those undertaken by funeral directors);
  • clarification of the language on the risk assessment;
  • with others where coronavirus (Covid-19) infection is suspected or confirmed in the deceased so that funeral directors and others can assess their risk appropriately; and
  • guidance on where information should be shared.

The NAFD welcomes the greater clarity that this new update provides and also the introduction of the section on information sharing as this will further help funeral directors and their teams to work safely.

Download the guidance here

6 May - SAIF update

Government clarifies guidance on safe death verification

The Department of Health and Social Care has provided guidance designed to clarify existing practice for the verification of death outside of hospitals. The guidance also aims to provide a framework for safe verification of death in this coronavirus emergency period.

It is to be applied in all cases outside hospital when verification of death may be completed by people who have been trained to do so in line with their employer's policies.

Crucially, it states: "Non-medical professionals should not experience any pressure to verify deaths. If they are not comfortable or equipped to verify, they should defer to medical colleagues or refer on to NHS 111, the patient’s general practice or another provider of primary medical services. If they are content to verify, they can use remote clinical support."

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-verification-of-death-in-times-of-emergency/coronavirus-covid-19-verifying-death-in-times-of-emergency

New DMAG advice on body bags, PVC and coffin contents

The Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG) has issued new guidance on coffin contents following concerns about an increase in the use of PVC body bags. This can be downloaded here

A key point of the guidance states that all crematoria are required to adhere to statutory Guidance on Cremation, referred to as Process Guidance Notes 5/2(12), which identifies a range of products that cannot be included in a cremation.

This list specifically requires that:
    •    PVC and melamine should not be used in coffin construction or furnishings
    •    Cardboard coffins should not contain chlorine in the wet strength agent
    •    (eg not using polyamidoamine-epichlorhydrin based resin (PAA-E))
    •    Packaging for stillbirth, neonatal and foetal remains should not include any
         chlorinated plastics
    •    Coffins containing lead or zinc should not be cremated

http://www.dmag2020.org/advice-on-body-bags-pvc-and-coffin-contents/

This is a preview of a feature article.

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