Funeral revolt grows: Campaigners join forces with MPs to demand the 30-person cap is lifted

Support is growing for the Daily Mail’s campaign to lift Covid restrictions on funerals more quickly.

An influential committee of MPs will meet next week to pile further pressure on ministers to raise the cap of 30 mourners and allow singing again.

It came as Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey became the latest senior figure to demand Government action so that no one has to go through a funeral ‘isolated and alone’ – as the Queen did last Saturday.

And Grief UK, an organisation which comforts the bereaved, spoke out to claim that the ‘shadow pandemic of unresolved grief’ is being ignored by those in power.

Former care minister Caroline Dinenage admitted the current rules were ‘dreadful’ for families – but she said ministers would not be acting now because they were worried about the possible effect on the pandemic if singing was allowed at services. 

An influential committee of MPs will meet next week to pile further pressure on ministers to raise the cap of 30 mourners and allow singing again. Pictured, a funeral in east London

This is despite the fact that ministers are allowing the Brit Awards to go ahead next month, with 4,000 pop fans in the crowd without the need to wear masks or be socially distanced, as part of a pilot scheme.

Funerals are limited to 30 people in England, and according to the Government’s roadmap this is not due to change until June.

The Daily Mail is campaigning for the cap to be eased as the Covid pandemic retreats. 

Government sources have said they are hopeful that hugs may be allowed at funerals within weeks – but have made no commitment about the 30-mourner cap.

Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Funerals and Bereavement will meet next week to discuss ways of piling pressure on the Prime Minister. 

It is understood they are planning to write a letter to Mr Johnson to urge him to change his mind.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed said yesterday: ‘It seems absolutely clear that the Government should do what it can to ensure no one has to go through the funeral of a loved one isolated and alone like the Queen did.’

Leni Robson, a funeral celebrant and founder of Coffin Club Derby, an educational charity which promotes funeral choice, said: ‘The importance to a griever of knowing they gave the person they loved the send-off they deserved, that last action of love, has been turned into watching a ceremony via webcast, from an ill-placed camera that makes it feel like you are watching CCTV.

‘No singing, no gathering afterwards. Social distancing, so you can’t reach out and touch people to offer comfort. It’s unreasonable and unnecessary. 

‘Even if venues were allowed to work to a 50 per cent capacity, that would double the attendee allowance at most crematoriums I work at.

‘I can’t imagine what those family members feel like now they are hearing that music awards and football are more important than enabling grieving families to gather together.’

Retired NHS hospital worker Joan Turner would likely have had hundreds of friends and relatives at her funeral. Pictured, Mrs Turner with her husband Stan

Retired NHS hospital worker Joan Turner would likely have had hundreds of friends and relatives at her funeral. Pictured, Mrs Turner with her husband Stan

Carole Henderson, the managing director of Grief UK, an organisation dedicated to training people in bereavement counselling, said: ‘It is hard to overestimate the negative emotional impact of the loss of connection with family and friends as a result of the ongoing rules around funerals.

‘The loss of contact and human interactions are additional losses on top of the bereavement, compounding the resulting grief. 

‘It is crucial that this situation be addressed urgently, so as not to worsen the shadow pandemic of unresolved grief that is currently being ignored by those in power.’

Challenged about the rules on LBC radio, Miss Dinenage, who is now a culture minister, said: ‘It’s dreadful and we continue to look at how we can make it easier for people through the roadmap and of course the next stage of the roadmap will be announced soon, which will be in May.’

She said that change could not come soon, however, because ‘we’ve worked so hard as a country to get through this pandemic’.

‘People have suffered dreadfully during this lockdown,’ she said. ‘We need to get this right, we can’t throw it all away now. The Brit Awards is a one-off event and it’s all about making sure we have the evidence to be able to reopen.

‘Do you remember last year when things began to reopen? Suddenly there were worries about the potential worries about singing and about music and what potential that could have on transmission.’ 

Mum’s got 11 children and scores of relatives… how can we pick 30? 

In normal times, retired NHS hospital worker Joan Turner would probably have had hundreds of friends and relatives at her funeral.

But sadly, most of the 94-year-old’s extraordinarily large family – which includes 11 of her 13 children and around 135 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren – won’t be able to attend on Tuesday.

Instead, relatives have been forced to have upsetting conversations about who can and can’t come due to the ‘cruel’ 30-person limit.

‘It’s caused quite a lot of upset because there is a lot of family who want to go but can’t,’ Mrs Turner’s daughter Joan Hatfield, 66, a retired pharmacy supervisor, told the Mail. ‘There are 11 of us siblings left. Those who have got long-term partners that mum had known for donkey’s years are taking them, but only one child.

‘My oldest daughter, Vicky, is coming with my husband Mick, but my son and youngest daughter can’t come. Neither can my three grandchildren. It’s been so difficult to whittle it down to a bare 30 people.’

Mrs Turner died peacefully at her sheltered accommodation home, in Birmingham, on March 20. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer last summer, and deteriorated rapidly after breaking her ankle a few days before her death. ‘I wish the Government would relax the restrictions,’ Mrs Hatfield, added.

Mrs Turner and husband Stan, who died at 95 two years ago, had been married for 75 years and had 13 children. They lived most of their married lives in Birmingham or nearby Tamworth, where Mr Turner, a Co-op laundry man and driver, was a local councillor and union official.

In 2014 he was named the world’s longest-serving member of the Labour Party and given an award at the Labour Party Conference for more than 70 years’ service by then leader Ed Miliband. After their children grew older, Mrs Turner worked in the medical records department of the city’s Heartlands Hospital.

‘When my dad died the crematorium was huge and it was full,’ Mrs Hatfield explained. ‘It breaks my heart that we can’t give my mum the same send-off.’ 

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