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Chapel services to resume at York Crematorium

Published Friday, 15 May 2020

City of York Council has announced today that chapel services at York Crematorium will start from Monday 1 June 2020.

Following the Government’s announcement that we are now entering Phase 2 of the Coronavirus emergency, this means that from 1 June, mourners will be able to attend funeral services inside the chapel at the Crematorium, whilst respecting social distancing measures.

As part of these changes and taking into account strict social distancing measures required by Government, and the ever-present risks relating to the spread of Coronavirus, the Crematorium will return to permitting attendance in pre-closure numbers. This allows up to ten close family members in the main Crematorium chapel, and five in the small chapel.

The initial decision to place restrictions on indoor services, although incredibly difficult, was taken in light of the increasing number of Covid-19 related deaths and to protect the health and safety of bereaved families, funeral directors and staff at the Crematorium. Close family members have been able to still hold services in a covered facility in the crematorium grounds, immediately outside the building.

In order to take the decision to reopen the chapel at the Crematorium, three tests have been established to allow inside funeral services to resume. These tests are:

  • The availability of key worker testing;
  • The provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • A decrease in the number of Coronavirus infections and deaths. 

By establishing these tests, the council has been able to monitor and identify the most appropriate time to resume services inside the chapel.  The national key worker testing scheme to protect the Crematorium team, and additional PPE provision, are now in place. The Crematorium team is also modifying, where necessary, the layout of services and new cleaning regimes will be undertaken to ensure all the requirements of the national guidance are met for social distancing and hygiene.

It is anticipated that by 1 June, the transmission (R) rates will fall, along with a reduction in death rates, although the number of funerals sadly currently remain high.  If this proves not to be the case and the three tests are not met, the Council may have to consider adjusting the number of bookings that are taken, or reintroducing some restrictions, in order to reduce the risk to bereaved families, funeral directors and Crematorium staff.

Once the restrictions have lifted, the council will ensure that services of remembrance at York Crematorium will be offered to all families and a city-wide multi-faith remembrance ceremony will be held, supported by local faith leaders and the Council.

York Minster has confirmed that a special memorial service to comfort relatives and friends bereaved during the coronavirus pandemic will take place at the Minster later in the year.

Councillor Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Finance and Performance, said:

“Our thoughts continue to be with everyone who has lost a loved one during this incredibly difficult period.  We know how difficult this has been and I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

“The decision to change services at the Crematorium was the most difficult decision we have had to take and we fully understand the distress this has caused.  However, our utmost priority is to maintain the safety of residents and our staff.

“With key worker testing, additional PPE available and the rate of transmission expected to decline, we are planning to safely allow people into the chapel from 1 June and are putting in place steps to protect mourners, including cleaning between services and introducing a one-way system.

“We know the importance of saying goodbye to loved ones and we have been doing all we can to support bereaved families, celebrants and funeral directors at this incredibly difficult time.  Families will be offered a service of remembrance at the Crematorium, once restrictions have lifted, and a city-wide multi-faith remembrance ceremony will be held, supported by local faith leaders and the council.”


What has changed?

With the availability of key worker tests available, the availability of PPE and the adaptations we are making to the chapel in line with new government guidance, we are now able to hold services inside the chapels.

What are you doing to make it safe to attend?

Work is underway to adapt the chapel so those attending the funeral are able to observe social distancing safely and mourners will be asked to sit at least 2 metres apart.

Hand sanitizing stations will be provided at the entrance and exit and a one-way system will be used inside the chapel to help minimise the area which needs to be thoroughly cleaned between services.

After every service the chapel will be cleaned before another service can take place.

For those unable to attend the funeral service can watch a recording of the service which will be sent to the family. The council is recording the service free of charge due to the number of people allowed to attend.

We have a service booked in the next week, can this now take place inside the chapel?

Sadly, we won’t be able to safely welcome mourners into the chapels until 1 June due to the current high level of deaths and numbers of funerals booked, but also because we first need to make the necessary adaptations to the chapel and ensure all PPE is in place for everyone involved.

The current arrangement for services remains until Friday 29 May:

  • Up to 10 close family members will be able to attend the Crematorium and wait for the hearse to arrive. The council has provided a covered space for this purpose.
  • The minister/celebrant can spend time with the family in prayer or in a service and can commit the body outside, depending on faith practice.
  • The minister/celebrant can also attend to give a service inside the chapel and we will provide music and a video of the service free of charge to those families who would like a copy.

When services in the chapel resume on 1 June, what else will change?

Given that the reopening of the chapels comes with stricter constraints around social distancing and with shorter services of 20 minutes rather than 25 minutes, a lower fee of £720 will be introduced.

This fee reflects that running the services requires additional staff and cleaning resources, as opposed to no service or a service outside the chapel.

What are you doing to support those families who only had an outdoor service?

Last month we promised that all families will be offered a service of remembrance at the Crematorium once restrictions have lifted, and city-wide services of reflection will be held in the future, including at York Minster, following conversations with faith leaders. We will honour this commitment and contact funeral directors when it is safe to have gatherings of people.