Funeral director demands help for people struggling to pay for funerals of loved ones in Milton Keynes
A funeral director fears bodies could be left unclaimed during the coronavirus crisis because relatives cannot afford the funeral costs.
John O'Looney, who runs Milton Keynes Family Funeral Services, is urging the government to provide help for grieving families in dire need.
He has raised the matter with local MP Iain Stewart, who has pledged to speak to parliament.
The coronavirus pandemic has lead to thousands of people in MK losing their jobs, and, faced with the death of a loved one, they have had to apply to the DWP for help.
John said: "I have sat and personally had to point people towards the DWP, who take weeks to process claims with no guarantee of any payment or how much that payment will be.
"As a direct result sadly this means people will be leaving their loved ones unclaimed simply because they cannot afford to instruct a funeral director."
He added: "The government and NHS are focusing solely on creating extra fridge capacity for increased deceased numbers .. They have not considered the impact that the financial changes people are now suffering. This will be in the millions.
"So the elephant in the room everyone is missing is the build up of deceased in hospitals will be mostly due to the financial burden now placed on a vast swathe of society who have lost all their income.
"These people desperately need my help and I’m shouting at Westminster to give it to them.... As usual the ones that suffer the most are those who are the poorest, and this has to change."
Already government Covid-19 restrictions are making funerals more and more difficult for grieving families to arrange. Currently a maximum of ten mourners is allowed at any funeral - but John predicts this number will soon be slashed further. It could even be that guests are banned completely, he said.
His Emerson Valley-based company is offering struggling families an 'unattended, cremation-only funeral' for £1,500 - half the price of a normal funeral.
"A cremation only funeral service is simply a cremation only and an unattended service, whilst it is unthinkable for many - it is an option," he said.
"This is not the kind of post we want to be writing - but we put people first, not finances, and we would recommend anyone having to book a funeral for a loved one in the coming weeks to consider an unattended cremation-only service and to celebrate that loved one's life collectively at a later date."
John spoke of the added grief and stress caused when the loved one has died after testing positive for Covid-19.
This means the family cannot visit the deceased at the funeral home to pay their respects, and dressing and embalming cannot be carried out
"It is simply not possible or safe to do, and as such cannot be done," said John.
He added: "We are also being told that there is a strong likelihood of funerals being totally unattended in the near future. Again this devastates me...
"All we can say is we will continue to care for others' loved ones as we would our own.
"I certainly will sit through every unattended service of every deceased I take care of and I will shed a tear at every one of them in an empty chapel."