Most Yorkshire cremations to remain restricted post May 17 amid social distancing confusion as government removes legal limits on mourners

Funerals at many crematoria in Yorkshire are to remain with restricted numbers after the legal limit on mourners ends on May 17, as social distancing guidelines remain unclear.

No confirmation has been given from government about when social distancing will cease to be advised for indoor funeral services.

The government announced over the Bank Holiday weekend that legal funeral restrictions, which have seen mourners limited to 30 people, will end ahead of schedule in a move they said would “allow more friends and family to come together and pay their respects.”

Originally planned to end at step four of the recovery roadmap, on June 21, there will now no longer be a legal limit from May 17, with councils and places of worship able to set figures for themselves according to the size of the venue to allow for social distancing.

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Several authorities in Yorkshire confirmed yesterday that numbers at crematoria will remain restricted until social distancing is no longer advised.

Pontefract and Wakefield crematoria will continue to allow 14 and 16 mourners respectively, no change from their previous numbers although mourners will be allowed to stand outside and ashes scattering ceremonies will no longer be restricted. Skipton Crematorium will continue to allow 15 mourners, although “bubbled” families can sit together, increasing the numbers.

Harrogate’s Stonefall crematorium will allow three extra mourners per service from May 17, bringing the total to 25.

Leeds City Council is awaiting further government guidance before confirming any number changes, and York, Kirklees and Bradford councils have all said that no change will be made imminently to their crematoria mourner numbers until they have reviewed further social distancing guidance from government.

No confirmation has been given from government about when social distancing will cease to be advised for indoor funeral services.

Pauline Stuchfield, assistant director at York City Council said: “Whilst the government have announced a change to the guidance around numbers for funerals, the guidance around social distancing still remains at 2 metres.

“Until central government update their guidance around distancing we are required to follow the 2m rule”

Funeral numbers have not been unrestricted since the beginning of lockdown last year, meaning millions of people across the UK have been faced with saying farewell to a loved one in a smaller ceremony.

Hayley Owen, a York funeral director, said: “Allowing families and friends to mourn their loved ones in person is important and saying goodbye at a funeral is part of the grieving process. So changes allowing for more people to attend are welcome, as long as it's all done safely."

Mrs Owen also urged families arranging a funeral to check with their funeral director and local authorities about restrictions in their area.

Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary, said: “The British people have made huge sacrifices throughout the pandemic to protect the NHS and save lives, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the deeply painful restrictions on the numbers attending funerals.

“Losing a loved one has been incredibly hard during the pandemic and I am pleased we are now in a position, thanks to everyone’s continued efforts and the rollout of the vaccine, to remove these limits and allow more friends and family to come together and pay their respects.

“I look forward to working with faith leaders responsible for places of worship, and those who manage venues such as funeral homes, to introduce the new arrangements in a way that continues to keep people safe.”