The Chair invited Lucy Ellender, Senior Adviser, to introduce the report.
Lucy began by paying tribute to Andrew Campbell who had been leading on this work stream before his sudden passing last week.
Lucy said that death management had been one of the key workstreams for the LGA since the pandemic hit and there were 3 main areas of activity – (i) responding to issues raised by councils; (ii) engaging with Government to represent councils’ views and highlight issues; and (iii) producing resources for councils to help respond at a local level.
Lucy reported that two workshops had been held on the lessons learned from the pandemic, one with registrars and one with those responsible for wider death management. The outcomes from these had been used to draft the next steps outlined in the paper, including a proposal for the Board to write to MHCLG to outline the key points that had been raised with the LGA on death management issues. Lucy asked whether there were any further areas that the Board would like officers to look into.
Following Lucy’s introduction, Members raised the following points:
· Great efforts had been made to build capacity into the system early on during the crisis and thankfully, it had not proved necessary to make use of it all.
· The changes to the death management process that were introduced in response to the lockdown – in particular, removing the requirement to register deaths in person - had actually improved the user experience in many cases. Could the LGA lobby for these changes to be made permanent?
· Members queried whether the changes made by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to the processing of funeral expenses payments had made any noticeable difference, and were there a significant number of people now in funeral poverty as a result of Covid-19? Lucy said that in 2015-16, the DWP had taken an average of 18.6 days to process applications whereas at the beginning of June they were processing double the number of applications within their 15-day target. She sounded a note of caution that there weren’t any figures on how successful the applications had been. Lucy added that there was a mixed picture in terms of the number of public health funerals being carried out across the country. Members requested some more detailed figures on this, as public health funerals were considered to be a hidden cost of Covid-19 for councils. Lucy said that she had a survey ready to go out to councils on this and she would report back to members when she had some results.
Members of the Safer & Stronger Communities Board noted the report and agreed the next steps outlined in paragraphs 24 and 25.