A package of measures to update crematoria to reflect the needs of different cultures and faiths in modern Britain has been announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
The announcement follows the review of crematoria provision and facilities, where the government received around 150 responses from many faith and belief groups. The plan will help make sure communities of all faiths have facilities that are fit for purpose and sensitive to their needs.
The review, which was published in 2016 along with the March Budget, saw a majority of respondents were from the Hindu communities (particularly in north and west London and Leicester) but there were also representations from other faith and belief groups, and those of no faith.
The responses addressed issues such as the capacity of crematoria to accommodate large groups as well as problems with car parking; difficulties with the design of crematoria (for example, fixed seating or catafalque) and a lack of facilities to carry out specific rituals (including separate prayer rooms, washing facilities, a viewing room to witness the committal of the coffin or proximity to water) and difficulties with booking slots, slots being too short and/or having to pay higher prices for weekends.
Respondents also said there was a need for new crematoria, and/or travelling long distances to access a crematorium in specific localities and complained about insensitive or inflexible iconography or other services, such as prayer books or music as well as a lack of awareness or insensitivity from some crematoria staff and funeral directors of the needs of the different faith and belief groups.
This update to crematoria provisions will include a consultation to revise national guidance on the siting and design of crematoria, and an offer of support to community groups interested in operating their own crematoria.
In 2017 there were 467,748 cremations representing 77.05% of all deaths, with each crematorium having an average of 1,607 cremations in 2017.
The measures will revise national guidance on the siting and design of crematoria, subject to further consultation and offer support to community groups interested in operating their own crematoria or associated facilities.
Faith minister Lord Bourne has also written to local authorities to inform them that all reasonable steps should be taken to allow the needs of those with different faiths to be met in public buildings, encourage providers to be more transparent about their services, and have appropriate staff training to understand different faith requirements.
Bourne said: “Cremations have become more and more common. This is why it is vital that there are high quality crematoria that respect cultural and religious traditions of all faiths and beliefs, and those of no faith.
“This package of measures will make sure that local authorities and providers offer the appropriate facilities that reflect the communities they serve.”