top of page
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Charging more for overweight coffins would ‘stigmatise’ and ‘penalise’ grieving families

Entrance to Ballymena Cemetery

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) has said a supplementary charge for overweight coffins would “stigmatise” the deceased.

The NAFD was responding to a public consultation carried out by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for a review of cemetery rules and regulations.

The findings were presented to the council’s Environment and Economy Committee at a meeting on Monday evening.

Some 300 local clergy, funeral directors and stone masons have already had their say ahead of the four-week public consultation.

NAFD says with regard to “oversized burials, a policy to charge the public what could be several hundred pounds to bury an oversized coffin greatly concerns us”.

“We are worried that a specific fee would heavily penalise people who are paying for a funeral for something that is not in their control and stigmatises the deceased person when being overweight may not be in their control.

“Our primary objective is to ensure that all clients and their families are cared for with respect and treated with dignity irrespective of their physical characteristics.

“No other council in Northern Ireland levies a specific fee for oversized coffins. At a time of economic stress for many people, this extra charge, we believe, cannot be justified and places an unfair, discriminatory burden on a small section of society.”

The NAFD suggests at least two council cemetery staff must be in attendance “to allow some flexibility should the coffin be oversized”.

It also passed on comments received from its membership including: “The councils are happy to have the profit side of cemeteries and crematoria but they need to understand that these situations with oversized people does not justify a penalty. They should learn to take the rough with the smooth. You can’t punish the oversize person when you don’t reward the under-size person.

“Does the family through the funeral director have a choice not to use a crane for dignity reasons and chose to bury the deceased themselves?”

It was also asked if the council does not consider such a policy to be “discriminatory”.

Meanwhile, 39 per cent of respondents overall said that councils should charge a supplement for an oversized coffin of more than 25 stone. This is not passed on to relatives at present.

The council noted: “Feedback indicates there is a lack of public support for the introduction of a supplementary fee for oversized coffins.”

Ninety-four per cent of respondents agreed with a proposal to offer resident rates for individuals residing outside the borough for reasons outside their control and 86 per cent for ex-patriots who pass away shortly before returning home.

The NAFD further stated that the use of the term “pauper” is “outdated and no longer an acceptable term in the modern era” and suggested the use of a term such as “sections where a public health funeral was required” instead.

The council provides a section within cemeteries for burying those without next of kin and without the means to pay for their own burial. These have taken place in sections which to date have been known as “paupers’ sections”.

The local authority is proposing a stipulation that headstones and surrounds are not permitted in this section of which 47 per cent of respondents are in agreement.

It has been acknowledged there was “a feeling that there should be some recognition given to the individuals laid to rest in these sections”.  A few respondents asked why there was a need for a separate section for such burials.

Planning permission for a new £2.1m cemetery at Old Glenarm Road was approved by the council’s Planning Committee last May.

The new 15-acre site consists of two fields opposite 382 Old Glenarm Road on the right side of the road towards Ballygally.  It is expected to be able to facilitate almost 4,000 plots with capacity for 25 years.

The cemetery will include a memorial garden, 140 parking spaces, public toilets including a Changing Places facility for disabled users, a staff building with access to the site by a new right-hand turning lane.

Meanwhile, tests are being carried out at a proposed site at Trooperslane Road for a new cemetery in Carrickfergus. The town’s main burial site at Victoria Cemetery is estimated to reach maximum capacity in 12 years.

Love Ballymena logo
bottom of page