Memorandum by the Institute of Burial
and Cremation Administration Inc (CEM 17)
The Institute is the only organisation in the
United Kingdom that supports individuals employed in the burial
and cremation industry. This support is achieved by providing
and developing an organisation, which sets ethical, professional
and social standards for the management of burial, cremation and
related services. The Institute is also the sole provider of appropriate
education and training to ensure that these standards are achieved
and maintained. Further information about the IBCA is shown at
Cemeteries and crematoria are essential local
authority services that are attended by a third of the population
each year. There are around 560,000 deaths per annum in England
and Wales resulting in an estimated 405,000 cremations and 155,000
burials. Cemeteries cover over 16,400 acres of land with new burials
taking up to 80 acres of additional space annually. Despite the
scale of the burial and cremation service there is little interest
or involvement from elected members and this results in a lack
of top-level support at both central and local government levels.
This major problem was highlighted by the Audit
Commission in the 1989 report on "Managing Cemeteries and
Crematoria in a Competitive Environment" (Occasional Paper
No 8/1989) which concluded that there are "problems and opportunities
for improvement. Many arise because the officers in charge of
particular establishments are not sufficiently closely linked
to senior officers or to the appropriate member's committee".
The Audit Commission found that "the provision of these essential
services does not always attract a great deal of member interest
or involvement and can, in consequence, lack top-level support
or the will to operate more efficiently and effectively . . .
". The situation has not changed and the environmental, historical
and cultural significance of cemeteries for local communities
will not be realised until this underlying problem is addressed.
The Institute proposes that Burial Authorities
be required and / or encouraged to:
establish a Local Cemetery (and Crematorium)
Management Board of elected Members to oversee the provision,
operation and management of the cemetery (and crematorium) service;
to produce Cemetery Management Plans
addressing the issues of burial space, heritage and biodiversity;
to ensure as a mandatory duty that
adequate burial provision is made available.
The condition of our municipal cemeteries is
generally very poor particularly if compared to the high standard
achieved in cemeteries provided and managed by the War Graves
Commission. This is an unacceptable state of affairs and should
be addressed by Central Government facilitating the necessary
improvements through a radical review of the provision, operation
and management of municipal cemeteries to ensure that the highest
standards are achieved.
In particular, the heritage value of cemeteries
is disappearing daily. This occurs primarily through neglected
Victorian chapels, drainage systems and perimeter walls and gates.
Such neglect often occurs even though the structures are listed.
Memorials are seen as mowing impediments and destroyed, and the
integrity of Victorian and Edwardian design and planting schemes
Often, because the management of cemeteries
is put into the hands of poorly paid grounds maintenance "experts",
the community and cultural benefits available through a sensitively
operated service are completely ignored. For instance, although
the closure of burial chapels may appear, at first glance, just
a matter of heritage loss, in reality, it also severely limits
choice. For example, as a greater number of people no longer use
a local church, or find church fees too expensive, a cemetery
chapel offers an alternative, often at a much lower cost. Because
the chapel is on site, it reduces the time input of funeral directors
and holds down funeral expenses. Of no less significance, for
the increasing number of atheists, Humanists and other groups
of people such as Muslims and Chinese, etc, who have no meeting
place, the cemetery chapel offers the only indoor location for
a community based funeral service.
Many authorities also enforce uniformity by
restricting grave choice to lawn graves. Many members of the community
dislike such graves; neither do they meet the needs of Muslims
and other ethic groups. In not offering choice, artistic traditional
memorials more suited to Victorian and Edwardian cemeteries are
no longer allowed and the skills associated with these are lost.
The fact that many people will actually pay higher fees for these
services is not recognised by ignorant and unskilled managers
(often those only skilled in ground maintenance).
On the environment, the value of cemetery flora,
lichens, trees and wildlife is rarely recognised, and only in
exceptional cases are cemeteries managed through an Environmental
Management Plan. The Church of England funded "Living Churchyard
and Cemetery Project", our Institute promotes, is rarely
adopted by local authorities, mainly due to the lack of necessary
The Government should take a lead in determining
a national strategic approach toward the disposal and care of
our dead in cemeteries and crematoria. The importance and significance
of the service should be reflected in the appointment of a Minister
for Bereavement Services with a portfolio of responsibility covering
death and disposal certification and registration, mortuary provision,
burial, cremation, exhumation and funeral services generally.
Independent Inspector of Cemeteries and Crematoria
The burial and cremation service sector needs
a full-time inspectorate (ie at lease two permanent staff). Current
arrangements are piecemeal and rely on goodwill rather than official
regulation. These arrangements cannot hope to address the issues
facing the service and much bad practice goes undetected. The
public deserves better in this sensitive provision.
The Environment Sub-committee New Inquiry on
cemeteries should consider the findings of the OFT inquiry into
cemeteries and crematoria which is currently being undertaken
and the potential outcomes of the Shipman inquiry (with particular
regard to the Home Office's proposals for new arrangements for
the registration and certification of deaths, burials and cremations.
The law relating to private cemeteries is hopelessly
out of date (Cemeteries Clauses Act 1847). This should be reviewed
and an effort made to equalise legislation in the same way as
crematoria are governed.
The Government should place a duty upon Local
Authorities to ensure that their area is adequately served by
burial and cremation facilities. The reuse of old, abandoned graves
should be permitted as proposed in the report "Planning for
Burial Space in LondonPolicies for sustainable Cemeteries
in the new millennium" (prepared by the London Planning Advisory
Committee in August 1997).
Government guidelines on the future care, use
and management of old gravestones should be issued with a view
to encouraging their preservation and where appropriate, reuse.
Existing legislation on the care and management of memorial gravestones
should be reviewed.
The maximum period for which the exclusive right
of burial may be sold by a Burial Authority should be reduced
from 100 years to 50 years subject to the grave owner being permitted
to extend the lease at regular intervals up to the maximum period
The power granted to London Boroughs under section
9 of the Greater London (General Powers) Act 1976 to reclaim graves
74 years after the date of the last interment (provided there
is space for at least one more interment should be extended to
all burial authorities in England and Wales.
The Local Authorities' Cemeteries Order 1977
should be reviewed and updated to take account of the current
and future needs of the service.
Burial Authorities should be required to meet
the minimum standards set out in the IBCA Charter for the Bereaved.
Burial Authorities should be required:
To excavate new graves to the maximum
depth that can reasonably be achieved. This is necessary to extend
the operation life of our limited cemetery space;
establish reserve funds for the safe
keeping of all income generated through the sale of exclusive
rights of burial in order that the said income may be used to
off-set future maintenance costs;
appoint a suitably qualified and
professional person who is a member of the IBCA to manage the
cemetery (and crematorium) service.
The DETR should ensure that Burial Authorities
have the power to provide memorials and other funeral services
they deem appropriate and to charge for the provision of such
services. This is necessary to enable Burial Authorities to provide
services considered to benefit the local community and also to
encourage greater competition in the funeral services sector.
In particular, innovative burial authorities are already having
a significant impact upon consumers through woodland burial (which
they introduced), biodegradable coffins, family arranged funerals,
and highly transparent leaflets, often issued as part of a "funeral
advisory service". These services also expand choice, and
provide avenues for increasing income. The new "green burial"
markets also supports the move towards sustainable and environmentally
sound cemetery practice. It is through this work, mainly achieved
by out Institute, that the UK is recognised as leading the world
in the development of "green" funerals. This movement
relies on transparent local services, which consult with local
people and groups in order that such services are supported by,
and not imposed on, communities.
There is also a clear demand for "direct"
burial or cremation services. These involve simply coffining the
body and transporting it directly to the cemetery or crematorium
for the funeral. Such arrangements ignore the conventional funeral
practices of the "hearse led cortege", "viewing"
and embalming and significantly reduce the input, and cost, of
funeral directors. Unfortunately, because of local authority trading
limitations, introducing services of this nature is extremely
difficult. Restrictions of this nature severely limit innovation
and choice, prevent the development of real competition, and prevent
cemeteries obtaining new income to maintain their fabric.
The Government should require all authorities
and companies involved in the disposal of foetal remains to adopt
the IBCA Code of Practice on the burial and cremation of foetal
One of the notable problems of decaying cemeteries
is the run down and often derelict buildings, many fine examples
of period architecture are disused and vandalised. Local Authorities
should be given special powers to enable the sensible use of these
facilities. For example, conversion to community uses, office
space and studios for craftsmen. Funding should be provided to
attract proposals. The Victorian Society should be commended for
the excellent work in dealing with the heritage problems in cemeteries
and consulted accordingly.
The Institute has set the following 10 objectives:
1. To continually review the operation,
management and structure of the Institute to enable it to achieve
2. To be accountable to the Members through
the democratic process.
3. To promote, develop and uphold the Institute's
Code of Conduct and Code of Professional Practice for Members.
4. To promote the Institute's views and
policies on the provision and professional management of cemeteries,
crematoria and related services.
5. To set the ethical, professional and
social standards for the management of burial, cremation and related
services through specification of Best Working Practice.
6. To identify the training requirements
needed to achieve and maintain the defined standards.
7. To develop and promote education and
training programmes to meet the identified requirements.
8. To hold examinations and award qualifications
of professional competence.
9. To provide information and technical
10. To liaise with associated organisations,
local and central government, to promote the Institute's purpose
The Institute provides a thorough and comprehensive
education and training service to its Members. The management
of cemeteries and crematoria is a very challenging profession
demanding a complex range of skills and competencies in a broad
range of study areas. In recognition of this fact, the Institute
provides a modular education and training programme to enable
Members to study at their own pace, or to attain qualifications
in those areas most suited to their role. The Institute has formed
a partnership with the Stratford Business School to ensure the
delivery of a high quality education service, and to ensure that
the individual modules have externally verified recognition and
may form part of a BTEC Higher National Certificate in Business.
Further, the successful completion of each module and the submission
of a thesis will lead to the award of the Institute's Diplomaa
recognised qualification throughout the industry and usually a
requirement for senior positions.
The Institute also provides practical training
in cemetery operations under the Cemetery Operatives Training
Scheme (COTS). Courses cover gravedigging in a variety of ground
conditions; advanced ground support systems, and a management
awareness course for those overseeing grounds maintenance and
gravedigging operations. The Institute is in a position to be
able to develop specific training in the practicalities of and
ethical approach to the proposed reuse of graves. The development
of this training course should be carried out at a pilot site
identified and authorised by the Minister of Bereavement Services.
Before burial authorities are authorised to carry out reuse of
graves the Minister for Bereavement Services should satisfy him/herself
that all staff engaged in this process are qualified to this IBCA
standard. Such a requirement would provide the Minister with an
element of control and provide the Cemeteries Inspectorate with
The Institute operates a technical advice service
through a network of Technical Advisors who have particular skills
or knowledge in a variety of subjects related to burial and cremation.
As a Member of the Institute you will be entitled to use the Technical
Advice service for help and support.
The Institute publishes a quarterly magazineThe
Journal, which features articles and information relating
to burial and cremation matters. The Journal welcomes input
from Members, and many articles related to projects or work which
Members carry out either in the course of their studies or in
their workplace are featured. Further, official policies or guidelines
produced by the Institute are published in The Journal,
recent examples being the policy on the Disposal of Foetal Remains,
and on the Management of Memorials.
A vital function of the Institute is to set
standards of service for the industry, and the development and
implementation of the Charter have achieved this for the Bereaved.
In order to become members of the Charter for the Bereaved, burial
and/or cremation authorities must show that they are able to satisfy
33 basic rights connected with funerals. The Charter also contains
objectives, and helps authorities to set priorities for future
development. Members of the public can be assured that an authority
which has adopted the Charter is committed to providing excellent
The Charter also offers the only code applicable
to cemeteries, set out as the "Guiding Principles" in
the Charter document.
The Institute has also developed an Assessment
Process which authorities can use to help prove that they are
providing Best Value, and to use in conjunction with the Charter
to form plans for improving the service. The Assessment Process
provides the authority with a score and a ranking against other
authorities, and is a powerful tool for proving continuous improvement.
The comprehensive Assessment Process has been praised by the Audit
Commission and is now recognised as the industry standard.
Although it is at an early stage, the responses
to the Assessment Process are supporting the views given in this
submission. For instance, only 24 per cent of respondents currently
meet the needs of the Disability Discrimination Act, and environmental
responses are generally very poor.