Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme (CEM 88)

  I am writing on behalf of the Funeral Ombudsman and would like to make some comments on the inquiry in relation to cemeteries. This is an area that falls outside the Ombudman's jurisdiction if a complaint is made against the cemetery authority. However, the complaints and enquiries that we receive from the general public provide us with some insight into areas that can be a cause for concern. We thought that this information might be helpful to your inquiry.

  1.  There is some concern about the general condition of certain cemeteries and the safety aspects of old memorials. We also receive enquiries about the manner in which graves are prepared both before and after the funeral. eg JCB still in view during burial.

  2.  We are also aware of problems that can arise over the different types of plots available and the varying rates that are charged. It is not always made clear to clients what their choices are. We have also seen some evidence of poor record keeping in relation to recording the plot numbers together with the proper names of those buried there.

  3.  We have had enquiries concerning the length of leases on graves which have been as short as 25 years. The public does not always realise that they do not own a grave.

  4.  We have also seen problems arise over the deeds of a grave in particular where there is a family dispute or where the deeds have been lost and there are no records kept by the cemetery.

  A more general point is that some cemeteries seem reluctant to take responsibility for a mistake on their part. We have found that not many people are aware that they can make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman if they have a complaint against a municipal cemetery.

Regina Weston

Scheme Manager

December 2000

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