Covid: 'Sheer scale of loss is really hard' for funeral staff

The funeral sector has given ITV News its latest research showing waiting times for services growing in many areas and mortuary space "a real challenge". 

Behind the scenes, there are growing concerns about funeral workers and how close they are coming to being overwhelmed. 

Deborah Smith of the National Association of Funeral Directors said: "This is profoundly distressing, the sheer scale of loss is really hard for them". 

Workers are now being offered access to helpline support for the emotional stress many are feeling, with some funeral directors telling ITV News of "fatigue and exhaustion".   

New research from The National Association of Funeral Directors shows the pressure building on this sector:

  • a workforce of 20,000 is now dealing with 30% increase in services compared with what’s expected in January

  • Waiting times for a funeral vary around the UK, but can now be as long as 5 weeks

  • With some crematoria having a three week wait

  • Mortuary space is a “real challenge" with some funeral directors reporting “zero capacity”

ITV News filmed at a funeral directors in Eastbourne where 85% of work now involves people who have died with Covid-19.

Embalmer Maria Strudwick told me, "It's heartbreaking, some of the families haven't seen their loved ones.... for weeks and haven't had the time or the ability to say goodbye. We just like to give them the dignity we can". 

Funeral Director Andy Holter said: "We carry a lot of that emotional stress which is coming from the families, additional to what we are managing and obviously the high demand for funerals adds to that - so theres a lot of emotional impact".

Those representing funeral workers say they are providers of care, the very final care. 

Alongside other frontline workers, their contribution too must be acknowledged and appreciated - especially now.