“Understandably, in these very unusual times, many people are making difficult decisions and many families are experiencing heartache”

Pat Evans, Registration Manager, Liverpool City Council

Pat Evans is a born and bred Scouser who’s been working with Liverpool City Council since September 1981. She started out in the Social Services Juvenile Court Section, before moving onto the Register Office five years later. Registering deaths is a big part of the day job and Covid-19 has brought with it new challenges for Pat and her team. Despite different ways of working, compassion remains at the heart of all they do.

I would like to say a big thank you to the team at the Register Office and I would also like to recognise the very hard work being done in both the Coroner’s Service and the Cemeteries and Crematorium Service.

Understandably, in these very unusual times, many people are making difficult decisions and many families are experiencing heartache.

The TV bulletins and our daily papers give us the deadly roll-call as the numbers dying from this cruel disease continue to rise. Bereavement affects families in many ways, but the cruel nature of this disease means that many have died in isolation, far from their loved ones.

Final farewells have been made via mobile phone or messages passed on by heroic nursing staff. Families must find a way to come to terms with this extra level of anguish. The usual bereavement journey cannot be made.

Often the thing that gets families through the first few days is the practical aspect of dealing with a bereavement: registering the death, visiting a funeral director, dealing with the banks, insurance and benefits. There is much ‘running around’ to be done before the funeral takes place. Whilst this does not lessen grief, it provides a focus and a purpose. During the lockdown, even this is denied to families. Much of the usual running around is now conducted by phone or email. Instead of proactively dealing with these issues, families are left waiting for the registrar to call, or the bank to email them, or the post to arrive. Waiting and grieving.

At the Register Office at Liverpool City Council, the team had less than 48 hours to prepare for the new ways of working, following the passing of the Coronavirus Act. New processes and procedures had to be developed and IT systems updated.

It is fair to say that it was pretty chaotic for a couple of days until familiarity led to efficiency.

It is difficult to imagine that this world we are currently living in only emerged a few weeks ago. The Registrars are dealing with an unprecedented number of deaths on a daily basis and each family deserves every ounce of care and consideration that we can give them, as we take them through our step of their journey and guide them towards the next.

Registrars are ‘people people’ used to meeting families face to face. We must now develop the rapport with families via the phone, often contacting them within 24 hours of the death of their loved one. All colleagues have risen to this task skillfully and with complete dedication.

I both thank and commend them for their commitment to ensuring that bereaved families have the most positive experience that we can give them at this difficult time.

Our colleagues, in the Coroners and Cemeteries and Crematorium Services are also dealing with a huge increase in demand for their services. They too are having to negotiate different ways of working, whilst always being mindful of the raw emotional nature of their task, each and every day. We are all aware that our dealings with the bereaved will be memories that will stay with them for years to come.

As I sat in my garden yesterday, away from the office, I listened to my neighbour and his children making their own memories, playing and laughing together. I was taken back to a time when I was very young and the country was experiencing severe power cuts. I am sure for my mum and dad it was a really difficult time, but my memories are of being sat on my dad’s knee by a roaring coal fire and of him showing me how to make shadow butterfly and rabbit shapes on the wall using the candlelight. My own magical memories.

In these dark, difficult times — all at Liverpool City Council will do what we can — to ensure that if you or your friends or your relatives are experiencing the hardest of times, we will do what we can to ensure that your memories of organising and preparing for the final farewell of your loved one will be dignified and calm.