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Grieving families caused distress by new death-register system in libraries

By Isle of Thanet Gazette  |  Posted: January 20, 2012

CONCERNED:  Neil Walker of Aston Walker Funeral Directors is worried that changes to the registration of deaths are causing bereaved families more distress GIIS20120117A-003_C

CONCERNED: Neil Walker of Aston Walker Funeral Directors is worried that changes to the registration of deaths are causing bereaved families more distress GIIS20120117A-003_C

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CHANGES to the way people register a death have been condemned by Thanet undertakers who claim it is causing families greater distress.

Kent County Council ended the practise of registering deaths at Register Offices, including Aberdeen House in Ramsgate, from January 1. Instead people have to make an appointment at a library.

KCC claimed the move was to give the bereaved "greater flexibility" but undertakers say it has meant people potentially have to travel further and that families are trying to register a death in a busy library.

Neil Walker from Aston Walker Funeral Directors in Northdown Road, Cliftonville, said that the first available appointment for registering a death in Thanet was currently January 31, but rules stipulating a death should be registered in five days mean that recently bereaved people had to travel to libraries across the county.

He added: "But the real problem is that registering a death at the library is so much more public.

"At Aberdeen House there was a waiting room, then you would go through a security door to a room where the registration took place.

"Now we are hearing stories of people actually leaning across the counter to return books as a person is trying to register a death. It's absolutely crazy.

"There's the old saying 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' that would seem to apply to these changes that have made the system worse."

A spokesman for KCC said: "Due to the Christmas break and the time of year, we have had a large number of people wanting to book an appointment to register a birth or death. We do endeavour to accommodate everyone's wishes, but unfortunately, this hasn't been possible due to the recent level of demand.

"We would like to apologise to any customers who have had to travel further as a consequence. We are closely monitoring the demand for appointments, and will be investigating what options are available to us if this high demand continues.

"We consulted with both our staff and customers before making the decision to move registrations into libraries. We also undertook a six month pilot project to test the concept.

"The findings from the pilot project and the feedback from staff and customers overwhelmingly supported the decision to roll the project out across the county."

KCC admitted that the move, which also covers registering a birth, will save the authority £350,000 a year.

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  • tommydocherty  |  January 23 2012, 4:36PM

    In the lemming-like leap to save money extra council services are being forced upon libraries and library staff but this really is the worst example i've heard off, the one-stop-shop concept gone mad! Where's the dignity and respect for either party in this arrangement? What next STD tests?

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  • ShBurnham  |  January 23 2012, 6:15AM

    I recently had the misfortune of having to register my mother's death in Swindon. I made an appointment with the Registrar. I was tense and upset. She ushered me into a private office. The Registrar took many confidential details and, on line, notified various bodies of my mother's death. I then paid for several Death Certificates. Privacy, confidentiality and sensitivity were features of this appointment that lasted more than half-an-hour. Much as I love libraries, to have been forced to do all this administration in the manner described here horrifies me. The idea is utterly bizarre.

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