Bereavement Guide

We understand how distressing the death of a family member or loved one can be, especially at the time of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We are truly sorry for your loss.

The Council wants to do all it can to help you find advice and support at this difficult time, both before and after the funeral. This guide takes you through the steps to follow in the current situation, to organise a funeral that shows respect, dignity and compassion, as well as meeting the Government’s guidelines on staying safe and protecting lives. 

Sutton Council is working with leaders from all the major faith groups and community leaders who are supporting the processes set out here.

Please accept our sincere condolences for your recent loss and thank you for registering the death with us.  Registration is the first step on your journey.

How to use this guide

The following information will guide you through the practical steps that you or someone else will need to take. The Coronavirus and its impact mean that some aspects of arranging and attending funerals and cremations have had to change and this information takes that into account.  Please bear in mind, however, that government legislation and guidance is being updated all the time.  During this difficult period many families are opting to have smaller funerals that follow the social distancing guidelines. It may only be immediate family members who attend.  Funeral directors have been given advice about how to safely organise funerals during this national emergency.

The Government's What to do when someone dies: step by step guide is also available online

The death has been registered. What happens now?

The Register Office will now issue the burial or cremation form and forward this electronically to your chosen funeral director (if you have one - see information on this below) so that everything is in place for you to arrange the funeral.

Separate procedures apply if the death has been referred to the Coroner.

As soon as possible, you should make contact with your chosen funeral director. If you do not know of a funeral director, you can find an industry-inspected one via the following websites:

The National Association of Funeral Directors

The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors

Or you may wish to make alternative arrangements.

If the death happened in hospital, contact will be made by your funeral director to prepare your loved one and arrangements will be made for transfer to the funeral director's mortuary or funeral parlour.  During the current time, the hospital may need to make alternative off-site arrangements, and you will be notified if this is the case.

If the death happened at home, a residential care home or hospice, you will have been guided by the care home team or the registered GP practice on what happens next. 

You will make arrangements with your funeral director.

During the coronavirus pandemic, special arrangements are in place for anyone who dies at home or in care due to Coronavirus. When such a death is reported to be caused by COVID-19, a specialist team known as the Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Team (PMART) will attend.  They will confirm the identity of the person who has died and will arrange for a doctor to issue a medical certificate of cause of death. 

If your loved one is taken to a mortuary, it will not be possible for you to visit or spend time with them. This is to keep you and those around you safe and well. 

If your loved one is taken to a funeral parlour, you can speak to your funeral director about arranging visiting, dressing and any religious observances. Your funeral director will work with you to make the final arrangements for your loved one, in the light of current government guidance on these preparations.


Funerals are continuing in Sutton and across London, with some changes

A lot of care is going into making funerals in Sutton and across London, as normal as possible.  

Restrictions are in place for the number of people who can attend a funeral and then any subsequent commemoration of the deceased person’s life.

  • Up to 30 people may attend a funeral.  This depends on the size of the venue.  Smaller venues may be able to welcome fewer people.
  • Up to 6 people may attend a post-funeral event, such as a wake, stone setting or ash scattering.

Social distancing guidelines must be followed at any funeral or linked event.  This is to help attendees, and those working at the funeral, to stay safe.

Your Funeral Director will be able to talk to you about the ways in which the funeral can be tailored to your feeds.  They will also be able to tell you about the things which aren’t possible at the moment and suggest alternatives.


Funerals should be held without delay

We appreciate that any loss is a difficult event and everyone will react differently.

However, we ask that funerals are held without delay.  This is so that all Sutton residents can say goodbye to their loved ones in the way that is right for them. 

Any delays in the arranging or holding of funeral services risks the ability of Suttins funeral care sector to cope if the numbers of deceased rise steeply. By arranging a funeral service promptly, you will be helping every other bereaved person in Sutton and across London to have the respectful, dignified funeral that you would wish for your loved one.  

During the pandemic, funeral services may be shorter than usual.  Your Funeral Director will be able to explain the current situation to you and help you create a funeral that is in line with your wishes and current restrictions.

The number of people who can attend a funeral in England is set into law.  It remains under review by the Secretary of State, but any changes will require a new law to be passed.  Therefore delaying a funeral in the hope that more people can attend, if the law changes, may end up causing more distress and anguish for the deceased’s loved ones.

To date, the overwhelming majority of Sutton residents have arranged funeral services without delay.  Our thanks go to all of them who, in their own time of grief, thought of the needs of others as well as the wishes of their loved ones.


Burial or cremation

Your funeral director will be able to help you with this. Currently, you have a choice of cemeteries or crematoria locally. More information about Sutton’s cemeteries is available on our website. Information about the North East Surrey Crematorium service is also available online. However, you are free to request a cemetery or crematorium outside the borough.

In the current circumstances, attendance at funerals is limited to those from within the household or close family of the loved one – their partner or spouse, children, parents and siblings.  This includes deaths which do not arise from Covid-19.  All attendees will be asked to observe social distancing.

If you are self-isolating, you should not attend a funeral if you have any symptoms of any kind, even if these are very mild. 


Now that you have registered the death with us over the telephone, we will shortly be sending the death certificates by first class post to the person and address that you nominated.  The fee for this, which you have already paid, is £11 for each certificate.

We recommend that you use the Tell Us Once service as it will save you time and effort.  Your unique Tell Us Once number is included in the covering email that we’ve just sent you.  Registering with them will inform:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) - to deal with personal tax (you need to contact HMRC separately for business taxes, like VAT)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - to cancel benefits and entitlements, for example Universal Credit or State Pension
  • Passport Office - to cancel a British passport
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - to cancel a licence and remove the person as the keeper of up to 5 vehicles (contact DVLA separately if you keep or sell a vehicle)
  • the local council - to cancel Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support), a Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
  • Veterans UK - to cancel Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments

By using the Government ‘Tell Us Once’ service, you may find you don’t need additional copies of the death certificates, as Tell Us Once enables notification to multiple government departments without needing to produce a certificate

Financial help with funeral costs and bereavement

If you are worried about the cost of a funeral, help is available.  The Money Sense Advice Service have created a webpage which details the financial help available for paying for a funeral.  The Government have also established a Funeral Expenses Payment Fund.

Department for Work and Pensions Bereavement Service

Funerals can be expensive. If you are on Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit, you may be able to get government help towards the funeral costs and bereavement benefits. The DWP Bereavement Service also carries out eligibility checks for surviving relatives to see what benefits they might be entitled to. 

Telephone: 0800 731 0469

Textphone: 0800 731 0464

You may be eligible for financial help or benefits:


Department of Work & Pensions Funeral Grant

If you are in receipt of particular DWP benefits, you may be eligible for the DWP funeral grant. The grant does not cover the full cost of the funeral, but families can come to an arrangement with the funeral director to pay off the balance in instalments. 

Telephone: 0800 731 0469

Down to Earth - This funeral advisory service provides excellent advice on managing costs.  They have access to information regarding other grants and assistance that families can turn to. Open 10am -  4pm. 

Telephone: 020 8983 5055



Smaller funeral parlours and online providers

There are now many more funeral options for families to consider:  Smaller, family-run funeral parlours with only one or two outlets can be less expensive than high-street chains. Online funeral providers are cheaper and there are a range of budget funerals available.

In exceptional circumstances, and as a very last resort, if families are unable to organise their relative's funeral, or the deceased didn't have any living family, the Council may be able to arrange a public health funeral, but will seek reimbursement costs from the deceased's estate.

You can get more information about public health funerals by emailing:

Loss and bereavement - If you need support

The death of someone close can be one of the hardest things we have to deal with. There are no set stages or phases of grief which everyone goes through. But some feelings are very common. There is no normal or 'right' way to grieve. How you react will depend on many things, such as who died and how, their age and experience, personality and culture or religion. 

In the early days the pain can be overwhelming, and you may experience waves of intense feelings or mood swings. It's common to find yourself going over and over events. 

Over time feelings usually become less intense, but you can't predict when it will happen, or force it to come sooner. There's no set timetable for starting to feel better. But eventually most people feel able to cope with their lives, whilst remembering those who have died. 

These organisations can provide invaluable information and support to people affected by bereavement. Some serve a specific geographical area or people affected by a particular type of death. You can call the Bereavement Advice Centre on 0800 634 9494,and they will look for the organisation best suited to your own individual circumstances.  The list below shows some of the help available.


Community support

If you want to talk online to other Sutton residents, Sutton Coronavirus Support and Action Group is a Facebook group you can join with over 3,000 local residents. 


Faith groups

The borough’s faith groups are also able to help with support, advice and practical arrangements for funerals.

Catholic faith
David Fisher, All Saints Church.
Phone: 020 3952 0485

Christian faith
Dave Smith, Horizon Church.

David Dickinson, Trinity Church.
Phone: 020 8643 6884

Kevin Lewis, Church of the Good Shepherd.

James Hills, Holy Trinity Church.
Phone: 020 8647 7605

Caterine & Gordon Cotterill, Sutton Salvation Army.
Phone: 020 8642 9862

Angela Gbebikan, Church of England.
Phone: 020 8647 1201

Sally Thomas, St. Paul's Church.
Phone: 020 8224 9838

Pamela Searle, Sutton Baptist Church.
Phone: 07368 305 607

Jewish faith
Paul Soloman.
Phone: 07799 897 642

Muslim faith
Abdullatif Osman, Companions of The Mosque.
Phone: 07803 182 785

Ali Saidzai, Sutton Central Masjjed.
Phone: 07538 281 423

Institute of Civil Funerals
Tricia Hourd.
Phone: 07305 268 084