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A council cremated a man without telling his family and then went on to lose his ashes, a report found.

His family were left distressed after they weren’t told when their family member was cremated or what happened to his ashes, meaning they couldn’t say their final goodbyes.

The man, who was living in a care home in St Helens, Merseyside, was rushed to hospital after falling ill on April 23 last year.

His nieces, who lived some distance away, were informed he was reaching the end of his life.

The man died in hospital that same day, with St Helens Council telling his nieces they would organise his funeral and death registration.

The nieces then contacted the council on multiple occasions to ask about his funeral but were given no information, the Liverpool Echo reports.

On May 28, one of the women contacted a crematorium local to their uncle and they were informed he had already been cremated.

St Helens Borough Council cremated a man without telling his family and then lost his ashes (stock pic) ( St Helens Borough Council WS)

St Helens Borough Council has accepted the findings of a report from the Ombudsman, which explained how the man, only known as Mr Z, moved to the care home just before the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.

His nieces, known as Mrs X and Ms Y, were listed as his next of kin and asked to be kept up to date with his progress.

In September 2020, St Helens Council became the uncle’s appointee and managed his affairs.

After Mr Z was admitted to hospital, Mrs X spent the entire day visiting her uncle two days before he died.

The report said: “In the following week, Ms Y had discussions with Care Home B, the hospital bereavement office and the Registrar about Mr Z. She explained that she was unable to arrange Mr Z’s funeral and did not know enough about him to register his death.

“The Registrar and hospital bereavement office told Ms Y the council would be able to arrange Mr Z’s funeral and death registration as his appointee. On April 30, Ms Y requested to be kept informed of Mr Z’s funeral arrangements, a request the bereavement office and Registrar confirmed they would pass on to the council.”

St Helens Borough Council has accepted the findings of a report from the Ombudsman – file photo ( Getty Images)

Mrs X contacted her sister on May 5 and 7 to ask if she had heard from the council about their uncle’s funeral arrangements, with Ms Y saying she had no contact from St Helens Council.

On May 28, Mrs X contacted the crematorium local to Mr Z and was informed her uncle was cremated earlier that day.

Mrs X complained to the council on June 14 for failing to inform her or Ms Y of their uncle’s cremation as requested.

The report continued: “The council responded to Mrs X’s complaint, it explained it had no record of Mrs X on Mr Z’s file. The council also said that Care Home B, the Registrar and the hospital bereavement office had told it Ms Y wanted no involvement in Mr Z’s funeral arrangements and was unwilling to register his death.

“The council apologised for not informing Mrs X and Ms Y of their uncle’s cremation and said it would change its processes to prevent recurrence.”

Mrs X then complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman as she remained dissatisfied with the council’s response. The ombudsman has found St Helens council at fault for causing distress to Mrs X and Ms Y.

The ombudsman added they were also disappointed the council hadn’t told the women what happened to Mr Z’s ashes. They have recommended the council apologise to the sisters for its poor communication and make a payment of £300 (£150 each) for their distress, time and trouble.

The ombudsman has also told the council to review the existing Public Health Funeral policy with a view to aligning this with the government’s good practice guidance.

St Helens Council has since said they have accepted the recommendations made by the Ombudsman and have expressed its “sincere apologies” to the family.

A St Helens Borough Council spokesperson said: “When we take on the responsibility for a resident’s affairs and funeral arrangements, this duty is paramount. Regrettably, we did not meet our high standards on this occasion, and the resulting miscommunication caused significant distress to the family of the deceased.

“We have written to the family to express our sincere apologies and accept the recommendations from the Ombudsman’s report.”

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