DEDICATED Dudley bereavement services staff went over and above, often working 12-hour days, to ensure cremations could take place promptly as the Covid pandemic took its toll on the borough.

Most families would expect cremations to take place on the same day as the funeral service but keeping up with the demand at the height of the coronavirus crisis proved "very challenging" - one of Dudley's senior councillors has admitted - especially as one of the borough's two crematoria was closed for four months last year for an upgrade.

Dudley Council’s hardworking bereavement services team, however, worked long hours including Bank Holidays to try to find solutions to the problem.

Extra services were scheduled at Gornal Wood Crematorium while Stourbridge Crematorium was out of action due to major refurbishment works going on, and the team worked closely with local funeral directors to ensure services could still go ahead.

They also implemented measures such as webcasting funerals to ensure relatives unable to attend due to restrictions on the number of mourners allowed did not completely miss out on saying goodbye to loved ones.

Councillor Simon Phipps, Dudley Council's cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, praised the dedicated efforts of the 22-strong group who have now been shortlisted for a national award for their “exemplary” work during the pandemic.

The team, which manages the borough's two crematoria and eight cemeteries, is up for Team of the Year at the LGC Awards 2021.

They were also recently awarded the freedom of the borough for their unfailing work during unprecedented times.

Cllr Phipps said: "I am delighted the work of our bereavement services team during an extremely challenging period has been recognised.

"Their work during the pandemic would have been difficult enough, but it was compounded by the loss of one of the two crematoria for a long period.

"Despite this, the attitude and commitment of each and every member of the team has been exemplary.

"Many staff worked regular 12-hour days to ensure cremations could be completed on the same day as the service, something we take for granted during normal times but which became very challenging as the pandemic hit.

"Short notice burial requests – to meet cultural requirements in accordance with faith – were met throughout, on occasions resulting in burials taking place during the evening.

"On one occasion the bereaved family had failed to confirm a booking but arrived at the cemetery expecting the burial to take place. In a bid to help the family, gravediggers who had left work for the day returned from home to ensure the burial took place for the family in the evening.

"This is just one example from many that demonstrate the team’s dedication, and I hope that is recognised by them winning this national award."

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Marriott in Park Lane, London, on November 4.

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