Written evidence submitted by Anonymous (COR0106)


  1. In terms of preparedness for mitigating the impact of coronavirus on local registration services and customers, these are the main points we would like to make:


  1. Although the Coronavirus 2020 Act made emergency provision to register deaths by telephone, and this has been welcomed in terms of safety for both staff and customers, no similar provision was considered for the remote registration of births. Whilst registering deaths (and gathering the associated statistics) is clearly the priority during the pandemic, the impact of not registering births until after the acute phase of the pandemic on the staffing and resources of local registration services is huge. In our registration district (a shire county) there have been approximately 500­ to 1000 unregistered births within the last 4 weeks. The General Register Office has said it is at the discretion of the LRS as to whether or not to register births in urgent cases (to apply for a passport for the baby to visit a very gravely ill family member or for parents' travel on government business) but this cannot be done by telephone, thus placing staff and the family itself at risk of infection. Catching up on very large numbers of face-to-face birth registrations post-pandemic will place additional strain on the resources of the LRS, at a time when they will also be catching up with work associated with marriage and civil partnership ceremonies.


  1. The requirement for a fee to be paid by the customer if an error is discovered post-registration has not been relaxed. GRO have stated that customers will still be required to pay a fee of £75 or £90 (dependent on category of error) in order for a correction to a death register entry to be considered. This is unreasonable, given that the customer does not have the opportunity to review and correct a draft copy of the register page before the registration is completed. Errors are more likely to occur during telephone than face-to-face registrations as registrars have to read the entry to the informant to check it is correct, but the difficulties of customers who do not speak English as a first language, or who have a regional accent, or inconsistent quality of telephone lines are not accounted for. The correction process clearly involves a significant cost burden to a bereaved family, and potentially additional distress, as well as occupying considerable LRS time in liaising with the customer and GRO.


  1. GRO have also not reviewed the key performance indicator which requires deaths without coronial involvement to be registered within 5 days. Although this is enshrined in the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, no allowance has been made for the stress placed on the LRS of adapting rapidly to an entirely new working process, equipping staff with the correct ICT equipment to enable them to work at home, making provision for staff who are unable to work through illness or through caring for or educating children at home, or for additional delays caused by completion of MCCDs as primary care providers are under similar pressure.


  1. No consideration has been given to the large numbers of couples who have given legal notice of marriage or civil partnership for ceremonies which were planned to have taken place during the course of this year. Their Authorities for marriage and Schedules for CP have a validity period of 12 months from the date of giving notice, and many will have expired by the time the couple are able to hold their postponed ceremonies. Giving Notice for a second time will cause additional stress and difficulty to many of them, as well as an additional cost (£70 per couple for EEU and £94 for foreign nationals). Some of the couples who live abroad have already had to establish a 9-day residency period in England or Wales before giving Notice, and to do this again clearly has a huge financial and social impact for them. Taking second Notice of Marriage or Civil Partnership will also impact significantly on the workloads of the LRS, at a time when they will already be busy continuing to register deaths, register the large backlog of births and staff ceremonies themselves, whilst also likely to have staff who are still shielding or self isolating.


April 2020