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Reporting back from APSE's Cemeteries and Crematoria Seminar 2022

Reporting back from APSE's Cemeteries and Crematoria Seminar 2022
On 5 March 2022, APSE held its bi-annual Cemeteries and Crematoria Seminar in Staffordshire. Matt Ellis, APSE Communications Officer, provides a short summary of the day’s speakers and the topics of discussion from a lively event bursting with ideas on best practice. 
It was fantastic to see so many faces, old and new, at Yarnfield Park in Stone, Staffordshire, for the APSE Cemeteries and Crematoria Seminar. The event, one of the biggest in the sector, offers an excellent opportunity for delegates across the UK to debate the future of these vital services, and to also explore new and exciting innovations within the industry.
The event draws in a wide variety of highly influential and knowledgeable speakers; offering attendees a fantastic opportunity to network and bounce ideas around other members of local government cemeteries and crematoria services, as well as the UK’s leading suppliers.
Checking the health of the sector
APSE Principal Advisor Wayne Priestley set the scene for the Seminar by discussing the results of the APSE State of the Market Survey 2022, highlighting some of the key issues facing the bereavement industry. Wayne outlined some of the emerging trends from the Survey including the observations that: 
  • The impacts of COVID are now levelling off.
  • Staff levels have stabilised but concerns remain about future entrants.
  • There has been a relatively low level of budget cuts compared to other services.
  • Burial space is to become a major issue in the next 5-10 years.
  • There are concerns over the quality of cemetery grounds, particularly in relation to improving biodiversity.
You can download the full APSE state of the Market here
Operating in a more sustainable manner
Jon Cross, of the Environmental Stewardship Group, was up next to outline the reasoning behind the report ‘Climate Change Our Legacy? Reflections on the state of bereavement sector and the climate emergency’, a report APSE was kindly acknowledged in. The report is an essential document for the industry whose recommendations will help the sector reduce its carbon emissions and ensure it operates in a more sustainable manner. 
A New Cemetery for Widnes – Planning for a Green Future
Paul Wright, Operational Director, Community and Environment at Halton Borough Council spoke about the challenges of creating a new cemetery which includes provision for natural burials. Paul explained how this new service element needs to be accompanied by a cultural change to gain acceptance to this new offer. Paul also spoke about the need to future-proof the cemetery for changing community demands and environmental requirements.
What makes a cemetery ‘significant’?
John Moffat, from The Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE) was next to the podium to outline the work of the Association; a European network comprising public and private organisations which care for cemeteries considered to be of historical or artistic importance. John provided examples of cemeteries across the UK and Europe, from Oslo to Istanbul, the Association has worked hard to protect, restore and ensure ongoing care and maintenance for over the years. 
Skills shortages and recruitment barriers: What’s happening within the marketplace?
As documented by APSE in the latest State of the Market, there is a growing problem of recruiting suitably qualified bereavement staff, highlighted during the COVID pandemic. Andy Mudd, Head of APSE Solutions, was on-hand to identify effective recruitment techniques employed by local authority cemeteries and crematoria services across the UK; ensuring staffing problems are kept at a minimum.
What does digital mean for Bereavement Services in 2022?
“The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.” Niall Adams, PlotBox Solutions Consultant, was up next to explain how, through the adoption of new technologies, services can help to protect their legacy through de-risking and increasing efficiencies in what they do, whilst keeping their customers at the heart of the service. 
Creating resilience during COVID
Philippa Reece, Parks & Foreshore Manager at Adur & Worthing Councils, highlighted the various ways her role changed during the recent pandemic, allowing her to support her Council’s Bereavement Services. This has resulted in her achieving new skills, abilities and qualifications, bringing both added value to her position and the wider council skills base.
Wilder Churches – making space for nature in burial grounds
Explaining why more than 100 parishes in Somerset have agreed to re-wild their churchyards and graveyards, our penultimate speakers, Dr. Pippa Rayner, Engaging with Nature Co-ordinator at the Somerset Wildlife Trust, and Sara Emmett, Interim Diocesan Environment Officer Bath & Wells Diocese, spoke of the need to help save valuable biodiversity habitats. Their efforts, and the efforts of local communities, have helped secure the long-term future of the flora and fauna which we rely on, providing a blueprint for other UK cemetery managers.
A look at APSE’s new Memorial Inspection Safety Tool (MIST)
  • Save time and money on inspections
  • Fulfil your duty to inspect every 5 years
  • Plot memorials using GPS data
  • Have more reliable data
Our final speaker, Debbie Johns, Head of APSE’s Performance Networks introduced the new Memorial Safety Inspection App, explaining the operational benefits, how it will improve the health and safety of both cemetery staff and visitors, as well as the improvements to the wider benchmarking process. You can learn more about the apps here
Breathing new life into services
If one had to identify just one main takeaway from the event, it would be that cemeteries and crematoria managers need to continually monitor and review their services if they are to deliver a green, clean and safe service. Luckily, the extensive APSE network provides an unrivalled opportunity to do just that. So make sure you take full advantage of APSE membership and keep up-to-date with the latest legislative and technological developments.
•  Presentations from the event are available to download here.


Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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