Council apologises after bereaved families given days to clear children’s graves

A council has issued an apology after a mum who lost her twin son was given just a matter of days to clear decorations from their grave.

The council’s Cemeteries and Crematoria Team informed relatives that new land would be laid at the cemetery next week, giving families very little time to clear the area or risk losing personal possessions.

Solihull Council in the West Midlands said the work would begin this autumn in accordance with the cemetery’s regulations, reports Birmingham Live.

Courtney Barnes, aged 19, along with her 42-year-old mum Tracy launched a petition after being given just four days notice to remove handmade decorations laid down for tots Lorenzo and Jackson.

Courtney, who on October 15 miraculously gave birth to twin boys once again, had been told that the family risked losing items if they were not removed in time.

Mum Tracy claimed they would now only be allowed decorations on a small slab where the twins’ headstone will eventually sit.

When approached for comment, Solihull Council “apologised unreservedly” for any distress caused and promised to give families more time to prepare.

The original letter from the council, which has now been retracted, read: “I am writing to advise you that your plot at Woodlands Cemetery will have new turf laid upon it this autumn in accordance with the cemetery regulations.

“The ground preparation will start on October 11, 2021 with the turfing commencing on October 18 which is scheduled to take 12 weeks to allow for any delays caused by the weather.

“To enable the grounds staff to carry out the works and to safeguard any decorations you have placed onto the grave mound, would you please remove these October 17 2021.

“Decorations can be placed upon the slabs, concrete or gravelled area at the head of the grave.

“If you are not able to remove the decorations yourself the grounds staff will move smaller items to the head of the grave. Any grave frames in place will be disposed of as we do not have sufficient space to store them.

“Please be aware that we cannot take responsibility for any damage, loss or breakages so if you are concerned about the welfare of any item it is advisable that you remove this yourself.

“Once the turf has been laid items of any time will not be permitted on the grassed area of the grave. This includes frames surrounding the grave.

“Unfortunately we are not able to supply exact dates for when turf will be laid on a particular plot as the laying of the turf is dependent on weather conditions.”

Tracy Barnes at Woodlands Cemetery where her two grandchildren are buried

As the pair launched the petition, Tracy, 42, told BirminghamLive her family had been left “distressed” by the harrowing ordeal.

“We only got the letter yesterday,” she said. “We haven’t had ten days notice.”

Tracy explained that after the twins died on September 20 2020, the family had to wait ten months before doing anything to the grave.

Over the past two months, she said, they had worked hard to prepare a “forever bed” without knowing it would all be for nothing.

The grave currently includes fencing, stones, angels and a cross – all of which will have to be removed if they cannot fit on the narrow slab.

She added: “To me it is heartbreaking. We don’t want to go and destroy something that we have worked hard to do.

“I’ve spent hours and hours in the garden painting things, everything on their grave is made by me. I didn’t buy anything from anyone, I made every item on there and it took me a long time.

“They are saying we can put things on the stone but the stone is about a foot wide.”

The handmade decorations took hours of work
The handmade decorations took hours of work

Tracey went on: “It’s just passed 12 months since they were buried.

“Christmas is coming now. We usually put a little Christmas tree and stuff there. We can’t do anything. We can’t put anything on the grave.”

The petition said families had been left “mentally distressed” – with Tracy and Courtney adding they just wanted to make the children’s “forever beds look beautiful”.

“This place brings me and other parents great comfort, ” the petition read. “To be told they will remove items if we do not is causing so much upset and pain. Have we not gone though enough?”

A spokesperson for Solihull Council said: “We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress that this letter has caused.

“The graves need to be turfed but we recognise that families need more time to prepare. We will give families at each cemetery four weeks in turn to move tributes and other items before work begins.

“We anticipate this work will take approximately a month at each cemetery, subject to the weather.

“We would also like to reassure families that anything, apart from grave frames, that hasn’t been moved in time will be stored safely for a month and will be available for collection during that time. Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to store grave frames.

“We will be writing again to all the families who were mistakenly sent these letters to both apologise and outline the correct timeline and procedures.”

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