Government proposals to move birth and death registrations online could also include a provision for the introduction of a policy where information of a death is communicated across multiple departments at the same time.
The “tell us once” service, which is in place in the UK, would save families the heartache and difficulty of informing multiple bodies of a death.
Furthermore, the Government should make provision for retrospective registration for stillborn babies who were not afforded registration in the past due to their size and gestational age.
These form part of the recommendations from the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee on Government proposals to move birth and death registrations online.
Under the general scheme of the Civil Registration (Electronic Registration) Bill 2023, an online process for registering births and deaths would be introduced alongside the current arrangements where someone attends at a local office.
It would also allow families to register a death in circumstances where a coroner has not yet completed inquiries into the cause of death, and amendments to the criteria for registration of stillbirths.
“The need for an online registration option became widely evident during the covid-19 pandemic when physical attendance at a HSE civil registration office was restricted,” Committee chair Denis Naughten said.
“The current arrangements whereby a person must attend in person before a registrar are largely unchanged since the 1800s.”
The committee said that it is essential that every effort is made to ensure that information such as bills are not sent to a deceased person as this can be understandably distressing for the bereaved.
To that end, it recommended the “tell us once” service similar to what is used in the UK. The creation of an online registration system represents an opportunity to provide for a “joined-up online system”, it said.
“While the introduction of an online registration system will be a very useful choice for some people and will be engaged in, this Bill is an ideal time to highlight the need for investment in appropriate spaces for people who are registering deaths to ensure the environment is as sensitive as possible,” it said.
“All allocated spaces for the bereaved should be specifically designed to ensure dignity and comfort.”
Elsewhere in the Bill, it would expand access to the stillbirth register and provide certificates or copies of the records to parents or relatives of the child recorded in the register.
It noted submissions that suggested that parents “do not want their babies to be kept as a ‘family secret’, reporting the lack of acknowledgement of their child magnifies and intensifies their grief”. It recommended the register be made public but with an opt-out option for families.
The committee’s report concludes by urging the Minister for Social Protection to accept its recommendations prior to drafting the final version of the legislation.