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Certificate and Ceremony Fee Waiver, Refund and Reduction Policy

St Helens Borough Council Registration Service

Introduction

The Registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Fees) Regulations 2016 were amended on the 16th February 2019, to give Registration Officers the discretion to waive, reduce or refund fees on the grounds of hardship or compassion on a case by case basis.

Purpose

It is expected that everyone will pay the fee that is due for the service provided. There are however some exceptions where on the grounds of financial hardship or compassion, consideration may be given to waiving, reducing or refunding the fee.

This guidance aims to provide registration officers with a framework to assess eligibility for either a waiver or reduction in certificate fees on the basis of financial hardship or compassion.

Under no circumstances should application of the guidance cause delay in the timeliness of a registration. Applications for a waiver, reduction or refund can be made retrospectively, and registrations can be completed without the issue of a certificate.

Circumstances which are out of scope of this guidance

  • Certificates issued following a re-registration.
  • Certificates issued by another authority following a declaration being given at St Helens.
  • Replacement certificate issued following a correction which was subject to a fee. A waiver or reduction in the certificate fee will not be considered. The cost of the correction falls outside this policy.
  • Ceremony fees (not COVID-19 related) see terms and conditions of booking.
  • Reservation booking fees (non-refundable).
  • Notice fees.

Circumstances which are in the scope of this guidance

  • Certificates issued at the point of first registration of an event.
  • Certified copy certificates.
  • Replacement certificate issued following a correction which was not subject to a fee. The cost of the correction falls outside this policy.
  • Ceremony fees due to COVID-19 including the purchase of a certificate.
  • Notice fees where the service has not been provided.

This guidance only applies to a single certificate, unless they are replacement certificates following a correction which was not subject to a fee. In this case, the original number purchased would be replaced. The guidance applies also to ceremonies cancelled due to COVID-19.

Policy

The Registrar General, Superintendent Registrar or registration officer may reduce, waive, or refund part or the entire fee. Any decision to waive, refund or reduce a fee should be made by exception where circumstances dictate and on an ad hoc basis.

Considerations on the basis of financial hardship

Cases of hardship will be considered where the cost of purchasing certificates would prevent someone from meeting household expenses such as food and bills. In all cases where hardship is to be considered, this should be supported by a written endorsement from an agency such as social care, housing organisations, homelessness charities, hospices, hospitals or other similar agencies.

This should evidence that a person may not be able to pay the certificate fee due to hardship and may possibly delay access to other services causing further hardship. Where evidence is provided, the agency should include a recommendation as to whether it is appropriate to apply a waiver or reduction. In cases where this cannot be evidenced, a waiver or reduction cannot be granted. The standard reduction will be 50%.

Considerations on the basis of compassion

Cases of compassion will be considered where it is felt that charging a fee in a particular circumstance may cause further distress. It is local policy that a fee will not be charged for a certificate following the registration of a still birth, or following the registration of the death of a child under the age of 18. Where cases of compassion have been considered and granted, the result will always be a waiver, not a reduction.

Refunds

Where a fee has been charged incorrectly or inadvertently then a refund of that fee should be made as soon as possible, as per the council’s refund procedure. Refund requests should be made in writing to the Superintendent Registrar and supported by the original receipt, without the receipt a refund will not be considered. Refund of notice payments will only be made where the service has not been provided, without a receipt the refund will not be considered.

Refund of ceremony fees due to COVID-19, on cancellation by the applicant the fee will always be a refund, without a receipt the refund will not be considered.

Where lockdown laws prevent or prevented a wedding from going ahead on the agreed date, the starting point under the law is that the consumer should be offered a full refund (see section 1(2) of the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943).

Appeals

Appeals should be made in writing to the Superintendent Registrar, St Helens Registration Service, Town Hall, Corporation Street, St Helens, WA10 1HP and will be dealt with in line with the council’s corporate complaints procedure.

Review

This document will be reviewed annually in April, or in accordance with new guidance issued by General Register Office (GRO) in line with the (Competition and Markets Authority) CMA guidance or St Helens Borough Council.

Version Date Reference Comment/Amendment
1 20/03/2019 Document Creation Author: Anne Atherton
2 15/08/2019 Amendment Waiver for children under 18 previously at age 16. Brought into line with the Children's Funeral Fund for England
3 18/09/2020 Amendment Refund of ceremony fees