FAMILIES across Oxfordshire have been left in limbo after being unable to register their babies’ births in lockdown.
Some parents who have gone for months without registering their newborns have faced severe consequences and have pleaded with MPs and councillors for help.
Oxfordshire County Council, like all local authorities in England and Wales, suspended birth registrations at the start of lockdown under government instruction, and registrars have only been registering deaths and stillbirths.
It has issued birth certificates in what it deems ‘urgent cases’ but there are still parents in Oxfordshire desperately waiting to hear.
Marie Trinchant, 35, and Enrique Del Ray, 33, welcomed their baby girl Matilda to the world seven weeks ago.
They made multiple requests to Oxfordshire County Council to register their daughter’s existence, including an official complaint, and feared they could be left homeless.
The married couple, who have lived in Oxford for almost five years, decided to move back to France where Mrs Trinchant is from after her husband’s contract at the University of Exeter terminates at the end of June.
While the lease of their home finishes on July 1, in order to travel with Matilda to France they needed a birth certificate as well as a certified copy of an ‘entry of birth’ to apply for a passport.
This would take time even under ‘normal’ circumstances.
Mrs Trinchant said: “The Oxford Registration Office was simply refusing to register births.
“At first I was convinced that someone would be sympathetic to our situation – then I feared we might end up homeless.
“It sounds ridiculous, but I was getting increasingly worried and frustrated – as if giving birth during the coronavirus outbreak was not stressful enough.”
Thankfully, after the Oxford Mail had contacted the council this week, the couple were finally given an appointment and got Matilda’s birth certificate yesterday.
The council said that it restarted birth registrations this week because the Government said it was allowed, and said it was nothing to do with the Oxford Mail getting in touch.
Mrs Trinchant said she was told her daughter was only the fourth newborn to be registered since the service shut.
Asma Al Zougbi, 34, and Oliver Flouty, 35, have also made an official complaint to the council and criticised its ‘bureaucratic obstacles’ when refusing to issue a birth certificate for their ten-weeks-old daughter Ellie.
The couple, who are US citizens, had a six-month-permit to remain in the UK as Mr Flouty had a short-term contract as a visiting registrar at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Mrs Zougbi said: “Our flight back to the US is June 18, however our daughter was born on March 31 and I could not convince the register that our case was urgent enough for them to issue her a birth certificate.
“The US embassy agreed to make her an emergency passport, since their regular operations are suspended, but they still need a birth certificate.
“Furthermore, my husband is a doctor and his next job, in Canada, starts on July 1, so if we cannot get Ellie a passport, he will need to pick between leaving his family or breaching his contract.”
Again, the couple finally got an appointment yesterday and got a birth certificate for Ellie.
While the council said it will not comment on individual cases, it said birth registration would recommence soon.
The spokesperson added: “During the course of last weekend the government issued advice to all councils that they can recommence birth registrations.
“As these registrations will be face-to-face, we are able to start only once we have safe plans in place for the parents and our staff.
“We will therefore shortly be confirming arrangements for appointments and for dealing with those who have been waiting to register a birth.
“We will be making contact with parents waiting to register the birth of their baby (born in Oxfordshire) in date order.”
However, many families who insist their personal situation is ‘urgent’ have still not been contacted.
Such is the case of Zuzana Miyahara Kratka, whose daughter Juliette is eight weeks old and is about to lose her right to Japanese nationality unless she is registered with the Japanese Embassy within 12 weeks of birth.
For the registration to happen, a birth certificate is required with its translation into Japanese.
However, after months of back-and-forth with the council, the Japanese Embassy and Mrs Kratka’s local MP Anneliese Dodds, an appointment has still not been confirmed.
Oxfordshire County Council said it would now be registering births chronologically, starting with the oldest babies first.