Guest post by Wendy Coulton of www.dragonflyfunerals.co.uk
I was grateful for the opportunity to present evidence to the Plymouth City Council ‘scrutiny review’ of its policy and services regarding Public (funded) Funerals in my professional role as a Civil Funeral Celebrant.
In the light of significant budget pressures it is to be expected that council services related to funerals such as crematorium services, cemetery management and bereavement support will be reviewed. However reduction of costs to run these services must not be at the expense of compassion and dignity towards the deceased or the bereaved. There has to be a baseline where councils accept that there is a social responsibility and cost to be borne if we are a caring society. The questions being considered in Plymouth centred mainly around choice. For example, how much consultation and choice should next of kin have if they are unable or unwilling to pay for the funeral and the public purse will be funding it?
The point I made to the review panel of elected councillors was that the council and its officers do not have the legal or moral mandate to deny any one the opportunity to be consulted about when the funeral is to take place and be informed of the funeral service so they may attend. Nor should they deny the choice of burial or cremation if next of kin can be traced and consulted. At the moment the council only provides a burial for public funded funerals in all circumstances. If they do not consult or inform they are discriminating against people because of their financial circumstances which may not be of their choosing or design. And it begs the question why would you deny someone consultation or information?
Their policy should not be cynical and judgmental. Yes there will always be people who walk away from their responsibilities but increasingly economic hardship is genuine in this country and people struggle to pay for a funeral. Not everyone who has to ask for state assistance for funerals wants to and it is a fact that most people make no provision for their funeral costs. Just as there is (finally) realisation that people need to plan for living longer and pensions etc, there should be a government sponsored campaign promoting financial planning for funeral costs. The recommendations of this review will be published in April.