The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Frankly speaking

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Frank Field Labour MP

In a report published today the Work and Pensions Committee says the UK Government should follow the lead of the Scottish Government and conduct a broad review of burials, cremations and funerals, with a view to making changes that have a long-term impact on funeral inflation and reduce funeral poverty.

The Committee also says evidence it heard in its recent inquiry into publicly funded bereavement support suggests the funeral industry may not be operating in a way that serves bereaved, vulnerable people well. This evidence on the operation of the funeral industry has been passed to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Frank Field MP, chair of the Committee, said: “We did not set out to inquire into the funeral industry but it soon became apparent that the interaction between an opaque and outdated public system of bereavement support and a market in funeral services which simply does not operate “normally”, is causing problems.

Read the full report here

The NAFD has issued a statement in response calling into question ‘some highly inflammatory and unsubstantiated remarks made in the report’ – read it here

6 comments on “Frankly speaking

  1. Friday 1st April 2016 at 11:26 pm

    I have always thought that each local DWP office should obtain a social fund funeral price from nearby funeral directors. When someone makes a claim, they can be directed to the areas lower cost funeral service provider or providers.

    Knowing funeral directors, several will compete for this work, particularly if they know in advance that the DWP will settle the account. Every one wins? Frankly the present situation is intolerable for the bereaved and funeral directors, who risk not being paid – even the disbursements for the services provided.

    • Saturday 2nd April 2016 at 7:54 pm

      David, hopefully this meeting next month with Baroness Altmann will shed some light on possible ways to move forward both for funeral directors and DWP.
      While I am sure funeral directors will effectively compete for funerals perhaps via the online checker that is being proposed, my worry then comes down to time.

      I was trying to help a family for quite some time before they decided the NHS would have to take care of funeral arrangements.
      The FD who has the contract for our local hospital kept the family waiting a further 3 weeks for the funeral and it certainly wasn’t because the crematorium was fully booked.

      Some may argue that the family have been waiting weeks if not months so what does a few more weeks matter?
      I would suggest it matters a great deal.

      There has got to be a sensible solution though and all of the funeral associations simply must start to work together along with representatives who don’t belong to associations at all to get a balanced view.

      Wile it is important that FDs get paid for the work we do, I don’t think there is any doubt that the payments will be increased. But, and this is a big but, I do believe there should be a time limit at which families have to wait.

      I think what has been forgotten in some funeral companies is that we are there to serve the public and they deserve to be treated well. Having read comments on BBC Breakfast Facebook page along with comments on the newspaper articles that have been printed, is that the public are being failed in terrible ways.
      It is time our industry stopped being so overwhelmingly complacent and remember that we are here to serve.

  2. Friday 1st April 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Totally agree, Lucy, about the NAFD not representing many of us. We actively chose not to join because we do not believe that they give any protection at all to clients. I have been saying for a long time now that what is needed is a guaranteed fixed amount from the Social Fund with a number of FDs signing up to provide a service for this figure. That would solve so many problems!
    An hourly rate for advice/support…I had not considered that! Hmmm…

    • Friday 1st April 2016 at 1:50 pm

      I have undertaken a funeral this morning where the family were doing the majority of work themselves and hired me to do a few things for them and attend the funeral.
      I invoiced them per item and per hour of time on my funeral today. Yesterday they decided they would like me at the funeral longer than we had already arranged and I invoiced them accordingly.
      Everything was written down for them and sent to them in an email for them to agree before we undertook any work for them. No pressure to have things they didn’t want and they even ordered their own coffin online and had it delivered to my office.
      It means families wanting to do the majority of the work themselves but want the support of a funeral director, absolutely get that practical support but they aren’t paying my full professional services which aren’t needed.

      • Friday 1st April 2016 at 3:32 pm

        Oh we quite regularly provide that sort of support for our clients, but we have never done it on an hourly basis. It seems like a sensible idea!

  3. Friday 1st April 2016 at 9:35 am

    While I agree that outside costs like Cremation and Cemetery fees are rising sharply and should be addressed, I am afraid I disagree with a number of the statements the NAFD have made.

    “However, liberally berating funeral directors, who work in the main for very small businesses, is not the way to address this.”

    Really? Small, family funeral directors make 60% of the funeral industry but not all are members of the NAFD.
    In fact, there are some independent companies that are now run like the national chains. I would suggest this isn’t an accurate statement.

    “However we would be very concerned by any suggestion that funeral prices should be fixed on a national basis.”

    I do think that this should happen but with the option of funeral directors to be able to opt out.
    The government are looking into adding a benefit checker online and then have a list of funeral directors who will undertake a simple and intimate funeral for a certain price. I don’t really see what the problem is with this.

    When it comes to bespoke funerals, I charge a bespoke rate. Yet we have four business models working in one company. We charge a bespoke rate for bespoke funerals. We also have set options for those who want them. We offer a dignified direct cremation service and we are also available to hire per hour or per service for people arranging the funeral themselves who may need a little bit of help.

    While I am sure the NAFD have done wonderful work in the past, the no longer represent funeral directors like me.
    While they are the self titled “Voice of the profession,” I do believe that Government is looking at other people to take their advice from too.

    “But has called into question highly inflammatory and unsubstantiated remarks about funeral directors made in the report.”
    I would love to know which remarks they refer to.

    I have clear evidence from clients I have helped that they have gone to an NAFD member and have been given quotes of £5,000 – £6,000 for a simple funeral service AFTER they have told the funeral director they need to apply to the DWP.
    “Strict code of conduct?” I don’t think so. I can’t think of a time where NAFD membership has been revoked. The NAFD hold no power over members. If they won’t refuse or revoke their membership to those who willingly try to overcharge families on limited income, then what do they have left? The ability to get you £10 a month off your telephone bill?

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