Blog Archives: February 2017

A Serious Cause for Concern

Thursday, 23 February 2017

It has come to our attention here at GFG Towers that some particularly bad practice is taking place on social media, compromising the integrity of funeral celebrancy as a profession.

Whilst recognising that funeral celebrancy can be lonely work and there is a real need for support from colleagues, it’s suggested that anyone discussing their work online in peer-support groups is aware of the following:

Facebook groups, even if closed, are not private. Don’t share anything in a Facebook group that you wouldn’t want to appear on the front page of a national newspaper. Posts can easily be replicated and shared outside of the group.

Never breach client confidentiality. Be wary of discussing situations in anything but the vaguest of terms. No identifying information should ever be shared.

Never reveal the identities of people attending funerals. Respect mourners’ right to privacy, no matter who they are.

Be mindful of the advice you’re given by peers.

Whilst fully supporting colleagues in sharing their strength, hope and experience online, please exercise caution, discretion and professionalism at all times.

 

There’s an unpleasant odour emanating from somewhere..

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Back in 2015, we reported on this blog about the legal skirmish between funeral plan providers Safe Hands Funeral Plans and Golden Charter – see here to refresh your memory. 

A paragraph from that blog post came to mind today:

‘While the lawyers order trebles all round and get ready to enwrap both parties in litigation for as long as legally possible, the good citizens of Funeralworld tremble. A lot of heavily soiled linen looks like being washed in public. God forbid that the public learn just how much of the money they spend on a funeral plan gets divvied up among sundry predators in the form of commissions, sales and marketing costs, directors’ wages, you name it.’

Well, thanks to the wonderful world of t’internet, that very information is now available in an easy to read table, showing just how much money is taken out of the total cost of a funeral plan in non-funeral related fees. Thanks to John Taplin from Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd for providing this link. 

Have a look here

Or, for a quick précis, we’ll summarise a couple of the lesser known facts listed in the table for you. 

  • The main providers of UK pre-paid funeral plans, namely Dignity, Golden Charter*, Golden Leaves, Avalon and Safe Hands will extract between £785.00 and £1,500.00 in ‘admin fees’ from the total amount you pay them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t publish the amount they charge). Editor’s note: *We have been reliably informed that where Golden Charter plans are purchased directly from a funeral director, the administration fee is much lower and the only deduction from the money you pay is £249.00.
  • If you buy a plan provided by one of those five companies from an agent working on their behalf (this could be a solicitor, a will writer, a financial advisor, a funeral director etc) then a commission payment of up to a figure between £500 and £600 is paid to them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t use agents, their plans are only available directly, or from their branches).
  • The money set aside within the plans provided by those five companies to cover the third party costs (crematorium fee, doctors’ fees and officiant’s fee or a contribution towards burial costs) ranges between £940 and £1,200. Co-operative Funeralcare don’t specify the amount set aside towards disbursements in their plans.
  • The value of the growth per annum of each plan is not published by any of the six plan providers listed above.
  • The growth of value of the amount set aside for third party costs for each plan is that of the Retail Price Index for five of the plan providers. Golden Leaves use the Consumer Price Index.

So, it is entirely possible that the money you pay in good faith for a funeral plan, thinking that you’re addressing the ever more hysterical annual announcements of the rising costs of funerals escalating beyond comprehension yet again, will in fact be whittled down to the bare bone when death occurs and the funeral needs to be arranged. A pocketful of cash here, a handful of cash there, all disappearing from that plan price in the direction of administration and commission before the ink is even dry on the medical certificate of the cause of death.

As an example, we were told this week about a funeral director receiving a call from one of the funeral plan providers listed above. The plan provider invited the funeral director to carry out a funeral for a plan holder who had just died. The plan holder had paid £3,595 for their funeral. It included all the traditional aspects of a funeral, collecting and caring for the person who had died, providing a coffin, dressing them and providing chapel visits, all professional assistance with the funeral, providing a hearse and a limousine and the third party costs.

So far so what, you might think. £3,595.00 sounds about ok for what is being provided?

Well, the amount that the funeral director was offered for undertaking this funeral was actually £2,445.00.

And, of that £2,445.00, £1,100.00 was allocated for the third party costs. In fact, the third party costs totalled just under £1,200.00.

So the funeral director, the one actually doing the funeral, was effectively invited to do so for £1,245.00.

That’s just £145 more than the £1,100.00 that had whistled out of the original payment to persons unknown in administration fees and commission payments.

The funeral director concerned politely declined the offer. They couldn’t make the sums add up.

The person who paid £3,595.00 for their plan and who died thinking their funeral was all sorted is none the wiser. Their family is probably none the wiser. The plan provider may have found a funeral director willing to carry out this funeral for £1,245.00 and nobody will be any the wiser. 

We think it stinks.

There is a whole can of worms writhing underneath the label of ‘Funeral Plans’. Thousands are sold each year to unwitting purchasers who want to are seduced by lines such as ‘We Believe Your Loved Ones Shouldn’t Be Left With Any Surprise Bills’ (capital letters not our own), or ‘A pre-paid funeral plan from the UK’s largest provider ensures peace of mind for you and your family’. There’s a very nice living to be made from selling funeral plans offered by the big six providers, but not such a good one from carrying out the actual funerals involved.

If you are thinking about planning your funeral in advance, do your homework. The only plan provider that we rate is Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd. So highly do we rate them, we have developed our own, unique alternative to funeral plans in partnership with them. It stands apart from every other offering on the market.

 It’s the GFGPlan.

GFGPlan puts your interests first. There is an administrative fee of £195.00 (and £25 of that is donated to the Good Funeral Guide). Other than that, we make no deductions whatever from the money you give us to look after for you. Zilch. Not one penny is spent on salaries, nobody gets a commission, and there are no free pens.

Read about it here.

 

 

 

The future’s bright, the future’s…..

Monday, 6 February 2017

Inside the ecoLegacy Dublin HQ

Towards the end of last year, we listened to Tony Ennis of ecoLegacy speaking at the ICCM conference about his soon-to-be released new alternative to cremation. What he had to say to the packed conference room was so fascinating that the GFG decided we needed to know more. So on a chilly January morning, Fran hopped on a flight to Dublin to spend the day at the ecoLegacy HQ.

‘I have to say, I went to Dublin not really knowing what to expect. Everything I had heard from Tony made sense, I’d done lots of background reading about him and his project, and it all appears to be 100% genuine. But I also thought that this was too good to be true, and that there had to be a catch.

I have to report, dear reader, that if there is one, I haven’t found it. It is quite possible that I was privileged enough to be among the earliest people to be shown something that is groundbreaking – and game changing – for the ways that we deal with our dead.

Everything that I saw and was told makes sense. The people involved are passionate and genuine. Huge amounts of research have been done. Various processes have been trialled and found wanting, so the engineers started over and tried a different way until they found the solution. The potential issues with current law in the UK have been addressed. There are very eminent bodies overseeing and interested in what Tony is doing (his work is being overseen by Imperial College), and the main players in the funeral industry have all already been to Dublin to be shown the unit and given the tour as I was.

It seems to me that it’s simply a matter of time before the first ecoLegacy unit is available to UK clients – and probably not much time at that. Then we will see how the public respond to something completely new. My instinctive feeling is that it will be phenomenally successful.’

Read the information from ecoLegacy for yourself below.

And if you have any questions, write them in the comments. We’ll get Tony to respond.

“Basically, ecoLegacy has developed “cremation 2.0”, a next-generation, environmental and ethical alternative to burial and cremation called ecoLation. It will ensure a greener planet and cleaner air. The company has its headquarters in Ireland and is currently operating in the UK and the US.

The idea was inspired by Philip Backman, a US scientist and teacher, who came up with the original idea around 1971, the same year Tony Ennis was born. ecoLegacy’s goal is to make Phil’s vision a reality and scale it globally and this is currently happening with initial orders coming in from all across Europe and the US. (more info here http://www.ecolegacy.com/philip-backman-a-moment-of-clarity/)

ecoLation is a flameless form of cremation. It has developed a thermal process that uses cold and heat and pressure. It reduces emissions and poisons from reentering the earth’s precious and delicate eco systems.It is respectful to the body, it is respectful to the family and it is respectful to the planet.

So what happens when a loved one dies and has chosen ecoLation?

First they cool the body to just the right temperature. The body is placed inside a pod, the temperature is lowered and the body is chilled.  Water is released back and forth over the body reducing the remains down into ice particles. These particles are filtered through to a unit that recreates the earth’s natural process that normally takes thousands of years.

All toxins and chemicals we build up while living are neutralised and the result is completely organic nutrient rich remains. A tiny seed – of a plant, a tree or a flower can be placed into this powder and, coupled with soil, water and love, you or your loved one can grow into a beautiful strong tree or your favorite flower.

In terms of efficiency, the unit uses electric energy to get up to temperature and to create the right conditions. However, as the remains are ecoLated, they break down on a molecular level and release a very clean bio gas. This gas is turned into heat energy which is then used to power the system.  Whilst there will always be an energy requirement, it is brought back as close to zero as possible through our technology.

In the next 70 years, the Earth’s population will reach and probably soar past 10 billion people.

ecoLegacy offers an ecological choice to funeral directors and families that will ensure a greener planet and cleaner air and thus a healthier ecosystem.

Unlike burial and cremation, ecoLation offers a pure, more sustainable choice and breathes new life into the earth in plant form.

In the next 100 years, at current rates, we will need to bury or cremate more than 10 billion people. A staggering 54% of the world’s population lives on just 3% of the land, in cities, where the urban landscape cannot accept further burial or afford the pollution side effects of burning our dead. Typically funeral home clients have the two standard alternatives presented to them, but from an environmental, ecological, ethical or indeed practical standpoint, neither of these two methods are sustainable for the long term.

Current burial rates are unsustainable in our modern world.  More and more we can detect the effects of burial from fluids leaching into our soil and water courses. This hazardous waste also contains embalming fluids and, in recent times, a huge degree of chemicals from end of life drugs administered. Not to be overlooked either are the harmful pathogens that live on after we die, or the veneer on the coffins etc. We are running out of space too.

Cremation, a method becoming more popular, has relatively high pollution levels,  releasing on average 400kg of CO2 per body into the atmosphere. Cremation is also responsible for a number of other pollutants and dioxins and of course it consumes fossil fuel in the form of either oil or gas.

ecoLation is clean. There are no emissions of harmful chemicals. The body is ethically treated and all metals and foreign compounds removed. There are no chemicals active, no diseases still alive, no issues in relation to leaching and no carbon / heavy metals or dioxins. The remains are totally sterile, totally natural and totally clean. It’s a new way to be remembered.”

Tony Ennis with one of the ecoLation pods