Blog Archives: April 2017

The real faces of the members of the Good Funeral Guild

Friday, 28 April 2017

We are delighted to launch our new Good Funeral Guild website today, complete with photos of (most of!) our wonderful supporters who have already signed up. There are over 150 people who are now part of the Guild, making connections and having discussions, and helping us to keep the GFG afloat.

Have a look here: www.goodfuneralguild.co.uk. What a great looking bunch!

If you’d like to be part of this great new network we’d love to have you on board. Great things are happening already, and we have a second exclusive Guild get together planned for early June. Go to the ‘Join Us’ tab on the new website and you can be part of the change that is happening in funeralworld. And get to come to Guild Gigs.

PS If you’re already a member of the Guild but find you have a logo instead of a photo on your profile, it probably means you haven’t sent us a pic yet. It’s not too late so send your best selfie over.

Team GFG

 

 

Something for the weekend

Friday, 21 April 2017

If you were at the crematorium this afternoon because someone has died, I’m sorry.

If you were at the crematorium this afternoon because someone has died, and you used the conveniences only to find them in the condition above, then on behalf of the UK funeral industry, I’m not only embarrassed but I’m also deeply sorry.

There are crematoria out there who are exemplary (see here). There are also crematoria out there who seem to have forgotten the reason for their existence – to serve the needs of bereaved families by providing funeral services.

Consider the general state of affairs of certain funeral providers – buildings in terrible condition, stained carpets, poor sound systems, unusable toilets and conveyor belt timings that only allow for 20 minute services. Have you ever tried to acknowledge a life and a death in 20 minutes? Never mind telling a grieving family member that they won’t be able to talk about their loved one because there just isn’t time.  And then having to tell them that the one available toilet on site isn’t actually working today.

We wouldn’t accept this in life. So why do we think it’s acceptable in death? How we treat death is ultimately how we treat life.  So it matters; it matters enormously.

I personally have no interest in a life symbolised by a toilet with a lid that doesn’t stay open, a hand drier that blows out cold air and used tissues all over the floor.

As funeral professionals, can we stop accepting the unacceptable on behalf of our grieving clients. If you are a professional who uses a crematoria as part of your work – ministers, celebrants, funeral directors, florists, attendants etc – then you are responsible.

It’s the people who are out on funerals every day who can make a difference. We’re very good at driving around bereaved people in shiny cars that have been polished twenty times. But we drop them off substandard crematoria which fail to meet anyone’s needs, never mind the needs of grieving people, who have little idea of what to expect and mostly accept anything.

That’s my Friday night rant over. Enjoy your weekend everyone.  I hope it looks nothing like the photos above. 

Louise

P.S. The photographs above were taken at a real crematorium before a real funeral at 4pm today in the South of England.  If you recognise it as your local crem, I am SO sorry that your local council thinks this is what you deserve.

P.P.S. The sticky mess on the toilet lid is an attempt to make the lid stay up when the toilet is being used.  It doesn’t work.  

Perfect post election party

Friday, 21 April 2017

Whatever your political persuasion, come June 9th it’s likely you’ll be all politicked out after yet another trip to the polling booth. We know we will.

What better way to switch off from the endless analysis that will undoubtedly fill the media when the polls have closed than to head to the heart of England, to the National Funeral Exhibition?

This unique three day event takes place every two years with hundreds of exhibitors showcasing everything new in funeralworld, so don’t miss the opportunity to be there in 2017.

The GFG has rummaged down the back of the sofa and inside our piano, and cobbled together enough money to pay for a very small stand at NFE, but we guarantee we’re going to maximise the use of our four square metres and have one of the most attractive and desirable exhibits in the building… 

Come and see for yourselves – we’re in Hall 1 on stand 146.

If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here .

2017 Death Oscar anyone?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Last year’s awards ceremony in central London

It’s that time of year again – nominations open today for this year’s Good Funeral Awards, the Oscars of the death trade. Since 2012, the Good Funeral Awards have been celebrating excellence in the funeral world and have championed the pioneers, the bold and the brave, as well as the under-sung hard workers behind the scenes.

Last year there was an unprecedented number of entries, and the awards were presented at a glittering lunchtime ceremony attended by hundreds of people from across the country.

Coverage of the event in the media was overwhelmingly positive, see a piece in The Independent here and an article in The Guardian here, with national and local newspapers and radio stations all fascinated by something that journalists perceive as peculiar, but that we feel is richly deserved – recognition of outstanding work by those involved in caring for the dying, dead or bereaved.

Once again, there is an opportunity to nominate anyone who you feel deserves recognition or appreciation for their work in what is often a much misunderstood or maligned industry, or to enter yourself or the company you work for. 

To enter for an award, simply go to the Good Funeral Awards website and you will find the entry form at the foot of the ‘Enter’ page. Download it, complete it and send it in along with the entry fee* if applicable.

Every entry is carefully considered before The Long List is published in August. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in September.

To nominate a person or company, please write to the organisers at info@goodfuneralawards.co.uk and tell us why you feel they deserve to be a winner. Please ensure that you include their contact details including their e-mail address, and the category you would like to nominate them under.

All nominees will be contacted and invited to submit an official entry in the category they feel most appropriate, along with the entry fee* if applicable.

*The entry fee applicable to most categories is intended to help save the organisers from sinking under the weight of administering over 600 nominations and associated entries. If you want to nominate someone and pay the entry fee for them that’s absolutely fine, this happened quite a lot last year and nominees were both touched and very grateful. 

You have plenty of time, nominations close in July. And tickets aren’t yet on sale for the awards ceremony. But you know what they say about the early bird.

This year’s categories are listed below. Aficionados of the Good Funeral Awards will notice a few new titles – we’ve tried to reflect the changes we are seeing in the world of funerals and to make sure that there’s a category for everyone. 

The 2017 Category List

  • Most significant contribution to the understanding of death
  • Best death related public engagement event
  • Most helpful funeral advice website
  • Doula of the year
  • Anatomical pathologist technician of the year
  • Care of the deceased award
  • Coffin supplier of the year
  • Funeral florist of the year
  • Minister of the year
  • Celebrant of the year
  • Gravedigger of the year
  • Best burial ground in the UK
  • Best crematorium in the UK
  • Crematorium attendant of the year
  • Best direct cremation provider
  • Best low cost funeral provider
  • Most eco-friendly funeral director
  • Funeral arranger of the year
  • Most promising new funeral director business
  • Most promising trainee funeral director
  • Best modern funeral director
  • Best traditional funeral director
  • Funeral caterer of the year
  • The ‘what to do with the ashes’ award
  • Lifetime achievement award

Read this and weep

Sunday, 16 April 2017

 

Grief Works is a collection of beautifully written stories of the many clients Julia Samuel has dealt with in 25 years of working with grief.  She writes about how she’s helped people to deal with the deaths of their parents, partners, siblings and children and face their own mortality.  

Britain is awash with grief counsellors working from outdated models of grief.  Thinking has moved on since Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief so it’s refreshing to hear Julia’s positive, refreshing and flexible approach to dealing with death in our stiff-upper-lip society.

There’s a chapter about how we got into this state – from the Victorians who were brilliant at dealing with death but terrible with sex, to the generation of post-war children who learnt to suppress their grief and kept it tightly inside.  Keep calm and carry on.

Julia Samuel has been a grief psychotherapist for the last 25 years, dealing with people in the throes of grief in the NHS at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington and in private practice.  She’s also the founder of Child Bereavement UK.  

The way she talks to her clients, her flexible approach, her understanding that loss is terrifyingly complicated and affects everyone differently;  it’s all music to our ears.

We heard Julia talking on a panel at the Southbank Centre during the recent ‘How do we live with death?’ weekend.  “Grief is messy, chaotic and dark,” she told the audience before telling us that her way of coping with the intensity of her work is to have fun, kickbox and only watch funny films.  

Grief Works is a brilliant reminder that there can be a life after death.  We highly recommend it as the book to read to have a better understanding of grief and learn a healthier way of dealing with it.

Read it, weep and learn.

Grief Works
by Julia Samuel

https://griefworks.co.uk/

Changes they are a’coming

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

 

                                                                                                       

The GFG was back on the road this weekend, over the border in the ancient Scottish town of Stirling. Some 720 years after Sir William Wallace led his Scottish army to the historic victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the welcome we received was significantly warmer, although the towering National Wallace Monument glimpsed through the hotel window was a constant reminder of more fractured times in our shared past.

The reason for trekking the 400 miles north was to be present at The Stirling Debate on the forthcoming regulation of Scottish funeral directors. Jointly hosted by the two trade associations, the National Association of Funeral Directors and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, the day was designed to give delegates the opportunity to find out about the ground-breaking powers granted by the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.

The Act will introduce changes that will shape the way bereaved people are served and the way that the funeral trade conducts business for years to come, and throughout Scotland, funeral directors are watching and waiting, with varying degrees of concern.

With the passing into law of the Act, Scottish funeral directors will soon operate under a new dedicated regulatory framework, the first of its kind in the UK. This will include a statutory inspector of funeral directors, regulations governing the funeral trade and the possible licensing of funeral directors throughout Scotland.

Both NAFD and SAIF have been working closely with Scottish Government to ensure that the new regulatory regime is ‘effective and successful’, and consequently they were the joint hosts of the Stirling Debate, giving an opportunity for delegates to raise questions and concerns with a member of the Scottish Government’s Burial and Cremation Legislation Team.

It is the first time that the NAFD and SAIF have shared such a platform, and in acknowledgement of this momentous collaboration, the CEOs of both organisations signed a joint document which instantly became known as The Stirling Agreement – read the full version here: Joint agreement NAFD and SAIF Final version ready for signature 1 April 2017

It is a sign of the importance of the changes that are coming that the two trade associations have put aside their differences and are committed to working together to offer one voice for funeral directors – a historically disparate bunch ranging from enormous private corporate businesses to individuals working from home and hiring facilities as they need them.

As background, in Scotland 388 companies belong to the NAFD, and 240 to SAIF, with some companies belonging to both. It is not certain exactly how many other funeral directing businesses are in operation in the country that don’t belong to either association.

Members of NAFD and SAIF carry out around 55,000 funerals a year in Scotland, and when a survey was circulated by the trade associations last year, while only 42 businesses responded, these carry out 34,500 funerals a year between them. The responses therefore likely represent the views of the larger businesses, and are summarised below:

  • 74% of respondents welcome regulation of the funeral industry
  • 79% support work to improve standards
  • 95% think that the trade associations should work closely with government

Respondents felt that care of the deceased should be the first priority, and that the role of the inspector should focus on care of the deceased, facilities, service, estimates, pricing, vehicles and staff experience.

They also felt that ‘all options for sanctions’ should be on the table – currently if a funeral director does something that is in breach of the code of conduct of either association, the most severe sanction is expulsion from membership. There is nothing to stop that company from continuing to trade.

A desire was expressed for a transition period before any new regulations are implemented, to allow time for any businesses not meeting the requirements to reach any new standards. There was also a call for consideration to be given to the vast differences in funeral director business models.

An example was given of one individual in Lewis, who carries out all the funerals on the island, but who does not offer refrigeration. Lewis people who have died normally stay at home, with burials taking place within a few days, so refrigeration isn’t required. Any new regulations would need to take account of this kind of requirement.

Having heard the survey responses, delegates had an opportunity to put questions to a panel, including Cheryl Paris who was representing Scottish Government at the debate. Inevitably, it was Cheryl to whom most questions were posed, and she gamely did her best to address the many concerns put to her, although it was apparent that everything is in the very early stages and decisions on almost every aspect have yet to be reached. Cheryl spent most of her day scribbling furiously as different subjects and questions were raised, although she did give some indication of the timescale of implementation:

Decisions on cremation regulations, including the application forms, are in the consultation stage. The appointment of an inspector of funeral directors is imminent, although decisions on the scope of the inspector’s powers and how he or she will work with existing inspectors of the respective trade associations have not yet been made – these will be being put to consultation shortly.

The inspector will consult widely across the funeral industry, and make recommendations to Scottish Government, with regulation of funeral directors expected to be introduced from 2019. At this point in time, however, according to Cheryl, “We are not at a place where we even know if licensing of funeral directors is appropriate.”

Five questions were put to delegates, who split into groups to discuss them.

  • How would funeral directors operating across the Scotland / England border ensure compliance with any new regulations?
  • What would you recommend as the minimum standard for the profession?
  • If licensing is introduced, should it apply to the individual or to the funeral home?
  • What role should the NAFD and SAIF have in ensuring compliance with a new code of practice for funeral directors?
  • If the new code of practice had five sections, what would they be?

The responses from the discussions indicated the complexity of the challenge ahead to get regulation of the funeral industry right – the issue of cross border compliance with any new regulatory regime is one that resulted in more questions in response than answers. Could this include purchase of a license by English companies carrying out funerals in Scotland? Would repatriation companies also need a license? What type of insurance products would need to be introduced to cover cross border execution of funerals? Should there be a compliance officer appointed? How would regulation in Scotland affect the choices available for families bereaved in England where the funeral takes place in Scotland and who might wish to appoint an English (unregulated) funeral director?

The question about minimum standards elicited some interesting answers, not least a suggestion of a mandatory requirement that every funeral director should belong to a trade association. Other responses included common inspection standards between the two trade associations, a requirement for all staff to be trained, a diversity of training to be available, with tiered qualifications, a definition of adequate premises for care of the deceased, a need to establish the fitness or calibre of the business owner, accountability to be vested in one nominated individual, transparency of ownership of the business, indemnity insurance to be compulsory – and an ethical basis for all business practice.

The question about whether any licensing should apply to an individual or a funeral home, was met with the response of ‘Both’ from all the tables that discussed it. It was proposed that all premises should be assessed as fit for purpose, and all funeral directors should be qualified to a standard to be agreed, or certified as competent. The regulation used in the care quality commission was cited, and it was suggested that sanctions should be introduced for both an individual and a company that breached any new code of conduct.

On the question of the roles of the trade associations in ensuring compliance with a code of practice for funeral directors, it was proposed that both should be closely involved in developing and drafting a new code of practice, and that both trade associations should be consulted in an advisory role to Scottish government during the decision-making stage. It was also noted that there should be consultation with members before any new code of practice is introduced. Discussions about levels of sanctions available, whether trade associations should be held responsible if members are not compliant and what shape a complaint system should take were all raised, and the role of existing trade association inspectors was proposed to evolve into an advisory role, auditing businesses pre-inspection to ensure that they were at the required standard.

Finally, suggestions for the proposed new code of practice included premises being fit for purpose, individuals holding adequate qualifications or education, standards – i.e. being a ‘fit and proper person’ – DBS (formerly CRB) checks, continual professional development, an arbitration and complaints scheme, transparency, confidentiality and establishing standards of care of the deceased, insurance, Health and Safety, advertising, and so on.

The discussions were animated and lively, and the involvement and engagement of everyone attending the debate was very evident. The introduction of regulation of the funeral trade in Scotland will have huge consequences, not just for the people who work in the funeral industry, but far more importantly, for their clients, the bereaved families who will be using the services of an undertaker in years to come.

It is far too early to tell how things will develop as work continues towards implementation of regulation, but from an interested observer’s viewpoint, Saturday’s Stirling Debate was a positive step towards cohesive and constructive changes that were first called for by Henry Sherry in 1898, when he urged the British Institute of Undertakers do ‘all in its power to petition or otherwise to get parliament to make some form of compulsory regulation.’

What the shape and form of that regulation will take in Scotland is something that we will be reporting back as things develop. Watch this space.