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We have seen the future and it’s electric.
Back in 2013 we told you about the Brahms electric hearse, the highlight for us of that year’s National Funeral Exhibition.
Three years on, we dropped in on Steve Cousins yesterday to see how business was going. He’s a man who doesn’t give up, even when faced with an implacable wall of disinterest from the funeral industry. Other than Leverton and Sons of course, who have been running their Eco-Hearse and accompanying passenger Eco-car around London for some time. Over 10,000 miles worth of funeral travel in fact. Have a look. http://www.levertons.co.uk/#!eco-hearse/c1ofy
Why aren’t funeral directors flocking to follow suit? Steve doesn’t know. But he’s not deterred. He’s introduced a hire option for funeral directors who don’t want to commit to purchasing one of these really lovely little cars – although at under £30,000 purchase price for a fully fitted converted Nissan Leaf with a walnut motorised deck and additional safety features the price sits quite nicely in comparison with the circa £135,000 for a traditional style gas guzzler…
Oh, and there’s obviously no gas guzzling with an Eco-hearse. Just a recharge of the battery every 80 miles or so. So the running costs are next to nothing in comparison. And the silent glide with no engine noise is just perfect for arriving at a funeral.
We loved the compact size of the Eco-hearse. It’s more intimate, less showy, a really elegant little car, with beautifully thought through adaptations to enable it to function as a hearse. The tilting deck lowers the foot of the coffin so that the driver can see safely out through the glass where the passenger window would have been – now replaced by a sweeping curve of side glass, which allows the entire coffin to be seen as the car goes by.
Maybe FDs are worried about the performance we thought? So we asked an expert driver to take it for a test run. The GFG Stig had never driven an electric car before, but having quizzed Steve and his colleague Andrew in detail about the design and development, he set off for a trial ride – and came back smiling. “Handles very nicely,” said our Stig, “It’s solidly built, the weight of the battery under the floor keeps it sitting beautifully on the road and the tilting deck means there’s good visibility with a coffin in place. And there’s a lovely little turbo whistle just audible as you go along. I like it a lot.”
He liked it so much that he did a few 0-60 accelerations to check the power, and reported back a surprising 10 seconds to achieve that speed. We pointed out that this probably wasn’t high on the criteria of funeral fleet managers when considering a new hearse, but he’d had so much fun that we let him off.
So come on all you funeral directors out there. What’s stopping you from getting an electric hearse? We can’t see any good reason why they aren’t a regular sight queuing silently up crematoria drives. Tell us why they’re not?
Or tell Steve Cousins. He’d love to know. See the Brahms website here for his contact details: www.brahmselectricvehicles.co.uk
Guest post by Lucy Coulbert, owner of Coulbert Family Funerals and The Individual Funeral Company.
Lucy’s been invited back to Westminster next week. And she’d like your thoughts about what she’s planning to say.
In the aftermath of the Support for the bereaved enquiry, I was not only contacted by a lot of media agencies, but I have also been invited to a meeting with Baroness Altmann next week along with a further meeting with the DWP.
It is my understanding that they will be talking about the issues that have arisen as part of this enquiry and are looking for recommendations on how to make claiming easier.
We have to be very clear that we are talking about funerals for people who are applying to the DWP for financial help. Our recommendations are outlined below.
The enquiry suggested there should be an online checker for people applying to the DWP for financial help paying for a funeral to see if they are eligible. I happen to think this is a good idea.
They also suggested a list of funeral directors should then appear based on postcode with their prices. While in practice this is a good idea, you will never get a like for like quote as funeral directors bundle their charges in very different ways. So one funeral director may charge for the removal fee and hearse fee in one lump sum and others itemise each cost. Therefore, if you don’t want a traditional hearse, you are still paying the same charge.
I think to appear on this website, a few things should happen. The funeral industry has got to agree on what a “simple” funeral should be and that every funeral director should give a price for those services only.
The second thing that should happen should be that funeral directors have the option of opting in or opting out at least twice a year. Therefore, if a national chain are particularly busy in December for example, there should be an easy way to take themselves off the DWP website so the family don’t have to wait weeks longer than they have to for a funeral.
The third point I will be making is that the payment system has simply got to be improved. My recommendation is that there has to be a facility for the funeral director to email their invoice and it should be paid within 14 days of receiving it. That way, we can book the day and the time of the funeral and the family doesn’t have to find the deposit.
The fourth is that there absolutely must be accountability. The report heard of families who after telling arrangers in national chains that they were applying to the DWP for help, were still presented with bills between £5,000 – £6,000.
If you have said you will undertake a “simple” funeral for £1800 for example and then present a bill of £5,000 I think it is fair that the company would be barred from advertising their services on a government website.
I have spoken to funeral directors up and down the country who agree that the following encompasses a “simple funeral” and doesn’t marginalise small funeral directors or home funeral directors.
Removal of the person who has died
Taking care of the person who has died
An estate car to take the person to the crematorium or cemetery on the day of the funeral
A service in the crematorium or a graveside service at the cemetery
The appropriate number of bearers on the day of the funeral
We also think that the minister’s fee (vicar/celebrant/humanist) should be a disbursement as not all families want someone to take the service and the family want to do this themselves.
We have said an estate car because not every funeral director owns their own, more traditional hearse and it seems to be a trend that traditional hearses aren’t in favour at the moment.
This is our definition of a “simple” funeral and is what we would be proposing to both the Baroness and DWP.
However, I would personally like to take things a step further in light of the growing problem with funeral poverty. I would like to propose a national minimum funeral cost for a simple funeral as outlined above.
While I am all for a free market, the general public haven’t any idea of what a funeral costs. If you are on a low income and not necessarily in receipt of benefits, then what do they do? Still get into debt because they have been presented with a £5,000 invoice?
By having a national minimum, again, funeral directors can opt in or opt out of undertaking funerals for xxx price but at least families would know who they can do to for a funeral that is affordable to them.
Again, there has to be accountability if a funeral director was on some sort database and still gives someone an over inflated bill.
By recommending a national minimum, I genuinely think the funeral industry has done all it possibly can to help the public. From then on, the onus is on them to do their research.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t charge a fair price for our bespoke services. I know I certainly do because of the level of work involved for a bespoke funeral. If funeral directors don’t make a profit, we won’t survive to help more families. However, we simply must offer the funeral we know is affordable to the family that is sat in front of us worrying about a bill for thousands.
There are amazing funeral directors around the country already doing this, but not all.
The Government are looking very closely at funeral directors pricing costs and we need to be proactive. If we aren’t, legislation will soon follow. In fact, I think it is inevitable that it will and it is closer than we think. If we don’t do something significant now, perhaps it will be taken out of our hands.
If Government are looking at legislation, pricing and regulation you can be assured that your future and your business is going to be in the hands of the NAFD and SAIF. It is my personal belief that if we don’t band together now, that these trade associations will possibly try to marginalise home funeral directors, those without their own hearses, funeral directors who don’t hold a Dip.Fd for example, but are amazing funeral directors.
So a few points then before I go into these meetings.
Am I on the right track with the DWP proposals?
How do you feel about a national minimum price?
Does my interpretation of a “simple funeral” marry with yours?
I will fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure the DWP system is easier for the people it was designed to help and we are paid a fair price for the work we do. I will also fight like a tiger against any legislation or regulation that marginalises the smaller funeral director or home funeral director but I am just one voice.
I already have a few behind me but how many more troops can we rally? If the only way we continue to have a voice and a seat at the table of these meetings, I will happily start a new funeral directors association….in fact, this is already in the pipeline and hope to tell you more about it next week.
An army of voices is always better than a lone one and I can’t keep talking for and on behalf of funeral directors like me if we aren’t all in it together.
So in the words of Susan B. Anthony – “Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”
What do you think?
ED SAYS: The phone rang. It was Chris from Gowrings. Did we want to buy a big black limousine? No, we said, the new boss has just bought herself a Maserati and the rest of us still take the bus. But we felt for Chris, ringing FD after FD looking for a good home for his vehicles, so we said we’d help him out by posting them here. We’re not endorsing them, nor are we taking a cut of the sale price. We’re just nice.
We have 3 new vehicles for sale at discounted pricing for Funeral Directors.
Vehicle 1: FORD B-MAX B232, 5 DOOR MAV, TITANIUM, NON SIP, 1.6 105PS PETROL,6 SPEED, AUTOMATIC, PANTHER BLACK,NEW YORK/EBONY CLOTH.
List price £ 18365 NOW £ 15995 a saving of £ 2370 including deposit contribution and must be on FORD CREDIT AT 2.9% APR.
Vehicle 2: FORD FOCUS C346 MCA, ESTATE, TITANIUM X, NON LOCAL SVP, 1.5 TDCI 120PS, 6SPEED MANUAL, PANTHER BLACK,PARTIAL LEATHER.
List price £ 24,445 NOW £ 19995 a saving of £ 4450 including deposit contribution and must be on FORD CREDIT AT 2.9% APR.
Vehicle 3: Ford MONDEO CD391, ESTATE, TITANIUM, NONSVP, 2.0 TDCI 180 PS S6, 6 SPEED MANUAL, PANTHER BLACK, VECTOR EBONY CLOTH,
ACTIVE PARK ASSIST, List Price £ 26805 NOW £ 24155 a saving of £ 2650 including deposit contribution and must be on FORD CREDIT AT 2.9% APR.
For all enquiries please contact Chris on 01635 555300
The poshest knees-up for the UK funeral industry is moving to central London. The Good Funeral Awards 2016 promises to be the biggest yet. We’ll be at the grand Porchester Hall in Bayswater for the lunch and ceremony on Thursday 8 September.
Booking a room overnight won’t be necessary. The idea is that most people can afford to get into London for the day. And, as in Hollywood, different groups will be able to organise after-parties in neighbouring venues. Or stay on at Porchester Hall where the bar will be open for the evening.
Click here to buy your early-bird tickets now.
Nominations are now open
We’ve responded to your requests and we’ve increased the number of categories in the funeral awards.
Conscious of the need to accommodate old school/ new school rivalries, we’ve done our best to shape things to respect all parties.
Last year we were swamped with nominations. It took a long time to work out the worthy winners.
This year we’re asking for a lot more information about your businesses because we want to be able to tell the stories of the winners and make the most of the media interest in the awards.
There is a £20 charge to enter for most categories and we’ll use this money to add some razzmatazz to the ceremony. You have until 14 July to submit a nomination – see here for details and entry forms.
Sponsors and exhibitors
Since this is our fifth year, we’re getting better at knowing how to promote those people who support our event. If you’d like to get your business talked about by associating with the Good Funeral Awards click here.
And if you’re interested in being one of our limited number of exhibitors in Porchester Hall for the day please contact email@example.com as soon as possible for more information.
DEATH, says Nicholas Albery between mouthfuls of Neapolitan ice cream, really ought to be a better experience all around.
‘For everyone involved, I mean. Not only for the dying person, but for the relatives too.’
Twenty five years ago today, on 14th April 1991, journalist Joanna Moorhead opened her article in The Observer with these words and a whole new concept was born.
The Natural Death Centre emerged blinking into the light, birthed from the minds of the brilliant and irreplaceable social inventor Nicholas Albery and his psychotherapist wife Josefine Speyer who, together with co-director Christianne Heal, wanted to launch a natural death movement ‘to provoke as much of a revolution as the natural childbirth movement had done in the 1980’s’.
They had three aims in mind –
- To help break the taboo around dying and death, and to make it a natural topic to discuss over dinner.
- To bring the dying person back to the centre of proceedings and enable them to die at home if they so wished.
- To empower people and make them aware of their legal rights and choices, taking the power away from institutions.
Quarter of a century on the vision and passion that created the NDC, that spark of inspiration, has been passed on like a baton in a relay to hundreds and thousands of people around the world.
The natural death movement is international, hundreds of natural burial grounds have opened around the UK and in the USA, the iconic Natural Death Handbook is in its fifth edition and serves as the one must-read for anyone with an interest in dying, death and funerals. Death midwifery, the Death Cafe movement, Dying Matters, bespoke undertakers, home funerals – our society is moving forwards in the direction that Nicholas was trying to steer us in – although probably nowhere near as fast as he would have liked. Maybe in another 25 years we’ll be closer to death really being ‘a better experience all round’.
Here at GFG Towers we owe an immense debt to the founders of the NDC. We can truthfully say that we wouldn’t be here without them. Not one of us. And very possibly nor would many of the readers of this blog.
Happy 25th birthday NDC. We hope there is much cake and celebration at the bunker today. And Neapolitan ice cream.
Raise a glass to Nicholas’s memory from all of us. And keep up the good work.
So the GFG has a CEO. Who’d have thought it!
With thanks to the lovely Barbara Chalmers at Final Fling for making the announcement today – see blogpost here.
Looking forward to good times at GFG Towers as we continue celebrating the best in funeralworld while keeping a watchful eye out for the less than worthy.
Onwards and upwards!
Did you know that the term coffin lid applies to a type of surfboard? http://bit.ly/1p2stFW
A much needed new funeral home was opened in Sutton Coldfield by local MP Andrew ‘The Pleb’ Mitchell and NFFD MD William ‘Safe Hands’ Eccleston. The new business has adopted the strapline “here to care for you and your loved ones now and forever”, a reflection, presumably, on the size of its mortuary facility – http://bit.ly/1U1h0nb
In Folkestone a Co-op lim was ticketed by a traffic warden – http://bit.ly/1RBwuZ3
The Guardian wrote about death apps like Everest (above): “Everest is just one of a wave of apps and digital services that are emerging to help millennials plan their own #authentic mortal passings, right down to Instagram-worthy funerals. Last fall, rival apps Cake and SafeBeyond were released within one month of each other, and both hope to streamline end-of-life planning into one simple app.” – http://bit.ly/21W1duC
If you were sealed alive in a coffin you’d last about an hour, new research shows – http://bit.ly/1R9qLiJ
A Hampshire woman died aged 104 in the house she was born in and which she had lived in for her whole life – http://dailym.ai/1Xff6NP
Staff at Taunton Deane crematorium took a tough line with memorialised grave: “The memorial was placed without the necessary permit or permit fee being paid, and without the grave owners’ permission. Therefore the crematorium staff removed the memorial.” – http://bit.ly/21l3idS
Times columnist Janice Turner had a chat with her florist: ‘She told me of a woman who every day had to take a loaf of bread to her difficult mother. It was always wrong: burnt, stale, too soft, too hard. And when she died, the daughter had a floral tribute made of a loaf. The florist calls it up on her iPhone, garnished with Babybels. Its implicit, passive-aggressive message was: “So is this bread OK for you, Mum?”
‘Then the florist beckons me into the back room: “You have to see this.” Her colleague is busy making a wreath featuring a silver ashtray. “Apparently this lady really loved a smoke.” Did she, um, die of cancer? “Dunno. But we’re doing the fag so it lights up at the end. It’s all in the details.”’
Is it good PR for an undertaker to give Easter eggs to a children’s hospice? http://bit.ly/1pzLRux
A US evangelical Christian blog carried this observation about funerals: “Our anti-sacramental impulse isn’t well-suited to an occasion that calls for sacrament. This is an occasion that calls for liturgy and ritual, and those just aren’t things evangelicals are inclined or equipped to supply.” http://bit.ly/1LWgq7u
A man in Utah shot himself dead on the lawn of a funeral home – http://bit.ly/1SFeYYJ
An insurance company that sells over-50s life insurance funded a survey that, among other things, discovered that “family and friends in the UK have spent collectively £4.8 billion on funerals for their loved ones over the last 5 years. And the research shows that to fund these funerals 2.7 million people have taken out some form of finance (credit cards, personal loans and payday loans) spending £1.6 billion.” There are other funeral cost findings in the report – Creative campaign FINAL (1)
The Times warned its readers against over-50s plans: “The problem is if you live an average lifespan you will lose out, paying in significantly more than you get out. Heather Morrice wrote to say that her parents always said that their funeral expenses would be met. When her mother became ill a year ago she was given the plan for safekeeping and was ‘aghast to discover that they would only get a fraction of what they paid in.'” (Article paywalled)
In Puerto Rica a dead man attended his funeral sitting in a chair with his eyes open (pic below) – http://bit.ly/1RginIc
Six in ten people ‘see’ their dead partner – http://dailym.ai/1RfipWT
An Australian woman was charged with burying her mum in the garden – http://bit.ly/21pSmf8
How contagious is a corpse? “Contrary to commonly held beliefs, corpses are very poor sources of contagion. It doesn’t matter whether they are fresh or stinking, bloated, green and covered with mould – http://bit.ly/24YwpZa
A grief app was launched in Canada – http://bit.ly/1nHaUKK
Have a great week.
funerals 2.7 million people have taken out some form of finance (credit cards, personal loans and payday loans) spending £1.6 billion.
Proudly flying the flag of the NFFD