Category Archives: Uncategorized

A not so quiet revolution

Friday, 22 April 2016

revolution

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.

Professional services

A coffin

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?

Jolly nice cars for sale

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

ford_mondeo_2_0_tdci_titanium_5dr_estate_estate_4240091456003186458

 

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.

Chris says:

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

 

Save the date!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Good Funeral Awards 2016

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 info@goodfuneralawards.co.uk as soon as possible for more information.

 

But on a happier note…

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Observer 14th April 1991

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.

First day in the new job..

Friday, 1 April 2016

Fran

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!

Last week’s news

Sunday, 20 March 2016

personalised-urn-6

We’ve scoured the known universe for the latest from Funeralworld and do you know, we found nothing worth drawing your attention to. Nothing.

Have a great week (nonetheless).

 

Yesterday…

Sunday, 13 March 2016

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.

1457848732232 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

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

Yesterday’s news

Sunday, 6 March 2016

30D8CF4600000578-3429917-Pilgrims_in_Rome_gather_around_the_body_of_Padre_Pio_who_took_th-a-56_1454599802815

Padre Pio

 

Iraqi gravediggers are counting their blessings as civil war rages. One said: “To be honest about it, it makes us happy to do this job. We make a lot of money.” Suicide bombers are especially good for business. Another undertaker said “Many are incomplete. It depends what the family find. Sometimes we get just a leg or hand to bury. A couple of days ago I buried just two feet from one guy. “Saddam helped us a lot,” said another. “If he wasn’t at war he was always hanging people. Sundays and Wednesdays he’d hang men, Tuesdays he hanged women. So if other business was slow, at least we knew which days of the week to wait for the bodies of the hanged.” http://thetim.es/1prmsD7

In the Sunday Times Beatles biographer Hunter Davies wrote about his wife’s funeral. He wanted the minimum of fuss and was pleased with the Direct Cremation package offered by Leverton’s at £1900. The family designed and printed the service sheets and led the funeral ceremony – “I’ve always hated it at funerals when the person in charge has clearly never met the deceased”. The music was recorded on CD by Leverton’s and the final song was a cover version, not the real thing. Leverton’s rang and apologised and made a donation to Marie Curie. Leverton’s publish their prices online, setting an example all undertakers should follow.

Nice piece here on funeral food in the US deep south – http://bit.ly/1QvjtCB

Dead people in the Isle of Man can now travel to their funeral in a Morris Minor – http://bit.ly/1Ssfpp7

Bristolians enjoy a proper fighting funeral – http://bit.ly/1RO91Xl In Lincolnshire a man was murdered during a funeral wake – http://bbc.in/1L9nDkD

What’s a funeral stylist? Find out here  http://bit.ly/1QXAHWf

The Undertaker is fighting in select venues in April. Book now – http://bit.ly/1R1u8Za

Scots are invited to be writer-in-residence at a funeral parlour to mixed reactions – http://bit.ly/1TjMWTJ

A funeral service was held on the A303 – http://bit.ly/21Q8wE5

The corpse of Padre Pio is going on tour – http://bit.ly/1QDAkRI

A man died hours after watching a video of his wife’s funeral in his hospital bed – http://dailym.ai/1ROaz3z

Golden Charter is booming – http://bit.ly/1pt0uQb

Cilla’s grave isn’t looking good – http://dailym.ai/21TsRVM

King’s College hospital cremated a man without telling his family he was dead – http://dailym.ai/1U4ZPjp

Two Swedes are proposing a vertical cemetery – http://slate.me/1TKTeuf

A funeral show in New Zealand attracted 2000 – http://bit.ly/1p0sBpB

An Australian man was found guilty of the attempted murder of a corpse – http://bit.ly/1U51BAT

That’s your lot. Have a great week.

 

Who cares what you think?

Friday, 4 March 2016

focus-groups

 

I was rung up last year by a newbie undertaker who wanted the GFG to endorse his business. He had opened up in a small market town which already has a respected and established undertaker. Was he aiming to do anything different? No. Had he worked out the size of the market? No. It wouldn’t have taken him more than the few moments it took me. His town has a population of 13,000. The death rate is presently 9.34 per 1,000. So that’s 121.42 funerals a year. Throw in some local villages and you might get that up to 150. Divided between 2 undertakers, one with a big competitive advantage. I asked him why he had set up on his own. Usual story: he’d worked for an undertaker and always dreamed of being his own boss. He hoped it would work out. Why should it?

A little bit of market research goes a long way. We see very little of it in the funerals business, which is why there is such an oversupply of undertakers. The undertaker above is no one-off.

You can possibly help me here because I’ve been AWOL for months and I’m playing catch-up. Has there been any survey by, say, the NAFD or Saif in response to the social trends which account for the ongoing slow death of the traditional funeral as consumers increasingly opt for private funerals or direct cremation followed by a corpseless commemorative event – a celebration of life, a FD-less memorial service? Has anyone conducted a survey to find out what consumers are thinking and why? Considering that the business model of a full-service funeral home depends on people buying the complete suite of services, you’d think a little bit of existential angst might have prompted some market research.

Can any funeral director point to any market research, ever, which shows that bereaved people will beat a path to your door if you buy a new fleet of cars? That they think the marque and newness of your cars is a signifier of excellent personal service? That they give a toss about your cars?

We have regular surveys that tell us what consumers are doing – for example, what music they are choosing to play at a funerals. But precious few asking what they want. None that I can think of.

Progressive funeral people are no better. They think they know what’s best for bereaved people.  They work from preconceptions. They like to say things like “Those trad FDs are the reason why funerals are so bad.” Where’s the evidence that these businesses are not giving people exactly what they ask for? “Funerals have been stolen from the people.” Is this what’s happened or did the people willingly hand over the whole shooting match to the undertakers? “I want to help families reclaim the care of their dead from the undertakers.” Is this what families actually want to do?  How any of them? “People should be able to arrange a funeral that works for them.” Oh nice, what does that look like? “I want to open a funeral home that does things completely differently.” What’s the market need for that? How big is that market? “I want to help disadvantaged people arrange funerals they can afford.” Is there a living in that?

An element of hit-and-hope is always going to characterise any enterprise that seeks to break new ground. But you can only calculate risk if you have taken the trouble to get to know your market first and estimated the likelihood of being able to bring round waverers to the merits of what you’re offering. You leave as little to chance as possible, so you do the hard yards first.

More surveys, that’s what we need. More focus groups. A lot more marketing savvy. Above all, a lot more humility. Funerals are not the preserve of those who know best (and have nothing to learn) whether they’re old-school types with nothing to learn or middle-class so-called progressives.

A lot of people have set the world to rights on this blog, very cogently and persuasively. But it’s amounted to no more than preaching to the choir. The people we need to reach are the people who don’t take a continuous interest in death and funerals — the ones who check in to this website when someone dies and they need to act faster than they can think. Normal people. We need to ask them what they think.  

Something old, something news

Monday, 29 February 2016

1-lu1bHQPTF7H2di0WOjxw6w

Tear of sadness from the Imaginarium of Tears

 

In Wales a car crashed into a funeral procession killing the horse that was pulling the hearse – http://bit.ly/1QHl2Av

The CDAS newsletter is out, full of good things. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up – http://bit.ly/1LO2aZf

Dead women are being dug up in China to be corpse brides for dead bachelors – http://bit.ly/1oHItNv  This inspired London fashionista to include a corpse bride installation in her recent show – http://dailym.ai/1OHGoq0

Cremation is now legal in Greece. Our brothers and sisters in crematoria are intrigued by this cremator – http://bit.ly/1T3AmYt

Over the last 5 years 1.2 million people have taken out payday loans to cover the cost of a funeral, a total of £576 million – http://bit.ly/1TLnF4x

A discussion about funeral sex here – http://bit.ly/1QlRx5a

Sharp-eyed viewers of Happy Valley saw strangled Amelia Bullmore blink on the mortuary table – http://bit.ly/215TnZO

The C of E can repulse civil celebrants, says the Church Times – http://bit.ly/1VMGvGx  Letter from civil celebrant here – http://bit.ly/21DcOv6

Old people who lose a partner are being fed antidepressants – http://bit.ly/1KPD8Ov

Kenya has a problem with necrophiliac mortuary workers – http://bit.ly/1oITP3Q

Good article by Rosie Inman-Cook of the NDC here – http://bit.ly/1RhL5eu

Disruptive startups are bringing the French funerals business up to date – http://bit.ly/20PFuyC

Finally, in the US people are tending to go to visitations and skip the funeral. Has the British memorial service something to learn from this sort of less structured, drop-in event? http://bit.ly/1VMFmih

That’s it. Have a great week.

Page 2 of 4512345...102030...Last »