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What we can learn from the funerals in Game of Thrones

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Game of Thrones and funerals

Guest post by Amy Cunningham in the USA

With funeral options like earth-friendly burial in simple shroud or biodegradable casket, family-witnessed cremation, and full body sea submersion drawing more interest than ever, it’s a good time to notice that the end-of-life rituals in HBO‘s epic fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” are culturally connected. Not since “Six Feet Under,” has a TV show startled and electrified us with such fabulous funeral services. From high church to home-spun, these Celtic-y/Viking-ish pagan spectacles (that sometimes smack of a Greek/East Asian/ Mongolian influence) will affect the future funeral planning decisions of Americans now under the age of 30. To distill the wisdom in GOT’s finest send-offs (spoilers ahead!), my 19-year-old son Gordon Waldman has kindly come to my assistance. So many deaths have occurred in the six seasons that Slate magazine has been tracking them.

Here’s what we might glean–

1. Grief is real and long lasting.
It can drive you in strange and marvelous directions. Many main characters in the show are fueled by the emotions caused by loss. Cersei Lannister is basically driven to madness over the deaths of her children, while Arya Stark seeks gruesome revenge against those who murdered her family.

2. Bodies are important.
The phrase “bring out your dead” seems operative. Death is not a medical event, it’s a community experience, whether it’s the head of Ned Stark on a pike or yet another formal visitation with viewing in King’s Landing. I too want a golden burial shroud and loads of votive candles!

3. It’s nice to have the support of a hospice worker, death doula or home funeral guide to help you bathe and groom the deceased person’s body soon after death.
I’m impressed with the work of the Silent Sisters (the death midwifes of the Seven Kingdoms who collect, bathe, and shroud the dead). They remind me of my saintly sisters in the National Home Funeral Alliance, though we are far from silent at the moment.

Nice idea: the Silent Sisters hand delivered Eddard "Ned" Stark's remains to a tented residence.

Nice idea: the Silent Sisters hand delivered Eddard “Ned” Stark’s remains to a tented residence.

4. Rituals employing one of the elements–fire, water, earth, air–help grieving families process the loss.
The countless cremations conducted by the Night’s Watch are contrasted with the epic sea burials used by House Greyjoy. All are transformative.

The difficult-to-love Baylon Grayjoy had a stunningly gorgeous sea burial, one of my personal favorites. "Feed the creatures of your kingdom on his flesh. Pull his bones down to your depths to rest beside his ancestors and his children."

The difficult-to-love Baylon Grayjoy had a stunningly gorgeous sea burial, one of my personal favorites. “Feed the creatures of your kingdom on his flesh. Pull his bones down to your depths to rest beside his ancestors and his children.”

5. The more you involve yourself with the care of the dead and the funeral itself, the more you might help yourself heal.
There have been too many pyre lightings to mention, but the lesson seems to be–get in there, don’t hold back, participate in the funeral and heal.

Service for one: With tears in his eyes, a dutiful and beleaguered Jon Snow lights his lover Ygritte's pyre.

Service for one: With tears in his eyes, a dutiful and beleaguered Jon Snow lights his lover Ygritte’s pyre.

6. It is best not to make large demands of other family members at the funeral.
Jaimie and Cersei break this rule far too much, and have their most bizarre exchanges in front of the bier.

7. Stay flexible.
Funerals aren’t supposed to be perfect, and sometimes you have to change plans on a dime. Season six finale (spoiler alert!) shows Cersei spontaneously selecting cremation instead of entombment for her newly deceased son Tommen since, in a complex twist of fate, she’s just blown up their version of Westminster Abbey, where every other dead relative, up to then, had been placed in crypts.

8. Hang in there, get support.
As Daenerys learned after her Dothraki husband’s cremation, you never “get over” the death of someone close to you. But you will, in time, “get with” the loss and walk on with it. You might even hatch three dragons!

The cremation of Maester Aemon required four people to light each corner of the twiggy pyre. “He was the blood of the Dragon, but now his fire has gone out.” The memorable funeral service starts 90 seconds into this video.

Seasons of grieving: Take your time, cycle through, marinate in any death that is sudden or completely unexpected.

Seasons of grieving: Take your time, cycle through, marinate in any death that is sudden or completely unexpected.

Want something different? Why not order a handcrafted casket or make one yourself? A funeral can be just as imaginative and important as a wedding and, much to the surprise of some "Game of Thrones" characters, a funeral can turn out a lot better.

Want something different? Why not order a handcrafted casket or make one yourself? A funeral can be just as imaginative and important as a wedding and, much to the surprise of some “Game of Thrones” characters, a funeral can turn out a lot better.

Hang in there. Stay present. Take a risk. Something larger than yourself will hatch before too much more time passes.

Hang in there. Stay present. Take a risk. Something larger than yourself will hatch before too much more time passes.

Ed’s note: Today’s guest post comes from the other side of the pond.  Amy Cunningham, is the owner of the recently launched and much needed Fitting Tribute Funeral Services in Brooklyn, USA. She specialises in green burials in cemeteries certified by the Green Burial Council, simple burials within the NYC- Metropolitan area, home funerals, and cremation services at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery’s gorgeous crematory chapels.  She also helps residents of New York with affordable and sustainable funerals.  She’s a rare find in the New York funeral scene.  We have a lot of time for her much needed holistic approach to funerals.  If you’re ever in America, track her down.

Sizzling Summer continued..

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

cloudy sky

Now that the sun has come out a bit and the Wimbledon quarter finals have been reached, the attraction of spending daylight time at conferences and seminars about funerals has waned a little – however, the GFG is nothing if not self sacrificing, so this week that’s just what we’ve been doing.

Also, having rather cheekily asked for a free ticket to the CBCE conference, which is organised by The Cremation Society of Great Britain and The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (who were not on friendly terms with us back in 2014, see here) – and kindly been given one, it would have been churlish not to go along.

So on Monday and Tuesday this week we joined members and delegates in Stratford-upon-Avon, and sat in on some really rather excellent talks. Among them were presentations from some good friends of the GFG and people whose work we are very interested in: – Dr. John Troyer PhD from the Centre for Death and Society spoke on the subject of ‘All things dead are new again’ and gave a fascinating insight into society’s approach to death since the 1970’s, that period of social and political upheaval with very bad fashion. Did you know, for instance, that between 1968 and 1972 there were around 1,200 books published on the subject of death and bereavement? There was a huge interest in debating death and end of life issues that is largely now overshadowed by more recent ideas of death being a taboo.

Dr. Brian Parsons, (who has lots of letters after his name – more about him here) illustrated the exceptional promotion of cremation in the South London area between 1914 and 1939 and how this was achieved, showing us advertisements and leaflets from early in the 20th century and demonstrating how society’s view of cremation in this part of the country was changed in a much faster way than elsewhere in the UK as crematoria sprang up in close proximity to each other. (By 1939, within an 11.5 mile radius of the offices of Frederick Paine in Kingston, there were six crematoria to choose from.

Sandy Sullivan from Resomation Ltd gave an update on the developments so far, as he continues to push for the necessary legislative change in the UK to enable the first installation to take place here. In the USA there are three Resomation units in operation and over 2,000 Resomations have been carried out. No longer partnered by Co-operative Funeralcare, Sandy has a new partner in The LBBC Group, and his enthusiasm is undimmed by the long years of trying to get a Resomation unit operative here in Britain.

A second fascinating presentation yesterday came from Tony Ennis, CEO of ecoLegacy, whose ecoLation process is described as a disruptive, next-generation, environmental and ethical alternative to burial and cremation. Using freezing, heat and pressure, the ecoLation process is a way of breaking down the body to an elemental level until the only thing left is biologically inert dust. Half a billion dollars of equipment is to be deployed in the introduction of ecoLation units in the next five years, with the first commercial unit to be launched in Dublin in October. We’ll be going to have a look at it for you.

James Norris, our good friend from Dead Social and the Digital Legacy Association gave warning about the need for preparation for our death online and explored how we remember those who have died through social media and their ongoing online presence. He talked about the resources available for professionals from the DLA and how these could be used as a soft approach to open conversations about death by asking, for example, whether you have a password / security code to access your phone, tablet or laptop (the vast majority of us do) and whether you have told anyone else what that is. Well, have you? If you haven’t, then the huge amount of information held on your devices won’t be accessible when you die.

Dr. Mary Ross-Davie, the Education Project Manager for Maternal Health, NHS Education for Scotland recounted the multi-agency coordinated response to the Rt. Hon. Lord Bonomy’s report on infant cremation, and the resulting introduction of a new Code of Practice and new guidance for professionals working with newly bereaved parents. Of particular note is the newly accepted definition of ashes ‘All that is left in the cremator at the end of the cremation process following the removal of any metal’ – irrespective of their composition.

There was a detailed and comprehensive presentation from Dr. Anne Eyre PhD. looking at dealing with disasters and the implications for death care professionals. Drawing on her personal and professional experience, Dr. Eyre talked in depth about the essential need, both social and symbolic, to re-identify the dead in any disaster situation as persons, not just bodies, and how critical it is that people bereaved by disaster be given choice and control. In disasters, a person becomes an object, one of the dead, and society insists that disaster victims be treated as persons, not bodies – a person-to-object-to-person transformation through painstaking efforts to re-personalise the dead.

“Every effort needs to be made to turn bodies into persons. In this process of personalization, considerable respect is shown in handling bodies.

It is clear that something very important and very fundamental is occurring, for the dead are not socially dead unless the right steps are taken leading to an individual’s funeral.

To the dead, it may not matter, but it does to the living… the living will, if at all possible, not let go of the dead until the body involved is respectfully converted back into an individual person.”

Other speakers were Leona McAllister from Plotbox, who told the delegates about how the future ‘Memorial Parks’ could look, and P. Scott Odom, director / architect from GoldenAge – Mausoleum Solutions Ltd. who talked about community mausoleums in the USA.

The long day yesterday ended for us with the Presidents Panel, where four representatives from different trade organisations (SAIF, FBCA, NAMM and the Co-operative Funeral Services Managers Association) gave their thoughts about various subjects to the room. It was time to pack up and come home.


Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?

Every year we celebrate the best of the funeral industry with the Good Funeral Awards.  There isn’t a ‘Worst Crematorium of the Year” award but if there was such an accolade, we have a strong contender.

Introducing our readers to West London Crematorium, as photographed on Thursday 30th June 2016.

Decaying curtains, stained carpets, seating you wouldn’t want to sit on, general disrepair and so much more.

Shoddy’s a good word.  As is lazy.  So is unacceptable.  All befit the state of this crematorium.

Our question: Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?  It’s over to you.

West London Crematorium
Kensal Green, Harrow Road, London, W10 4RA
Owned and managed by the General Cemetery Company
Cost of cremation: £650

Ed’s note – we’ve contacted the General Cemetery Company and asked for a response.  We’ll keep you updated.  

Full disclosure – I took the photographs below when I returned to the crematorium to look for my lost book of funeral poetry, the day after taking a service in the West Chapel.







Sizzling Summer

Thursday, 30 June 2016


Like you, at GFG Towers we’ve been waiting for summer to start. No sign so far, so rather than watching the umbrellas go up at Wimbledon yet again, we’ve wangled invitations to a whole number of gatherings of the great and the good in funeralworld. Indoor ones.

First up was a chance an invitation from Anne Barber of Civil Ceremonies Ltd to speak to a room full of celebrants at historic Buckden Towers last Saturday on the subject of ‘What lies ahead’.

In between a presentation about the Wesley System,  a delightfully entertaining account from Evelyn Temple on becoming a funeral director, an encouragement to embrace Tea, Cake and Death (by the GFG Editor wearing her Poetic Endings hat) – and a rather stern warning to celebrants about the advance of direct cremations from Catherine Powell, we had a chance to talk about the future of the GFG and what we want to achieve. Despite the lack of Powerpoint presentation (and indeed any preparation other than a few scribbled notes; the fallout from the result of the EU referendum 24 hours earlier had sort of taken precedence over formulating a professional speech..!) the audience seemed to be interested to hear what we have up our sleeves. We met some very nice people, and got to hang out with them for a ‘Damage Limitation’ workshop at the end of the day where various disastrous funeral scenarios were posited and suggestions for remedying the situations shared.

Next up was a 200 mile round trip to Birmingham yesterday to the ICCM Seminar on Tackling Funeral Poverty. This was a corker! Delegates from across the sector of cemetery and crematorium management gathered together with a smattering of outsiders to listen to six speakers – Simon Cox from Royal London, Alex Strangwayes-Booth from the BBC, Heather Kennedy from Quaker Social Action, Nick Willcocks from, Martin Birch from Cardiff City Council and Howard Hodgson… a well known name in the funeral industry.

Simon Cox kicked off the proceedings with a review of the Royal London 2015 findings and a sneak preview of the 2016 findings. His overview of the rising costs of funerals and the lukewarm government response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s recommendations was informative and detailed, and he ended with a warning about the projected cost of a funeral reaching £10,000 by 2033 if average funeral costs continue to rise on the same trajectory as in recent years.

Alex’s presentation detailed her research into the rising number of Public Health Funerals in the UK for a report for BBC News. She made a Freedom of Information request to all the councils responsible for carrying out Public Health Funerals to discover costs and numbers from 2010 to 2014.

Of 409 councils responsible for Public Health Funerals, 300 responded fully, providing her with months of data crunching to discover some fascinating and alarming facts. The North West of England carries out the most Public Health Funerals, the South East region has shown the biggest rise in numbers during the time period examined (32%), the South West region showed the biggest rise in cost to local authorities of Public Health Funerals (63%). And Birmingham carried out 245 Public Health Funerals in 2014. Councils recover approximately 50% of the costs involved, which amount to £1.7m p.a. Alex noted a huge discrepancy in the amount paid out by local authorities for each funeral, ranging between £300 and £2,000, and noted that there is no baseline.

During questions to the first two speakers, Julie Dunk from the ICCM spoke about the huge variation in the standard of provision of Public Health Funerals across the UK. Some local authorities offer a service with a minister, others just delivery to the cemetery or crematorium. There is no legal requirement to offer anything other than just the disposal of the body, but particularly in local authorities where Public Health Funerals come under the department for bereavement services, the standard of provision of funerals seems to be better. A national minimum standard would be generally approved of, but with ever dwindling council budgets, this scenario seems a long way away.

Angela Abbott, Bereavement Services Team Leader from Milton Keynes Council, shared her innovative solution to the quality and cost of providing Public Health Funerals – she and a colleague carry them out themselves. When they realised over £150,000 had gone out of the Milton Keynes council coffers to pay funeral directors to provide funeral services in recent years, they rolled up their sleeves and started collecting bodies and ordering coffins directly. As word got out, families who wanted some help with logistics but didn’t want to use a funeral director’s services got to hear about what Angela and James were doing, and they have now helped around 20 DIY families as well as carrying out 60 or so Public Health Funerals. The savings made to the council budget have allayed any concerns from above, and the quality of funerals they provide now meet Angela’s exacting standards – ministers, flowers and music are all a matter of course.

After coffee, we sat back to hear a response from Heather Kennedy, who talked about her work at QSA, the Funeral Poverty Alliance and the Fair Funerals Campaign. To date, 560 funeral director branches have signed up to the Fair Funerals Pledge  representing 15% of the industry. She outlined some of the things that the Fair Funerals Campaign are asking for: municipal funeral services, setting of standard fees, better access to public health funerals, transparent fees and partnership with other departments.

Heather was followed by Nick Willcocks from, the online price comparison website. He outlined the need for reliable online price comparison of funeral director services and explained how the website worked – and got rather a rough ride from a FD among the audience who seemed annoyed that the NAFD hadn’t been asked first before the website was launched.

We retired for lunch before the questioning became too tetchy, and sat with the lovely Charles Howlett from Chilterns Crematorium who talked about the huge changes he has seen during his life in the industry, and how much he welcomed discussions about doing funerals better rather than the merits of various cremator machinery, as ICCM meetings of the past had tended to focus on. Then we were back in the room for the last two speakers, and very interesting they were too.

Martin Birch talked about the municipal funeral service that has been provided for residents in Cardiff for 18 years by the council, in partnership with local funeral directors who tender for the opportunity. This service is available to any resident in Cardiff, and helps control local costs, offering a quality funeral with a hearse and one limousine, all FD services including collection, care, unlimited viewing during office hours and including one out of hours visit all for £1,030. Martin cited the local average costs for a funeral where cremation is chosen including disbursements other than a minister / celebrant as £4,500, whereas the comparable Cardiff City Funeral Service costs £1,708. Similarly local average costs for a funeral where burial is chosen are £5,000, while the CCFS offering is £2,320. Twelve per cent of funerals in Cardiff are carried out by CCFS.

We liked this very much indeed!

Then finally, the last speaker stepped up to speak about The Fashion of Death. Howard Hodgson was never going to be uncontroversial. We listened. We looked round the room and everyone was listening. And we asked him whether he would like to write a guest blog for the GFG. Watch this space – he was delighted to accept.

Just as a final note, at the end of the seminar there was a sharing session and the chair invited the various speakers to join different tables and talk about what they had heard during the day. He also suggested that the funeral directors sitting together at a table might like to do the same, as the ICCM members would undoubtedly be interested in hearing their thoughts. There was a flurry of movement as people rearranged themselves in groups.. and the FDs stayed exactly where they were. They didn’t move.

We mused on this metaphor as we drove back in the rain. The times they are a’changing, but some people just don’t want to budge.

Anyway, tonight we’re off to a party for the First Findings of The Corpse Project. We’ll report back. And next week holds a Cremation and Burial Communication and Education three day conference and a Child and Baby Funeral Choice seminar from the Child Funeral Charity. Lots going on at the moment so it’s probably just as well the sun hasn’t made an appearance yet.


Farewell Peggy

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Peggy Mitchell's funeral


WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/06/2016 - Programme Name: EastEnders - July - September 2016 - TX: 04/07/2016 - Episode: EastEnders July - September 2016 - 5310 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 28th JUNE, 2016* The Carters show their respects as Peggy's funeral procession pulls into Albert Square. Johnny Carter (TED REILLY), Linda Carter (KELLIE BRIGHT), Lee Carter (DANNY-BOY HATCHARD), Whitney Dean (SHONA MCGARTY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/06/2016 - Programme Name: EastEnders - July - September 2016 - TX: 04/07/2016 - Episode: EastEnders July - September 2016 - 5310 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 28th JUNE, 2016* Peggy's funeral procession makes it's way through Albert Square. - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

Here’s a sneak preview from the Radio Times showing the upcoming sendoff of Britain’s favourite pub landlady – the one and only Peggy Mitchell.

In good old East End tradition, she’s going out with the horses, the plumes and the flowers.

So… following Charles’ hearse spotting tradition.  Who supplied the horses?

Introducing a new tradition… a (small) prize for whoever works it out first!



It’s all burgundy

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Camp Hopson bought out by Dignity Plc

“Fifth generation family business Camp Hopson & Co has sold its funeral services brand to listed group Dignity.

Camp Hopson has been trading in Berkshire for more than a century and operates a department store in Newbury.

It sold the business and assets of Camp Hopson Funerals to Dignity for an undisclosed sum in a deal led by Quercus Corporate Finance.

It is the second Camp Hopson deal that Quercus has worked on in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the team advised the company’s board on its sale of Camp Hopson Removals to London-based Ward Thomas.”

From Insider Media

How will this play out?  Let’s take a guess.

The name remains, only the colour changes.


Together in electric dreams

Monday, 30 May 2016

Brahms EcoHearse

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.!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:


A not so quiet revolution

Friday, 22 April 2016


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?

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