Charles Cowling

Behind the scenes with Down to Earth (i) from Quaker Social Action on Vimeo.


One in six UK households struggle to pay for a funeral.

UK funeral debt is worth over £130m and is rising. 

QSA seeks a funeral poverty officer to take significant steps to influence policy and practice in both government and in the market to help more people nationally who are struggling to pay for a funeral. 

This role will build on QSA’s award-winning work, Down to Earth, which helps people living on low incomes in east London to arrange a meaningful and affordable funeral.

 Quaker Social Action

Funeral poverty officer

£20,002 (28 hours per week)

More information/job pack/application forms at


7 thoughts on “Good job

  1. Charles Cowling
    Jennifer Uzzell

    It is indeed an excellent job and an excellent initiative. Such a shame that it has to come from the Quakers rather than being tackled by the government off their own initiative!
    There are many ways funeral costs could be reduced, I suspect. Many other ways in which funeral poverty could be addressed. Most involve systemic changes….unlikely.
    So sad.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    Its time the government started to listen to the public in relation to the ever increasing cost of funeral services. How can hospital doctors charge an extra £78 for a signature on medical forms when they are already being paid for doing their chosen job in normal working hours. A nice little earner if you can get it.
    I think this practice should stop immediately and the saving be passed on to the family to reduce funeral costs.

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling

      I agree in principle, Steve, though as you’re aware the doctor has to examine the body – sometimes involving travel – and commit to a conclusion (which stands to be challenged if a medical referee or other doctor sees fit) about the cause of death; which in turn has to be verified by an independent opinion. Strikes me it’s worth at least grateful recognition, if not money.

      And it can be hard enough to get a doctor (on a hundred grand a year) to do that at all sometimes, let alone free of charge just because she happens to be at work at the time, and there’s no reason to assume doctors are especially altruistic people.

      Charles Cowling
      1. Charles Cowling

        … although, thinking again, it is our money we’re paying them, on top of the money we already paid them to be at work in the first place… maybe the real problem is that doctors are grossly overpaid?

        Our MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston, said she took a salary drop of £40,000 a year to work in Westminster, and that she couldn’t find any of her friends who’d work for as little as the £65,000 she now has to subsist on, poor dear. Perhaps she could look for some new friends? Or we could recruit some less ambitious medics?

        Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    I support this admirable initiative. I also cautiously suppose that ‘influencing policy and practice in government and the market’ may perhaps turn out to be a good thing, though I distrust markets and governments instinctively. Good luck to whoever gets the job – please do what you can to subsidise cremation fees, for a start.

    East London is only a tiny place; and in the three years DtE has been going, just four hundred local families helped is a drop in a vast ocean of poverty nationwide. One in six households in Britain goes into debt over a funeral – that sounds like at least two funerals at every single crematorium, every single day – to the tune of £1,200 each. It may not sound much to the other five, but to the one in six it is an insurmountable problem at a time when the bottom has perhaps already fallen out of your world and you’re dependent on going into debt to finance your permanent loss.

    Funerals have to come down in price, drastically and urgently, and we can’t expect the professionals to take the initiative when their livelihood depends on their profits. Funeral directors can be poor, too. I certainly couldn’t afford one, and DIY would be my only choice. (The best choice by far, anyway, in my experience.)

    The problem starts because you’ve got to move a dead body, urgently and before you can think (though this part is mostly just for someone else’s convenience, not your own need), and you probably have no way of doing that without expensive help. The only ones with a body fridge are undertakers, who have a commercial interest in you as a paying customer, so unless you’ve thought this one through beforehand and you’re okay with dead bodies and ice packs you’re basically at their mercy. It’s a white water ride from there on down, in practice if not in theory, and the costs are as much out of your control as your emotions and your autonomy.

    Why aren’t there public mortuaries? Places where you can pay a nominal fee to keep a dead body, until you’ve had time to get used to your weirdly altered mental state and talk through alternatives and ideas to fit your emotional needs as well as your budget. Somewhere where nobody has a vested interest in you, nothing to sell you. A public health venture whose primary interest is your healthy grieving, coupled to a funeral fund worthy of the name and fit for purpose – that’d be worth paying taxes for.

    Natural death? It should mean free death, healthy death, manageable death, community death, supported death. Death that’s freely talked about before it happens.

    Death can treat us with the utmost cruelty; but we should try and make sure its aftermath comes gently and with a healing hand, not stealthily like a thief in the night.

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling

      Hear! Hear! Jonathan, or Here! Here! Jonathan – in any case I wholeheartedly Agree! Agree!

      Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    Poppy Mardall

    Such great news! What a cracking and important job!

    Charles Cowling

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