The devaluation of the Social Fund Funeral Payment is the main cause of funeral poverty, but there are others. Some families sign up to more than they can afford – and funeral directors let them. The impact on both parties can be devastating. While the great and the good convene conferences to debate solutions, a practical lesson may come from, of all unlikely sources, the debt collection sector.
Templegate Recoveries is a debt collection agency that has been recommended to us by a funeral director whom we know and admire and like. So we asked Joanna Rogers, who founded the business with her sister Alex, to write about what they do to help funeral directors and families to avoid the misery of unpaid bills. Jo is on standby to respond to your comments.
After 25 years in the Debt Recovery business my sister and I decided to start Templegate Recoveries Ltd. We wanted to service the small to medium size businesses in a more personal and ethical way than what was on offer from the large debt collection agencies. Our main priorities are ensuring that the good name of our clients is protected and the feelings of their customers are treated with respect and consideration at all times.
Because this ethos has attracted many funeral directors who want a more personal and sympathetic service we have, over the years, become experts in the collection of funeral debt
We have made it our business to keep up to date with all relevant legislation within the industry and now find ourselves not only recovering our client’s debt, but also assisting the debtors themselves. We make sure they know all the payment options open to them, where any assistance is available and provide forms where necessary, so our clients receive their money back at the earliest opportunity and the families who have lost their loved ones have peace of mind.
We regularly encounter genuinely cash-strapped individuals trying to bury their loved ones alongside the frivolous money’s-no-object (until the bill comes in) family member who believes the bigger the funeral the more loved the deceased. Unfortunately there’s a real lack of knowledge when it comes to funerals and many people still believe the government will provide financial assistance – that is, until they find themselves responsible for a large bill after the funeral.
We have come across many situations where a family have got the unemployed, benefit-claiming sibling to sign for the funeral in the hope the DWP will pay. However, if there are working family members the DWP won’t pay, leaving a big bill with someone unable to pay it and more often than not the funeral director considerably out of pocket.
In this situation honesty is always the best way forward, both on the part of the funeral director and the family arranging the funeral. Funeral directors have historically found it difficult to discuss cost with a distressed family that have just lost their loved one, and families find it difficult in such an upsetting time to be realistic about what they can actually afford. However there is help on both sides.
Here at Templegate we have spent considerable time with our Funeral Directors tightening up their in-house procedures, helping them spot families that are likely to have problems paying, providing extra information forms for them to use and modernising their terms & conditions to include a debt recovery clause. This offers protection for both parties. It is the responsibility of the Funeral Director to help steer the family towards a funeral that will be financially viable for them, and for the family to recognise that at the end of the day the Funeral Director is a business that needs paying for their services.
There clearly needs to be more transparency about the help available for individuals on benefits who have no ability to pay for a funeral at all. For example there is the SF500 form which is a crisis loan from the government that historically helps with housing repairs, clothing allowances etc but will now help considerably with funeral costs. Further, if there are no other family members in employment the DWP will also pay up to around £1,400 towards the funeral. If you are a family, however, which does not qualify for any of the above there is absolutely no shame in having a public health funeral that is far more manageable financially.
Funeral Directors suffer hugely due to the fact that they are the only industry that offers the amount of credit that they do with very few questions asked. Quite often they are family run businesses that arrange all their funerals on blind trust that at the end of the day they will be paid, but sadly this is often not the case. Businesses that have been in families for many years are getting into a considerable amount of financial difficulty due to unpaid funeral bills and disbursements that have to be paid up front. We believe this needs to change to reflect the tougher times we now find ourselves in.
If you are reading this article and you have sadly lost a loved one and are looking to arrange a funeral, remember the following. The person signing the arrangement form is the person legally responsible for paying the account, therefore if you are paying as a family then all family members should sign. Secondly, Funeral Directors do not hold a credit licence, therefore you will need to pay the account in its entirety after the funeral has taken place. Try to remember the type of funeral you can afford is not a measure of how much you love the deceased and if you are honest with the funeral director they will provide you with a very dignified service that is still within your budget. There is nothing worse than grieving for a loved one and worrying about how you are going to pay their funeral bill on top.
Further, if you are a Funeral Director reading this article please be mindful of the fact that times are changing and that you are in fact a business. It is just as important to offer a family a suitable service within their budget as it is to get all the details right on the day. There is not a company anywhere that would offer you a considerable amount of credit with no questions asked and the same applies to Funerals. If you feel you need any further assistance with either outstanding accounts or wish to make use of our consultancy service please go to www.templegaterecoveries.co.uk for more information or alternatively call us on 01932 269412.
Finally, If you are an individual worried about how you are going to pay for the funeral of your loved one, please do not hesitate to call and ask for Jo, Alex or Irene and we will be happy to help.