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Fran Hall 1 Comment
Fran Hall

It seems that there are people in positions of some authority in funeralworld who don’t quite understand the Good Funeral Guide’s position on the idea of regulation of the funeral industry.

This is strange, because we thought we had made ourselves quite clear over the years.

We have written about it many, many times – type ‘regulation’ into the search bar on the blog and more than 50 results pop up.

The very first blog post on the subject was written by Charles back in 2009, a powerful piece arguing in his usual articulate fashion that “Lousy undertakers can never be improved by training courses and government regulation.”

He goes on to state: “Professionalising and regulating undertakers can only reinforce the perception that they are the default disposers of the dead and, worse, move them a step closer to being the only people licensed to do so.

You are the default disposer of your dead. The undertaker, if you choose to engage one, is your agent. That is your ancient right, and that right defines your responsibility both to yourself and to your dead. Let us honour all those superb undertakers out there who embrace that.”

While this continues to be our absolute and certain belief, over the last ten years since Charles wrote that excellent post, it has become apparent that some form of regulation of the funeral sector is likely to be inevitable.

Huge efforts are underway by powerful players in the funeral industry to shape the form of regulation.

The focus of these efforts appear to be on “Quality and Standards’ – interestingly two words that Dignity are concentrating on, see the report published by Dignity PLC  in August 2018 “Time to Talk About Quality and Standards”. We wrote about the report here and the full document can be downloaded here.

Our position on the prospect of regulation of the funeral sector (as laid out very clearly in a blog post on 26th September 2018) is as follows.

In bold, so that those reading the blog don’t miss it again:

At the GFG we have long taken a stance that regulation of the funeral industry needs to be carefully considered and crafted, and definitely not determined by the trade associations involved. Trade associations are exactly what the name implies.

Any decision on regulation should be led by the interests of the bereaved person, a consumer focus that trade associations are, by definition the exact opposite to. Trade associations represent the interests of their members. Full stop.

Hope this clears up any misunderstanding (or any manoeuvres to portray the GFG as being completely against any kind of regulation).


Now we have to dash. It’s a busy week.


  1. Fran Hall

    Good quality regulation of the funeral industry would be a fine enough thing I suppose, given that the public currently approach a funeral director like a reluctant bride entering an arranged marriage and bringing an indefinite dowry. It’s the possible emotional contamination of actual funerals enacted by families, as a result of any heavy-handed control of the mobsters, that’s the spectre looming over all this talk. And it’s the thing that alarms me most, along with the perception that funeral directors are even needed for anything, other than a fridge — imagine if, say, in a Corbynistical utopia, corpses were disposed of at the courtesy of the State, then why on earth would you want to pay a funeral director to arrange an accompanying ceremony, any more than you’d want any other event organizer to put on any other family occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary celebration?

    The elephant in this room is the stiff. It informs the industry’s business model.

    What’s really needed for radical improvement of our precious funerals is a bottom-up approach from the public. We’re all going to die, and most of us will want to arrange someone’s funeral, and so education — talks about funerals and bereavement; open conversations about the practicalities of dealing with a dead body; learning about our ownership of our grieving riguals and how the funeral industry works to undermine it, and our unsuspecting collusion with that — will do far more than fighting the lobbyists with a vested interest in selling us their fridge space for a few days for four £grand.

    Do as I have done, and continue to do: talk to people. Arrange events for discussions about death, and about getting rid of a corpse with love, and about treating the tradesmen for the paid tradesmen they are and not our new husband. You may be surprised at their popularity and their enthusiastic reception.

    Think on this:

    1: We don’t talk about funerals until we’re faced with a dead body to dispose of;

    2: we don’t handle our own dead any more, and want body specialists to deal with our loved ones’ remains;

    3: undertakers have a complete monopoly on mortuary space, so only they can take our dead away, and we’re pathetically grateful when they do. But they have a perfectly valid vested interest in selling us a completely separate ‘funeral directing’ service as well, which even (especially) in our emotionally compromised state we would be far better at accomplishing than they are, given the second-rate costume drama most of them continue doggedly to put on. But we’re lost, confused, often helpless, so we allow ourselves to be led by anyone at all who tells us, “this way, Madam.”

    Moral: talk about funerals to everyone you can, before their need becomes urgent.

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