In this section you will find the latest news and campaign updates from the National Association of Funeral Directors.
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It was encouraging that the ITV documentary ‘Funerals: A Costly Undertaking?’, broadcast on 3 November 2016, highlighted the importance of the work undertaken by funeral directors to support families in saying farewell in the way that they want to, and that there is much more to a good funeral arrangement than handing a coffin catalogue to a bereaved person.
The programme also made some very important points about the need for Britons to think about their eventual funeral, revealing data which showed that almost three quarters of adults hadn’t done any research on the subject and two thirds didn’t know how much a funeral would cost.
However, despite highlighting these important truths about the British reluctance to plan for their funeral, the programme failed to reflect the hard work of NAFD member firms across the UK and instead allowed anecdotes and allegations made by a small number of interviewees to prevail largely unchallenged.
It was also a shame that the programme makers chose to focus almost solely on planning for the cost of a funeral rather than looking at broader issues such as the importance of considering standards and service, as well as cost when choosing a funeral director.
The NAFD was actually interviewed for the documentary. However, three hours of interviews with NAFD spokeswoman Jenny Gilbert, a compassionate and dedicated funeral director from Leicestershire, ended up compressed into a few, short voiced statements by the presenter. Although positive comments were made about the profession by other participants such as funeral director Lucy Coulbert, who is not a member of either the NAFD or SAIF, many of the challenges laid at the door of the profession went unchallenged.
Equally, the case studies focused solely on families who, for various reasons, were uncomfortable with their experience of a funeral director. There were no interviews with the tens of thousands of families every year who are satisfied with the services of their funeral director and comfortable with how much the funeral cost, which would have represented a more balanced approach.
We have contacted the programme’s producers with these concerns, together with details of some factual errors made during the programme and would encourage any members with concerns to share their views by emailing Tonight@itv.com.
It would have been a refreshing change, for example, to hear from people like Alan Dawson, who lives in Stirlingshire in Scotland and speaks for many thousands of people when he says:
“(The funeral director) listened to our wishes and provided a clear estimate with no hidden charges or artificial discounts. He was straightforward and I liked that. Our first meeting was very tough but he couldn’t have been lovelier. He is clearly very experienced and skilled at his job but his character shone through. Clearly…being a funeral director is more than just a job. He took time to listen, to empathise and to build rapport with us, chatting with my mum about her home town. He was diplomatic, articulate and eloquent and he gently and clearly explained what would happen.”
However, setting aside for a moment our concerns about balance, two key conclusions were drawn by presenter Adam Shaw in the programme and they are ones the NAFD wholeheartedly agrees with:
1. Britons need to plan and set money aside in advance – your funeral is inevitable.
2. Britons need to act as savvy funeral consumers, just as they would for any other purchase in life.
The NAFD believes that the combination of a British unwillingness to talk about funerals and a society that is no longer saving for a rainy day is the key reason behind the challenges facing many families in funding the funeral of someone close to them.
Researching funerals means getting hold of information in advance. During the programme, Quaker Social Action’s Heather Kennedy highlighted the importance of funeral directors offering easy access to clear price lists, something that the NAFD also requires in its members. Under our Code of Practice, we expect members to provide a transparent, itemised price list and we are also encouraging all our members to have prices online by 2020 – with 25% of them already having done so.
The documentary also considered what help is available for the poorest families in the UK. The NAFD was pleased to hear funeral director Lucy Coulbert rightly highlight the inadequacy of current government bereavement benefits, saying that the £700 Social Fund funeral expenses payment, unchanged in 13 years, doesn’t even come close to covering the essential costs of a funeral. However, she was wrong to suggest third party costs were guaranteed to be paid as this is not always the case and may have given the impression that everyone is eligible for support, which is again inaccurate.
In this documentary, ITV acknowledged how important funerals are in the journey we make through grief when someone dies and, although the programme looked at simple disposal options and DIY funerals, the general sense was that these would be choices for a very small percentage of the population and the NAFD would agree. Overwhelmingly, the British population – some 95% – continues to choose a funeral director to arrange the funeral of someone that has died.
NAFD member firms carry out their responsibility to bereaved families with great pride and integrity and are respected in their local communities for the work they do. As the UK’s largest funeral industry body, we share ITV’s concerns about those funeral directors that do not meet the high standards we set for our members. However, these firms are in the minority and should be held to account, rather than allowing them to be viewed as in some way representative of the entire British funeral profession. Certainly if we are provided with evidence that any NAFD member has breached our Code of Practice they will be fully investigated through our Professional Standards process.
Sadly, we will all die one day. Yet very few people in the UK put any plans in place for their funeral, no matter how simple their wishes might be. A result of this reluctance to plan ahead for the inevitable, as Royal London’s Funeral Cost Index has revealed today (19 October 2016), is that an increasing number of people are having to borrow money to pay for a funeral, despite the fact that funeral firms are holding, and in some cases reducing, their prices.
The National Association of Funeral Directors attended the debate on the Government’s Social Fund Funeral Payment in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 14 September.
It was extremely encouraging to see MPs from across the UK debating this nationwide issue and we would like to thank Gavin Robinson MP (East Belfast) for calling the debate. It attracted a greater number of MPs than on previous occasions, a sign that parliamentarians are heeding the calls of the funeral profession and organisations such as Quaker Social Action and Cruse Bereavement Care that this issue is growing in importance in communities across the UK.
Funeral payments from the Government’s Social Fund peaked at over £90 million in 1994-95. In 2015-16 only £40 million was paid out.
Parliamentarians will meet to debate funeral poverty in the House of Commons this morning (Weds 14 September), seeking ways to help the 10-12% of people for whom any unexpected expense in life, including the cost of a funeral, is impossible to meet.
Yet a growing case of double standards is frustrating efforts by the funeral profession to support the changing needs of bereaved people and address those in poverty. The Department of Work and Pensions’ Social Fund accounts for 2015-16, quietly released on 7 July, indicates that the Government spent 10% less than the previous year supporting those in funeral poverty and gave out 12% fewer grants to cover funeral expenses.
Responding today to the Sun Life Cost of Dying report 2016, the National Association of Funeral Directors said it showed that people were now spending more on probate legal fees than on the services of a funeral director.
The NAFD is encouraging funeral directors and members of the public to urge MPs to take part in tomorrow’s (Wednesday, 14 September) Parliamentary debate on the Social Fund Funeral Payment.
In desperate need of reform, the Funeral Payment covers all necessary disbursement costs in full, but since 2003 has only provided £700 towards other costs, most notably, funeral directors’ fees (including collection of the deceased and provision of a hearse), a coffin and a memorial. These costs have all been affected by inflation.
The NAFD has prepared this information pack for politicians – please feel free to download and share with your MP.
If you are unsure of your MP’s contact details simply enter your postcode here.
The debate begins at 9.30am and takes place in Westminster Hall. It should be broadcast live at parliamentlive.tv/Commons.
The NAFD advises the public that standards and service must be of equal importance when choosing a funeral director
Britons planning a funeral will easily be able to compare costs as well as quality after funeral directors pledged to publish their prices online.
A major survey of UK funeral directors by the National Association of Funeral Directors revealed that 25% of its 4,000 funeral home members now have pricing information online and a further 19% intend to do so within the next two years, meaning that nearly half of UK funeral directors will have pricing online by 2018.
The aim is that all 4,000+ NAFD funeral home members will have some form of pricing on display and easily accessible by 2020.
The Government has announced that amendments to regulations regarding cremation in England and Wales will come into force on 1 October – bringing the two nations into line with Scotland.
The NAFD has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer, Mandie Lavin.
Mandie is a qualified nurse and barrister – a member of Middle Temple. She joins the Association today (6 September 2016) from her role as CEO of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and brings with her significant experience of working in trade associations having also run the Bar Standards Board and acted as Director of Regulation at the General Optical Council.
NAFD President Jeremy Field said: “Mandie brings with her valuable insight into two professions with whom funeral directors work closely – healthcare and the law. I am very excited by the opportunities that Mandie’s appointment offers the NAFD and its members at what is a seminal moment for the profession. On behalf of all NAFD members I would like to welcome Mandie to the Association and wish her every success in her new role. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our immediate Past President William Millar for his invaluable support as interim CEO over the past six months.”
Responding to the sentencing of former funeral director Ms Alison Pople, for the theft of charitable donations, the NAFD said:
“This was a criminal act, by an individual who repeatedly breached the trust placed in them and Ms Pople’s actions in no way reflect the high standards of the UK funeral profession. Our thoughts are with the families and charities affected by Ms Pople’s actions and we are pleased, for them, that she has been brought to justice.