In the end…..

Funeral directors have a difficult job. They impact on peoples lives at a most distressing time for family and loved ones. Their role, following a death, is crucial but also necessary. Funeral directors are part of the order of things and what comes with that is a responsibility to be sensitive, professional and above all fair.

Often loved ones left are themselves old and frail with little savings. If they are lucky they will have supportive younger family around them that will help to make the necessary arrangements and provide extra financial support.

Funeral services are entirely unregulated, so its not a surprise that some seem to let their business heads get muddled with their social responsibility. We had a death in our family a while ago and the funeral directors bill dropped through the door on the day of the funeral demanding immediate payment! I also know locally that there is fierce rivalry between funeral directors who engage in slightly nefarious activities. There is money to be made, in 2012 the Co-operative Funeralcare, which has 900 funeral homes across the country made a profit of over £52 million.

The costs of a funeral can be significant and can come unexpected. The Money Advice Service estimates that the average cost of a direct cremation is £1,600, a cremation using a funeral director £3,214 and burial using a funeral director is £4,136. The market plays on this offering a wide variety of insurance plans to cover the costs.

There is a way to reduce costs if you are willing to work out how to collect the body, fill out the paperwork and meet the basic fees and costs you can arrange a funeral without a director for under £1,000. But I am not sure that is the answer. Surely the service provided by funeral directors should be respectful and fairly priced. It has been known for funeral directors to make 200% profit on coffins for example!!

It is and will be Citizens Advice people will turn to for help and advice on how to cope with funeral costs. Salford Citizens Advice are doing something about this. Tom Togher, their Chief Officer writes in a recent Citizens Advice blog that the lack of support for families in meeting funeral costs, “is one of the life crises that can lead to a family slipping into long lasting financial insecurity, debt and even more chronic poverty.” For more on their local campaign click here (Good to see Jim from New Forest commenting on Tom’s Blog too.)

We pride ourselves in helping those with the greatest need. This issue is one that will only get worse with people living longer coupled with soaring care costs. The first thing we must do is understand the problem. Our recorded data for the whole of the south east shows 7,000 cases of death related issues; this must be a result of under recording. Its only then that we can focus on individual providers and act effectively on behalf of our clients.