NAFD responds to Work and Pensions Select Committee report into bereavement benefits

The National Association of Funeral Directors has welcomed long-overdue recommendations, by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, to address the arcane bereavement benefits system in the UK, but has called into question highly inflammatory and unsubstantiated remarks about funeral directors made in the report.

Having campaigned for many years for a review of the Social Fund funeral payment, for the ‘other funeral expenses’ payment to be index-linked to inflation and for a review of the eligibility criteria and application process, the NAFD is delighted to see these feature strongly in the committee’s recommendations.

However the Association, which represents almost 4,000 funeral homes nationwide, has spoken out on behalf of more than 20,000 funeral arrangers and directors working in the profession to strongly refute claims by chair of the committee Frank Field MP that they are not acting “in the interests of bereaved, vulnerable people.”

Funeral costs are rising, of that there is no doubt and the NAFD has welcomed this and other opportunities to work with the Government to address this issue. However, liberally berating funeral directors, who work in the main for very small businesses, is not the way to address this.

We were surprised that the Committee did not hear evidence from any cremation or burial authorities who are crucial to understanding the make-up of funeral costs. With these costs shown on a funeral director’s final bill, it is vital that the role of the increasing cost of cremation and burial charges play in the funeral price inflation figures quoted by Royal London are properly scrutinized.  These lie outside of funeral directors’ control and have not been addressed in this report.

Indeed the NAFD is surprised that the Committee did not compel local authorities to give evidence to the inquiry, given that local council burial and cremation charges are the single fastest rising cost of a funeral.

The NAFD also finds it disappointing that the Committee did not speak directly to the bereaved themselves in their inquiry – or at the very least an authoritative representative body such as Cruse Bereavement Care.

The NAFD welcomes the creative thinking in the report which seeks to make bereavement benefits more effective and the chance to enter into dialogue.  However we would be very concerned by any suggestion that funeral prices should be fixed on a national basis.

The Association has also welcomed a recommendation to expand legislation, to ensure the criteria of what can and cannot be included in the funeral payment will be specified more clearly and will work hard with Government to support the implementation of this measure.

Ultimately, our call upon Government is for a balanced assessment of the changing needs of bereaved families and the funeral directors that support them. To that end, the NAFD is pleased to be in discussion with Government on these issues and that the Committee is recommending a more in-depth inquiry into funerals and bereavement.