In this section you will find the latest news and campaign updates from the National Association of Funeral Directors.
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The UK’s funeral directors are facing increasingly aggressive behaviour from families arguing over funeral arrangements. In a survey among the 4,000 UK funeral homes that are members of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), nearly two-thirds (57%) reported a rise in conflict in the past 12 months, which had led to funeral directors being targeted and in some cases having to take extreme action to make peace among warring families.
In response, the NAFD, in association with Dying Matters, has released an updated edition of its guide My Funeral Wishes, which encourages people to plan their funeral with those close to them, and to record a written guide to ensure their wishes are clear and help to avoid future conflict and distress for their families.
The National Association of Funeral Directors has today warmly welcomed the appointment of Natalie McKail as the first ever Inspector of Funeral Directors in Scotland.
Mandie Lavin, Chief Executive of the NAFD, members of which carry out 80% of funerals in the UK, said Miss McKail’s appointment would “help keep standards high and strengthen public confidence” in the profession.
The NAFD has been working closely with Scottish Government ministers over the future of the profession, including the introduction of regulation, and has worked alongside Miss McKail as part of the National Committee on Infant Cremation.
Funeral directors from across Scotland have committed to work with the Scottish Government to introduce regulation to the sector.
Members of the profession made the historic pledge at a special one day conference in Stirling on Saturday 1 April. The event was attended by around 100 representatives of independent funeral directing businesses and the largest firms, including Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity.
Jointly organised by the National Association of Funeral Directors Scotland (NAFD Scotland) and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors Scotland (SAIF Scotland), the event began with the signing of a joint agreement by the two trade associations, whose membership comprises more than 80 per cent of the funeral profession.
Regulation in the funeral industry will help bereaved families by ensuring they are offered the highest standards of care at all time, a funeral directors’ conference will hear this weekend (1 April 2017).
Mandie Lavin, chief executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors, will tell delegates that “public trust and confidence” in funeral directors will “only be enhanced by getting the standards agenda right”.
The National Association has added its voice to those of leading bereavement charities Cruse Bereavement Care, Widowed and Young and the Child Bereavement Network, in asking the government to hold off on the introduction of new bereavement payments that will see parents who care for children after the death of a spouse or partner lose up to £30,000 in benefits.
Funeral directors from Scotland and beyond are encouraged to attend a special debate this Spring, which is set to help shape forthcoming regulation of the sector in Scotland.
The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 paved the way for a statutory inspector of funeral directors, new regulations and possible licensing – a first anywhere in the UK.
In response, the NAFD and SAIF have joined forces to deliver a one-day conference in the heart of Scotland this April featuring speakers from both associations and the Scottish Government.
Indeed, the NAFD and SAIF are now working collaboratively to monitor regulatory developments in Scotland and the potential impact on other jurisdictions of the UK.
The day will help shape the way the profession is regulated for the benefit of bereaved people and funeral directors.
For further details about this important event, please click here.
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.