Views and opinions
Views from the National Association of Funeral Directors on topics connected with the funeral profession and end of life debate.
A survey of local authorities out today (8 February 2018) by the LGiU think tank and The Municipal Journal has revealed the extent of the pressure local councils are under to balance their books and the degree to which this is leading them to levy additional charges on local communities. The 2018 State of Local Government Finance report highlights how councils are not only intending to increase council tax, but are also draining their reserves and looking for additional ways to increase charges to residents too.
A target for these rises is often bereaved people. In recent years the National Association of Funeral Directors has seen countless examples of local authorities introducing double above-inflation (and often double digit) rises for burials and cremations as well as introducing fines for late running funerals and excess charges for out-of-area funerals.
In fact these kinds of third party charges now account for a third of all funeral costs and are the fastest rising cost connected to a funeral. In 2017, both burial and cremation fees attracted above-inflation price rises (Royal London reported burial fees up by an average of 3.5% for residents and 5.3% for non-residents and cremation fees up by 5.4% in September 2017).
Christmas is a time for family. The swapping of gifts, a festive pint down the pub, noisy and competitive board games, trips to the panto, walks in the winter countryside and so on. Indeed, we are relentlessly informed of our duty to gather for the annual turkey bun fight and battle for control of the remote, by a myriad of soft-focus television commercials from major retailers – which seem to start earlier every year.
However, for millions of people every year there is an empty seat at the table and Christmas celebrations become anything but. As funeral directors will know, Christmas is often one of the toughest times for bereaved people, especially the first festive season after a death.
The sense of grief that many bereaved people feel is often magnified at Christmas, and those closest to them don’t always know how best to support them or, indeed, sometimes what to say or how to behave. Now that we’ve dispensed with the tradition of wearing black for a longer period of mourning, the world around them may not even be aware that they are grieving. The result can be an even more profound sense of loss and isolation than they may already be feeling.
It’s World Book Day today (2 March 2016) and, as in any aspect of life, a well written, thought-provoking book can be of real help to people at a time of loss.
The NAFD is often advised of books, written about bereavement and grief, that people have found to be profoundly useful. Please click below for short guide to some of the books that have been recommended to us recently.
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.
The choice to have a direct cremation or burial is made by a small number of people in the UK each year. A direct cremation is where a body is taken directly to the crematoria and cremated with no funeral service or mourners present. Indeed the family will not see the person who has died again once they are collected by the funeral director from the place of death. The cremated remains are either returned to the next of kin or scattered.
The French writer and philosopher Voltaire once wrote: “One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” Voltaire’s words are a great and simple explanation of why people use euphemisms, in that they allow us to substitute a word or phrase that we find difficult to articulate for something less awkward, tricky or upsetting. And surely there is no other topic of discussion that makes us feel more uncomfortable, in the UK at least, than death and funerals.
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for bereaved people when there is such a focus on loved ones coming together to celebrate and look forward to a new year.
The Cruse Bereavement Care helpline will be open every day from Monday 21st December through to New Year’s Day. All the opening hours can be found on the Cruse website www.cruse.org.uk/telephone-support/christmas
A BBC survey this week has talked about the rise in costs of “pauper’s funerals”. There is a huge sense of frustration within the funeral profession when we hear this term. Whilst it is perhaps technically correct – denoting a person without any financial means to pay for a funeral – as a word it has negative connotations and the NAFD feels it is disrespectful to the person who has died.
To a funeral director, a person who has a public health funeral (the correct term) deserves and is always treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else, no matter who is covering the costs of the funeral and how simple the arrangements might be.
Choosing a funeral director is not just about cost, although that is clearly an important consideration.
Choosing a funeral director must firstly be about making sure you’re being properly and professionally supported at one of the most distressing times in your life. With a lot of legal requirements to meet and forms to fill in, it is a difficult process to navigate, especially when you are grieving. An important consideration is making sure you choose a funeral firm that is willing to be inspected and abide by a strict Code of Practice and which participates in an independent redress scheme such as the Funeral Arbitration Service.