Hospice funeral services could put unnecessary stress on bereaved families, funeral directors warn

January 26, 2018   //   No Comments

A national scheme that encourages hospices to provide funeral services to those in their care could potentially undermine their work and may harm their reputation, it has been warned.  Hospice Funerals, a joint venture between St Margaret’s Hospice in Somerset and crematoria owner Memoria, launched this week. For a £10,000 fee, other hospices can join the franchise and offer funeral services to those in their care.

The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) has now warned of the unintended consequences of the scheme. In particular, bereaved families feeling under pressure to use a hospice’s recommended funeral provider to ‘pay back’ the care their loved one received.  Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, said: “Despite good intentions, we fear this new scheme will put families in a difficult position during an already emotional time.

“Hospices have an incredibly important role in society and they provide an invaluable service to people at a time of greatest need. Moving towards this business model risks undermining their work and could seriously damage their fantastic reputation.  Choosing a funeral director is a very personal decision and families should use a firm they feel comfortable with that can offer the type of service their loved one would have wanted. The last thing anyone would want is for a family to use a funeral director they are not completely happy with due to a sense of having a moral obligation to the hospice who cared for their loved one.”

Hospice Funerals’ claim to offer ‘low-cost funerals’ has also been challenged. Their traditional funeral package costs £3,500 but research shows several funeral directors in the same area of Taunton offer the same service for £3,000 or less*.

Mr Tennens added: “Whilst we share Hospice Funerals’ ambition to reduce funeral poverty, we are concerned families may be misled into thinking by using a hospice recommended provider they are receiving a lower cost service when in fact this might not be the case.  “We believe transparency and openness should be at the heart of every funeral service so people can make the decision that is right for them. That’s why all our members offer a range of funeral options, including a low cost ‘simple funeral’, with prices clearly outlined from the very beginning as part of our Code of Practice.

“However, Hospice Funerals is not part of any trade association and so doesn’t abide by a code of practice. This could create potential issues further down the line for families who are not completely satisfied with the service they receive.  We hope the public will think carefully and not feel pressured into using a hospice funeral director through a feeling of guilt rather than because they feel it does provide the best service for their loved one.”