Engaging with the government

August 8, 2019   //   No Comments

SAIF thanks Paul Allcock, Government Liaison, for this update.

June and July were particularly busy months with meetings and discussions with the Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and my attendance at Parliament for a hearing with the Department of Work and Pensions Committee (DWP).

Each meeting proved to be both interesting and enlightening, whilst as often seems to be the case, leaving some challenges for funeral directors to overcome.

Firstly Terry Tennens and I had a brief meeting with members of the CMA at the National Funeral Exhibition, followed by further discussion in the weeks following. We are all well aware of the ongoing investigation into funeral services and crematoria, but I have to say that I have been
particularly impressed at the efforts being made by the CMA to gain a very real insight into the experiences of the public at the time of a bereavement.

This doesn’t simply stop at the door of funeral directors. The CMA are evidently interested in the entire death pathway being experienced by our clients. This includes the experience before the choice of funeral director is
made. For example, are bereaved individuals being dictated to at the time of a death, or are they being given total freedom of choice and clarity with regard to their choices.

As you will see elsewhere in this issue and in recent newsletters to members, the CMA have appealed to all funeral directors to advise them of any formal or informal arrangements between funeral directors and care homes, hospitals, hospices etc which may be carried out without the prior consent of the deceased’s family.

I am aware that there has been some concern over the recent calls for
evidence from some of our members regarding their finances and common practices. I have said throughout this process that if you can confidently claim that you offer a high standard of service and care at a fair price then there is no reason not to respond willingly.

And if this latest call for information highlights areas of inappropriate practices which prevent freedom of choice then surely that has to be a good thing. So once again I plea to our members to respond to the CMA with as much information as you can to help them get a true understanding and enable them to make appropriate decisions on any action that they may propose in the future.

I’ve also attended a meeting at the MoJ about before the new Children’s Funeral Fund was introduced on 23rd July. Cemeteries and Crematoria are now able to make a claim to the fund to cover their expenses at cost for any person under the age of 18 at the time of death.

Funeral directors may make a claim only to fund the coffin, and for this there will be a maximum claim cap of £300. If parents decide not to use a funeral director, they are also able to make a claim from the fund for the coffin.

Additional expenses which will be entitled to claim include doctors forms for cremation, the cost of an urn for the ashes and the fees relating to the erection of a memorial, but not the memorial itself.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it would seem that there could be various claims from different sources for the same funeral. The MoJ insist that this is what they would expect and have the systems in place to cope with these claims.

One thing to add is that if a funeral director prepares the grave for the burial in a churchyard or Parish cemetery for example, then a claim can be made to cover the cost of digging the grave.

Finally I attended a DWP Committee hearing alongside, Jeremy Field from the NAFD, Simon Cox from Dignity and David Collingwood from the Co-op. The hearing was exploring how things have progressed since the last hearing in 2016. The questions raised covered areas such as the possibility of there being a recognised descriptive for a simple funeral, the £700 cap on additional funeral expenses and transparency within the funeral profession.

The session proved to be an interesting one with some positive feedback following the meeting. For access to more information or to view a recording of the entire hearing which was shown on Parliament TV, click here.