View from the President: tackling the issues that matter to independent funeral directors

June 24, 2022   //   No Comments

It’s hard to believe three months have already passed since Jo Parker became SAIF National President – thanks to so many issues vying for her attention following her election to the prestigious post on a cold but sunny Sunday in March.  

Yet Jo has wasted no time in getting stuck into the important task of representing UK independent funeral directors in membership of SAIF. To find out what’s been occupying her schedule so far, the SAIF Business Centre team caught up with Jo over a cuppa. Here’s what she had to say…

On SAIF’s Quality Assurance Programme formal accreditation 

Securing ISO9001 is a fantastic achievement and a huge credit to all the hard work carried out by the SAIF’s Quality Management Team. As the first funeral trade association to be formally recognised for meeting certain global standards in its customer assurance framework, SAIF members are now in a very strong position in terms of demonstrating a commitment to best practice and raising client confidence. At the various regional meetings I’ve attended around the country, it’s clear that high standards are a top priority. There’s a great deal of praise for SAIF for lifting the bar so high. 

On the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation of funeral plans 

Members have been very concerned about regulation of prepaid funeral plans and the impact that it might have on bereaved families who hold policies with a variety of companies. But there was a huge sigh of relief across the sector when the FCA announced last week that it was ‘minded to authorise’ SAIF’s preferred provider Golden Charter, along with associate member firms Ecclesiastical and Golden Leaves. We’re expecting to hear soon about other businesses, including Open Prepaid Funeral Plans, and are confident of good news. We will however continue lobbying for support for people who have bought plans with firms that have stopped trading as a result of regulation. This issue is going to continue coming up for some time and it’s important consumers suffer no detriment.     

On the Diamond Partnership

From my meetings with independent funeral directors around the country, it’s clear that many business owners are worried about the rise of direct cremation – not all but a notable majority. However, there is a way for small businesses to take part in this market and that is through the Diamond Partnership between SAIF, Westerleigh Group and Distinct Cremations. In my opinion it’s better that independent firms engage with direct cremation and give local families a local service rather than allowing large national operators to commodify funerals. Although public appetite for unattended funerals continues to grow, it will one day peak and stabilise. It’s really important that in the meantime small businesses don’t become disheartened or cut themselves off from the market. Additionally, not every family who approaches you for direct cremation will arrange a direct cremation. Some will realise that a simple funeral is more aligned with their needs. But you can only help them understand what they really want if you enter a dialogue – and that’s what the Diamond Partnership enables you to do. 

On SAIF’s regional meetings and the NFE

It’s been incredibly busy in recent weeks travelling here, there and everywhere. Regional meeting highlights include Durham, Leeds, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Port Talbot, Tiverton and Southampton. I’ve also attended the SAIF education day in Belfast and took part in a Scottish SAIF meeting virtually due to transport problems. On top of this, I’ve been to the CBCE conference in Southampton and the Warwickshire-based National Funeral Exhibition (NFE), which was fantastic, particularly following years of pandemic restrictions. Quite a tour! At all the meetings I’ve been to, the recurring theme has been the resilience of independent funeral directors. Despite everything that has been thrown at us – from the pandemic response and limited funerals to regulation and aggressive competition – the grit and determination among small firms is incredible. And I get the sense from many that SAIF, which now has 1,010 member firms, has been a godsend during these difficult years. It fought our corner and gave us hope during a dark time and people will appreciate that for a long time. It’s important that we continue to build on this good work in the coming years.  

On the President’s charity

This year, we’re fundraising for Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide and the support we’ve had so far has been phenomenal. We have raised around £200 at each meeting as well as £600 at NFE. The SAIF golf day exceeded expectations bringing in a massive £2,500. So far, the total is an amazing £8,500. But we’ve a long way to go yet against a target of £20,000. I’m truly grateful to everyone who has dug deep in tough times and I know the SAIF family will help us hit our goal. Later this summer there will be a charity walk on the West Highland Way, involving Brian Hart from SAIF Insure and a handful of members and associates. I wish them well and send my sincere thanks. To support Papyrus please go to this page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/saif2022-23

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