Darryl Smith, General Manager Funeral Division

Monday, September 23, 2019

The head of The Co-operative Funeralcare in Coventry, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire says bereaved consumers need to take extra care to protect themselves against rising funeral costs which have again come under scrutiny nationwide.

Darryl Smith, General Manager of the Heart of England Co-operative Society’s Funeral Division, issued the warning following the publication of the sixth annual Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report.

The report highlights the growing issue of funeral poverty which has seen a rise of 12 per cent to £147 million over the past year.

Darryl said with the majority of client families having had very little or no prior experience of arranging a funeral, coupled with their vulnerability in their time of grief, it was the responsibility of every funeral director to outline their full range of services designed to suit varying financial circumstances, so clients are not unwittingly taking on more financial responsibility than they can handle.

The report shows that almost 74,000 people struggled to pay for a funeral in 2018, with the average shortfall increasing by 14 per cent from £1,744 to an all-time high of £1,990.

The Funeral Expenses Payment, first introduced in the late 1980s to pay the full cost of a funeral for families facing hardship, now only funds ‘necessary’ costs as well as ‘other’ costs of up to £700 – a cap which has remained unchanged since 2003.

A breakdown of figures included within the Royal London report show that while funeral director costs have seen a reduction over the past year, burial and cremation costs have risen, pushing up the overall cost by 0.7 per cent or £28 to £3,785.

Curiously the average spend came in at slightly higher than the average cost, at £3,989. And a survey showed that only 12 per cent of consumers chose cheaper options as a way to manage funeral debt while the majority opted to take on more debt in favour of compromising on their requirements.

Once again the West Midlands was the most expensive region outside of London for a funeral.

Within the region the most expensive place for a burial was Coventry, at £5,519, with Nuneaton the cheapest at £3,578.

Meanwhile Nuneaton was the most expensive for a cremation, while the least expensive was Leamington.

The report highlighted a tendency among consumers to stick with the first funeral director they find, with only five per cent admitting to shopping around for quotes and as little as one per cent ever using a funeral comparison website.

And 36 per cent of consumers said lower cost funeral options such as unattended funerals had not been raised by either party during talks with funeral service providers.

Darryl said: “We all want to give our loved ones the send-off we feel they would have wanted. And only a small minority of us are prepared to forego some of our preferences as a way to manage the funeral costs while the rest would rather buy now and worry about payment later.

“Client families should remember they have an added layer of protection by checking for any prices on their chosen provider’s website. This will save any unnecessary embarrassment which could be caused when discussing costs face to face.”

Darryl reiterated his support of proposals announced earlier this year which promised to make funeral service providers in the UK more accountable and give more protection to consumers, and his support for the Competition and Markets Authority’s full investigation into the spiralling costs of funeral services in the UK.

The cost of a funeral has remained unchanged at the Heart of England Co-operative Society over the past year and the Society has broadened its range of options in a bid to combat poverty.

In 2019 the Society’s average funeral costs £3,780, including £2,180 of Funeral Director charges. This reflects a £20 drop in the Society’s prices over the past year and a £20 increase in disbursements.

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