The funeral industry is changing rapidly each year. The last five years has seen a massive increase in pre-paid funeral plans and planning ahead is something that we try to promote along with charities such as “Dying Matters”.
In the UK there are about 5,500 funeral outlets. In the past few years there has been a significant expansion, mostly by acquisition, by the three largest funeral entities: Co-op, Dignity and Funeral Partners which has put pressure on the smaller, local independents which conduct 62% of all UK funerals. This has created more local choice for the consumer but there remains a significant variation in funeral director costs of up to 35% in some cases and in our opinion a lack of transparency. It would always be our advice to get a full indication of the cost for a funeral.
We expect 2016 to bring an increasing promotion of funeral plans through mass marketing campaigns led by online and telephone agents rather than funeral directors. We remain convinced that funeral plans are an excellent product when sold with the correct advice and the appropriate payment method: be very aware that not all plans are the same and Bungard Funeral Directors continue to only recommend Golden Charter products and most certainly would warn against engaging with non-FPA regulated companies.
Alarmingly, funeral directors are not regulated in the UK and it is not compulsory to be a member of a trade body. We continue to be a member of one of the two main associations –SAIF which provide a self-regulatory framework and greater protection for the public should things go wrong. During 2016, the Scottish government is looking into the licensing of funeral businesses and we wait to learn of the outcome.
In Scotland, from May 2015, there was no longer a payment made to Doctors for cremation papers (a saving to the family of £170 per cremation) and we expect this system to be launched in the rest of the UK in the coming years – but certainly not in 2016! This change brings an improved level of accuracy as the certification is done by doctors electronically.
Bungard Funeral Directors 2016: We like to think of ourselves as being rather more dynamic than the average funeral service and strive to offer alternative options and opportunities to our families where appropriate. For example, many of our clients use digital technology and utilize social media to share information about funeral services. To compliment this we have a Bungard Funeral iPhone app and the ability to share funeral arrangements via facebook for each funeral that has a tribute page on our website.
Training 2016: We do a lot of training but initially we will focus on our new IT system that will drive some of our customer care initiatives. With 2015 seeing the graduation of one member of the team with their Diploma in Funeral Arranging and now starting the Diploma in Funeral Directing we hope to enter a new candidate for the Diploma in Funeral Arranging next year.
Events 2016: We will continue with the growth of our Bungard Aftercare service and promote our coffee morning and luncheons for individuals and families. Combating loneliness and isolation will be our focus. We are also hoping to start offering a service of remembrance in 2016 to which all are welcome.
Charity 2016: The Carer’s Centre has been our Charity of the Year and we have raising money throughout the year by donating £5 each time we receive a completed feedback form from one of our families. The family, including, Richard and Amie Whittle, and James and Ann Whittle will be attending their Charity Ball on Friday 12th February 2016 to help raise funds for a new caravan. We also now provide families with a service to collect donations for a loved one’s chosen charity on our website which means that donors can leave a tribute as well as being an easier way of collecting gift aid from tax paying donors.
Our Team 2016: This year has seen long standing funeral Director Eric de Chalon get married, retire and also move to Brussels to live with his new husband. His departure see’s the arrival of a new Funeral Director, Benjamin Day and also a new administrator, Tony Yates and we welcome them to the team and have been delighted at the enthusiasm and energy they have brought to the company already.