At Neo, we strive to make long-lasting partnerships that have a positive impact on society and the environment. In fact, we’ve written in our company bylaws that whatever we do must have a material positive impact by advancing sustainable development. To us, this is the only ethical way to do business because profit versus purpose is a false dichotomy; we believe the two go hand in hand.
Started by Quaker Social Action (QSA) in 2015, the aim of the Fair Funerals pledge is to encourage funeral directors across the UK to address the national funeral poverty crisis from within the funeral industry. By signing the pledge, funeral directors across the country are recognising that funerals cost too much and many people struggle with paying––probably more people than they think! In signing the pledge, funeral directors are also making a voluntary commitment to be open about their most affordable funeral options, and to help people find funerals within their financial means.
We’ve decided to partner up with QSA and join their campaign, because we firmly believe the industry needs to fundamentally change. With the rising costs of funerals in the UK, it is imperative that funeral directors band together to combat the extortionate increase in prices that are to come in the future. The average price for a funeral nowadays is £3,900, according to the Sun Life report, and perhaps a more sobering statistic is that since 2004, the cost of funerals has risen by over 122%.
The Cost of Dying
So, what exactly is funeral poverty?
Funeral poverty is defined as when the cost of a funeral is above a person’s ability to pay, and to put it in numbers–– around 12% of people struggle to pay for a funeral. If a person is unable to find the funds to pay for a funeral, very little resources are actually available to help a person or family in this situation.
Funeral poverty is a growing concern in the UK where there has been a steady increase in the average cost of a funeral. This increase has been such a worry, that the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) body in the UK have launched a formal investigation within this fragmented industry. You may read the full CMA report, here.
To put it in perspective, how many of us are really capable of making decisions about money and logistics at our most vulnerable time? The answer is: no one can. After a loved one has passed families are simply doing everything they can to ensure their loved one is handled respectfully and in a dignified manner by funeral directors. It is patently unjust for funeral directors to capitalise on a family’s most difficult time.
The Guardian on Funeral Poverty
Are we doing enough to combat funeral poverty?
The truth is, we have a long way to go. That’s why it is great that partners such as QSA have created campaigns like Fair Funerals to bring awareness to this social issue. At Neo we have implemented clear and straightforward pricing, so people know exactly what is included in our service.
We are also in the process of adding features to our online booking form to better assist families who are struggling, without being intrusive in our approach. One example of this is allowing for families to “pay via a loved one’s estate.” Once the booking is complete we have our care team send an invoice to the bank along with a copy of the death certificate / green certificate, and the bank usually pays in 5-10 days.
The Fair Funerals campaign doesn’t only petition for greater price transparency, but they also fight for more state-related benefits that help in funeral costs, in addition to greater access for municipal services such as public health funerals (also known as pauper funerals).
Bury the Debt for Grieving Families
What happens if no one can pay for the funeral?
If absolutely no one can pay for the funeral or help with funds, do not panic. It is worth opening up a conversation with your funeral director to discuss what your options are. Here are a few ways in which you can pay for a funeral:
- Apply for funding through the DWP
- Apply for bereavement support
- See if you loved one has an estate they can pay out of
- Start a crowdfunding page
- Take small steps to reduce funeral costs (maybe changing what type of coffin is used, or opting for a no-fuss direct cremation)
- For the future, consider purchasing a funeral plan
- Call the Funeral Cost Helpline, here
As of September 2019 over 1,700 funeral director branches have signed the pledge, including ourselves. Fair Funerals have also updated their campaign recently for 2021 and we are very excited to get more involved with them this year in changing the funeral industry for the better.