Terry Tennens, chief executive of the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), which represents 870 independent funeral directors across the UK, said:
“Nobody should be forced into debt as a result of giving a loved one the funeral they deserve. Worrying about finances makes an already emotional and distressing time even harder for all concerned and can put families under great strain.
“Although showing a rise in funeral poverty, the latest report by Royal London does reflect our own experience, with the overall cost of a funeral falling last year. Historically, independent funeral directors have been the most competitively priced in the market place – providing not only best value but also best quality service.
“It is often easy to unfairly blame funeral directors for the growing cost of funerals and it’s pleasing that the Royal London report has gone some way to dismiss that – recognising that in many cases it is third party costs, such as burial and cremation fees set by local councils or solicitors handling probate, that are the real issue.
“As an organisation, we actively encourage all our members to display their prices online to make comparison easier, while our Code of Practice also demands complete openness of all funeral costs. Furthermore, we are the only trade association that requires members to offer a simple, low cost funeral which includes all of the necessary disbursements (including fees and third party costs) clearly displayed to the public.”
SAIF’s members also led the way by signing the Fair Funerals Pledge – a national campaign run by the anti-poverty charity Quaker Social Action calling on funeral directors to commit to complete clarity of all costs.
SAIF is also involved in the Department for Work and Pensions’ consultation on reforming the Social Fund, which provides financial support to families to help pay for funeral costs.
“There is no doubt that the Social Fund urgently needs reform,” Mr Tennens continued. “The support available to individuals has not increased since 2003 and is nowhere near enough to cover what many people would consider to be basic requirements – such as hiring a place of worship or the provision of an official to oversee the ceremony.”