In recent months, the funeral industry has been swarmed with a significant load of concerns from families of the dearly departed and businesses because of the rise in COVID-19-related fatalities and imposed restrictions.
From logistical concerns to urges from the government to hold ceremonies online instead, the number of hurdles that the industry continues to face has grown in recent months. Among all the different concerns that have come about, a greater number of families have expressed their concerns over the rise of funeral costs.
An overview of the current situation
Despite the reduced number of available funeral services due to the pandemic, many have expressed their dismay over the fact that the cost of cremations in the country has continued to rise. These price costs were a result of two-thirds of the UK funeral industry’s councils persisting with their price increases from last year. This has eventually caused the cost of an average funeral cost to increase by up to 16%.
Many have expressed outrage over these price changes because the maximum allowable number of funeral attendants and ceremony lengths has been shortened in line with social distancing guidelines. In spite of growing prices, however, some funeral homes and authorities have taken a turn of compassion by freezing prices to compensate for the pre-imposed restrictions, while others have taken it upon themselves to reduce their prices.
Amid the public expression at the persistent “imbalance” in funeral costs, councils have decided to defend the price rises by stating that increases were implemented before social distancing was introduced. On top of this, the councils who have been subject to scrutiny further defended their actions by stating that it currently costs more to run ceremonies, citing increased stress on staff and additional training expenses.
Why public outcry has become imminent
Many bereaved families have described the sudden change in ceremony service quality despite rising prices as “atrocious” as the number of restrictions in place has drastically changed the standard set-up and process.
For instance, a funeral procession that follows social distancing guidelines now only lasts for 20 minutes as opposed to the standard 45, yet the cost is still the same, which is a 55 per cent decrease in value. Additionally, many feel that councils should have decreased their costs as only five mourners (depending on the funeral home’s size) are allowed to attend at a time because of the various requirements.
Increased costs, decreased service?
As of June, the average costs of council facilities rose by an average of £200 above the rate of inflation while the average cost of a local authority cremation increased by at least £20 alone in the past year. For instance, the Cornwall council increased the prices of their off-peak cremations by £147 despite the protest of many over concerns that such price hikes cannot be justified given the current restrictions in place.
Currently, these price increases and the corresponding public outrage that comes with them are being investigated thoroughly by the Competition and Markets Authority. The investigation in question may lead to a tighter regulation or price cap in the future to stop above-inflation increases from taking place until conditions reset and lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Despite a dwindling quality of service and limited opportunities among funeral service providers, many bereaved families are enraged over continuous price hikes. With the Competition and Markets Authority carrying out their investigation and seeking the implementation of price caps soon, councils must now plan accordingly to avoid the ire of the general public.
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