Most people choose to entrust the arrangements of a funeral to a professional funeral director of which there are about 2,500 in this country. The funeral business in Britain is covered by three trade associations, but membership is not compulsory and because the business is unregulated, basically anyone can set up as a funeral director. Friends, family, clergy or your doctor may be able to recommend reputable companies and in this consumer society, the advice of ‘shopping around’ may seem a difficult one to apply to funerals, but the advice is the same as for any service.
Relatives or friends are probably the most appropriate people to ask to help by ringing around several funeral directors to compare prices and services. The Natural Death Centre, (the educational charity which campaigns on behalf of the public for greater openness in the funeral industry), believe that a good funeral director should be a ‘facilitator’ – someone who helps the family organise as much of the funeral arrangements as they want to. Increasingly, family members want to be more involved in the arrangements and help in the final rituals.
When choosing a funeral director:
* ask for a detailed description of costs and a price list when getting a quote
* when asking for a telephone quote make sure that it is put in writing as well
* try and get quotes from more than one company
* check whether the funeral director is professionally qualified and holds the diploma in funeral directing (Dip.Ed.)
If you have any doubts, find out if he/she is a member of any of the trade associations and ask if they subscribe to the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme (see below) .
The two main trade associations are:
National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
618 Warwick Road
Tel: 0121 711 1343
Established in 1905, formerly the British Undertakes Association, this was the principal trade association in the funeral profession until the mid 1980’s. Its members’ Code of Practise is available free.
The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
SAIF Business Centre
Tel: 01279 726777
Established in 1989 with a membership covering over 900 funeral homes, SAIF is the co-ordinating body for smaller, independent, often family firms. SAIF operates a legal helpline for clients – 08705 234500.
Codes of Practice
Each organisation operates its own code of practice, although none of the codes are currently supported by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Each code of practice requires its members to:
* provide information on charging, including displaying a price list on the premises and providing an individual copy
* provide a written estimate of the cost of the funeral
* offer a basis or simple funeral
The Funeral Ombudsman states in the Funeral Profession Code of Practice that a ‘simple, basic funeral’ should comprise of;
* Making all necessary funeral arrangements and providing professional advice.
* Removal of the deceased to a suitable resting place.
* Provision of a simple, veneered coffin and conveyance by hearse direct to a local cemetery or crematorium.
* Providing the funeral director and all necessary staff.
* All necessary disbursements.
What to do if you are Unhappy with The Funeral
Despite reports of an increase in complaints against undertakers, the office of the Funeral Ombudsman (which offered members of the public unhappy with the service they had received an independent complaints procedure), ceased operation on 30 September 2002.
In its place, it appears that all three main funeral associations have established independent schemes for re-dress which aim to settle disputes by mediation.
The most frequent complaints relate to the cost of the funeral exceeding the estimates, misunderstandings about the disposal of ashes and distress caused by the condition of the body when viewed by relatives after embalming or a post-mortem.
Helpful Books and Organisation
The Dead Good Funerals Book
Welfare State International
The Ellers Ulverston,
Tel: 01229 581127
The New Natural Death Handbook Available from;
The Natural Death Centre
20 Heber Road
Tel: 020 8208 2853
Association of Burial Authorities
155 Upper Ground
Tel: 020 8288 2522
Fax: 020 8288 2533
Cremation Society of Great Britain
2nd FloorBrecon House
16/16a Albion Place
Tel: 01622 688292
Will tell you your nearest crematorium and publishes a free booklet on ‘What You Should Know About Cremation’.