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perfect choice funeral plans

Are Funerals Safe These Days?

Catherine Powell of Pure Cremation

We salute those families who are choosing direct cremation in order to play their part in protecting their communities


One of the UK’s leading dedicated direct cremation providers has branded MP’s concern that ‘the wishes of the deceased and bereaved are not being fulfilled with a proper committal in the church of their wish’ as being careless and unhelpful when families are already having to make difficult choices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A letter signed by 36 MP’s was this week sent to Lord Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England asking for church doors to reopen suggesting they should ‘consider, most intently, the pain and anguish of those families unable to have a funeral’.

The action follows UK Government regulations which limits those attending funerals to immediate family members, with councils in some areas even banning mourners altogether for a brief time. As a result, the only options available to families are either a direct cremation or very small attended funeral held at the graveside or crematorium.

Catherine Powell, co-founder and Customer Experience Director of Pure Cremation believes that the letter branding direct cremation as a “tragedy” is highly irresponsible and this language only adds to the grief and distress suffered by the bereaved.

Catherine Powell commented: “We salute those families who are choosing direct cremation in order to play their part in protecting their communities. We are proud to be able to give them valuable reassurance and comfort by sharing the inspiring stories from the thousands of families who have deliberately chosen this simple, unattended cremation as a way to break away from tradition and to take control over the farewell events.”

Since the pandemic began, Pure Cremation has been doing its utmost to support families who find themselves arranging a direct cremation even though this wouldn’t have been their first choice for saying goodbye to a loved-one.

Catherine continued: “COVID-19 has essentially stripped families of the opportunity to hold a traditional funeral surrounded by family and friends. As you can’t postpone laying a loved one to rest indefinitely, it makes great sense to hold a simple and respectful cremation without delay and focus on a proper celebration of life or thanksgiving service once the restrictions are lifted.”

Direct cremation has increased in popularity over the last five years as more people look for an alternative to the usual “funeral formula” and this is an escalating trend. Pure Cremation’s growth is evidence of this, with sales of their funeral plan doubling each year, resulting in more than 10,000 active plans in April 2020.

She adds: “Unfortunately the MPs who wrote to the Bishops on this topic seem more interested in raising their profile than considering the impact their words might have on all the bereaved families who have made the difficult decision to separate the two parts of a funeral by arranging a direct cremation.

“They should be supporting their grieving constituents by emphasising the positives – more time to plan the perfect farewell, more time to gather the memories and stories that will make the event a poignant and accurate reflection of the life that has been lived.”

An early pioneer of direct cremation, Pure Cremation is the only dedicated provider with its own crematorium and the only firm operating throughout the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Based in Andover, Hants, the company employs its own specialist team of 61 staff who demonstrate real compassion and care for the families they serve, right from the initial phone call through to the hand delivery of the ashes.

Six Things You Should Know About Direct Cremation

This choice of a Direct Cremation Funeral Plan is much more than just about cost – although an important factor. At little more than half the cost of an average standard funeral plan they certainly look appealing…..but do read our personal view as well as this article from a provider dedicated to the concept. There is more detail of the providers here.

The rising cost of funerals and increased demand from mourners for a better way to approach planning a loved ones’ funeral has led to a rapid rise in the popularity of direct cremations in recent years.

A virtually unknown concept in the UK just five years ago, an estimated 14,000 people per year in the UK alone are now opting for this service.

Catherine Powell, Customer Experience Director at Pure Cremation  said the service is hugely popular in America, with the most notable direct cremations in recent months being David Bowie and Prince, and is fast growing in the UK where families are recognising it as a liberating and affordable alternative to a funeral.

Catherine said:

“This it is a simple, respectful way for a family to take care of the practical aspects of the cremation and often goes hand in hand with an even more personal memorial service or celebration of their life than the usual “funeral formula” can offer.”

Catherine said that a number of factors are swaying people’s decisions in favour of direct cremations. Among them are:

1. Direct cremation is the perfect answer for people who don’t like funerals.

They are the fastest growing form of funeral in the USA and predicted to take a substantial share of cremations in the UK in the next few years.

2. Choice, convenience and a preference for a no-fuss departure are the main reasons.

Surprisingly, the lower cost is not one of the main reasons that direct cremations are becoming increasingly popular.

3. Direct cremations may not involve a funeral service

but the same standards of respect and dignity are applied to care of the person who has died.

4. Family conflict

This can make a traditional funeral an unbearable ordeal – direct cremation offers the chance for each set of relatives can hold separate memorial events.

5. You still get the deceased’s ashes.*

If you want them, hand delivered by the Pure Cremation team.  In 2014 it was found that more than 25,000 sets of ashes are still waiting to be collected from UK funeral directors.

Catherine added: “Losing a loved one will always be traumatic but direct cremation gives you the time and space to plan the perfect celebration of life later on while we take proper care of the practical aspects.”

Pure Cremation was established by former funeral director Bryan Powell who has a pedigree in the funeral industry spanning nearly 30 years, together with his wife Catherine following a steady increase in enquiries for a direct cremation service.

Family-owned, it is the UK’s only dedicated direct cremation provider which enables the team at Pure Cremation to deliver an impressive level of personal service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at a sensible, transparent price point.

6. Is Direct Cremation right for those left behind? Will they understand?

Having finished with Pure Cremations notes, we would urge readers to talk to us, or at the very least read THIS ARTICLE about the plusses and minuses of Direct Cremation.

  • Ashes are only returned at extra cost by most direct cremation providers.

Fairer Finance Reports on the Funeral Plan Market.

This report was sponsored by Dignity, who are the dominant force in the UK Funeral Plan Market, and in the Funeral Director market.  Both their funeral plans and their funeral directors are expensive.   They have seen their market share drop substantially over recent years and would like to make life difficult for the upstarts.   Worst still some of these upstarts do things differently.  Even worse, some of them are supporting independent funeral directors because they are much cheaper.   And, for Dignity, if not for consumers, it gets worse.

One of the new breed of funeral plan companies is actually helping to train and set up new funeral directors and deliberately helping them to cut prices to end users.   That will obviously have a massive impact on Dignities profits in the long run.

So please do read the report with that in mind, and remember that not everyone wants their plan to include environmentally unfriendly embalming (to preserve the body) or limousines when the family can use their own cars and divert hundreds from Dignities pockets.   According to Dignity, everyone wants a service.  We have news – it is a free market (still) and people can make their own choices.  yes, they need to understand them, and anything which helps with that is to be welcomed.

One thing Dignity does not support is independent advice on the choice of funeral plans.  They prefer to give vast commissions to people who can only sell their plans – from what we understand, they may earn 50% more than we do and they don’t have to do any research! Nor do we have salespeople or a call centre!! But here is the Fairer Finance Press Release: (get the salt out!)

Unregulated funeral plan market leaves millions of pounds of consumer money at risk.

New Fairer Finance report says perfect storm is brewing of misleading sales practices, lack of consumer understanding and lack of regulation in prepaid funeral plan sector. Regulation is urgently needed to prevent a Farepak-style scandal.

Independent consumer group, Fairer Finance, in partnership with Dignity Funerals, has published a report calling for stronger regulation of the funeral planning industry.

The report, “Is the prepaid funeral planning market working well for consumers?” suggests there is significant evidence of mis-selling within the industry and that millions of pounds worth of consumers’ money could be at risk. Although the report was commissioned by Dignity, Fairer Finance retained full editorial control.

Read the full report

Funeral plans are an effective way for consumers to plan and pay for a funeral. Between 2006 and 2016 there has been a near fivefold increase in the number sold each year. As a result 1.2 million UK consumers now own a plan. It is believed that a significant proportion of this growth is due to websites purporting to be comparison sites combined with high pressure telesales tactics.

Funeral plans look and feel like a financial services product, but 75% of consumers wrongly believe their plan is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The report shows:
• There is evidence of persistent and high pressure sales practices often through aggressive third party sales intermediaries. A telephone survey of 1,001 adults over the age of 50 indicates that as many as 6 million people have been marketed to by funeral plan providers or their agents and nearly half (49%) of those contacted over the phone have been re-contacted 2 or more times, 46% agreed that they were being pushed to take out a plan when re-contacted and 63% felt this additional communication was not ‘useful’.

• Lack of clarity – Consumers do not understand the differences between plan types, are confused by industry terms and are unaware of the potential for and scale of extra costs, and other product exclusions. Over 90% of those identified as contribution style funeral plan holders wrongly thought their plan guarantees to pay for cremation costs when this was not the case.

• Mismatch of customer expectations – The research demonstrated that consumers tend not to understand what is and isn’t guaranteed by their plan. Customers buying these plans are often elderly and more vulnerable and not around to check whether the product met their expectations when a claim is made.

• Safety of consumer money – There is very poor transparency around what happens to customer money. While all money must be placed in a trust, or a whole of life policy, few providers are explicit about funding levels and where the money is invested. There is no safety net if a provider was to become insolvent.

• Lack of consumer protection – The industry is subject to voluntary regulation by the Financial Planning Authority. Some providers are not part of this voluntary regulation scheme. Third party sales firms are not even subject to voluntary regulation. Consumers do not have access to an Ombudsman service in the event their complaints are not resolved satisfactorily.

James Daley, Managing Director and Founder, Fairer Finance, said; “Funerals have become ever more expensive over the past decade, and pre-paid plans can be a great way of locking in today’s prices, whilst also ensuring your family isn’t left with this significant financial burden after you’re gone. Although there are some reputable providers working in the interests of consumers, the sector has rapidly expanded over the last few years, with our research revealing a worrying number of conduct issues and lack of consumer protection.

“The combination of a fast growing market fuelled by high pressure sales to a potentially vulnerable customer base is creating a perfect storm. A growing number of customers are likely to be let down when their plan is claimed on – with some funeral plan providers passing on significant extra costs to the families. And there is a concern that client money is not always being adequately looked after. Without intervention, we may yet see a Farepak-style collapse in this market, which leaves thousands of customers out of pocket.”

Simon Cox, Head of Insight and External Affairs, Dignity, commented;
“The sector is evolving into a two-tier market; those committed to offering quality products and services, versus those willing to “sell at all costs”, without strong governance or worry about fair customer outcomes.

“We believe a governance gap is responsible for an explosion of online and telesales organisations who have moved on from PPI and accident claims management into funeral plans. Our worry is that this situation is not sustainable, and before too long poor practice will result in one or two struggling to fulfil their obligations, leaving the rest of the sector to deal with the debris.”

Dignity and Fairer Finance are committed to working positively with consumers, government regulators and partners in the industry to explore these recommendations and encourage other plan providers to do the same. It is hoped that over the coming months, an improved consumer environment in the sector can become a reality.

Read the full report

Read the Small Print

When buying a funeral plan, read the small print:

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

See if you can work out what is wrong with this funeral plan without any help from us. We will give you a clue. It is NOT )in our opinion) despite its name, a Funeral Plan! That is whu you need out cost free independent advice on choosing a funeral plan!  Or you could read the small print on hundreds of plans if you are that way inclined….

Your Choice of Funeral Plan.

The ‘XXXX Plan – Plan price £1890*

This plan provides a dignified but simple “no frills” funeral:

§  The professional advice, guidance and services of the funeral director and necessary staff throughout the funeral arrangements.§  Transfer of the deceased (during office hours) to our Chapel of Rest, from within a 20 mile radius.§  Advice on how to register the death and how to obtain all the necessary certificates.

§  Supplying a basic coffin.

§  Provision of a hearse to the nearest cemetery or crematorium.

§  This plan does NOT include viewing the deceased, provision of a limousine, or a church service.

*Plan prices valid until 31st March 2015
+ £225 administration fee per plan
+ Disbursements (see below)


Whilst we will be pleased to calculate third party fees, or ‘disbursements’ at current rates, we have no control over what these might be in the future. You have the option of paying a contribution towards these but please be aware that there may be additional cost involved at the time of need.

Disbursements for a local cremation, including doctors’ fees for a cremation certificate, minister’s fee and organist: YYYYYYYYYY £1035; ZZZZZ £1168.

So have you realised what the small print of the XXXX Funeral Plan means?

  1. It doesn’t cover the cost of the actual cremationl!!!  That is extra, as are other smalller items covered in most plans.  In our opinion, that means it is NOT a funeral plan, but what do we know!   All it does is make sure the funeral director gets paid. You have to add the best part of £1000 to cover basic disbursements, which makes it over £1000 more expensive than the best value equivalent which does include cremation and cost less than this pathetic excuse for a funeral plan.  Just our view!
  2. It prevents the family from being involved at any time after the body is collected – no service, no viewings, just no family involvement.  We really don’t like this sort of plan, as it is rare that no one at all wishes to have any sort of farewell.
  3. The minimum cost of this funeral (excluded) plan would seem to be £1,890 PLUS £225 which is £2,215 and then you need to pay for the cremation and the two doctors certificates at the very least.

VERDICT – avoid at all costs unless you dislike all your “friends” and relatives, it is dire value for money.  There are many plans of this type, so why not let us do the legwork for you, and find a plan which really helps those left behind.  No plan is perfect but there are plenty better than this one!  But if you really want a  cheap plan that excludes family and friends we can help….if you insist!


Planning your funeral  in advance

Planning your funeral.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

Planning a funeral can be hard when a loved one has died. Often you have nothing to show what they would have liked, just the conflicting views of family and friends. At a highly emotional time, that can be a recipe for disaster in even the happiest of families.

It has to be better to plan your own funeral.   Prepaying is a big part of that, but setting out more detailed wishes can pour oil on troubled waters. At the very least, it makes it easier for those arranging the funeral – if anyone disagrees, they have the perfect answer – you made it clear that was what you wanted.   End of argument!

Some of the decisions in planning your own funeral.

  • Which funeral plan?  

Many plans have hidden charges if you make changes, or there may be problems if the undertaker is taken over or goes out of business. Many firms make a substantial charge if you decide to move out of the immediate area of the original undertaker, perhaps to be near your children, or to find a decent care home.

  •  Burial or cremation?

Burial plots are rapidly running out in many areas, and often only reused ones are available.   It may not be possible to buy a burial plot where you wish to be at all. If it is possible, you will probably need to book and pay for it now, with just the other costs surrounding the actual burial process to be paid at the time.

In some areas, Natural Burial Grounds are becoming more widely available, and that is another alternative, as is burying your ashes rather than all of you.

Most people these days are cremated and have service at the crematorium rather than in a church or whatever your religious preference is. As long as your feelings are clear, of course. Some people want a memorial service in the church, before going on to the crematorium. This costs more as two undertakers or more will be working for longer, and the hearse will cover more miles too.

  • Coffins.

WIll you have a basic standard coffin or more expensive eco-friendly or wooden? Take a look at some of the more unusual ones.  Is it for burial or cremation?

  • Memorial

Is there to be a headstone or some other semi-permanent memorial? These are not included in normal funeral plans.

  • Music.

Do you want to leave the choice of music to others, or to arrange for your favourite pieces of music or hymns to be played as part of your Funeral Plan?  Which music means a lot to you?

  •  Newspaper notices.

Notices in local or sometimes national or trade newspaper are an important way to let people know about the funeral arrangements. Again, these are not including in standard funeral plans.

  • Transport.

Do you may want to decide, for example on:

– An alternative form of transport such as a horse drawn hearse or motorcycle hearse.

– Limousines for the funeral (most can carry six people). None? One, two or even more?

– Where the funeral procession will leave from and whether it will take a special route. That takes us back to where the service will be help.   Some people want to be taken past their favourite spots one last time.

  • Flowers

are not generally included in funeral plans, but you can include your choice of flowers, and just include an allowance for the cost. Some people don’t want flowers but:

  • Donations:

you can request that donations are made to a charity or other organisation.

  • Funeral Stationery,

You may want to choose a design, reading or wording for an order of service booklet for your funeral.

  • The Wake:

there is no reason why you can’t include an amount to cover the cost of the catering, venue and (if so inclined) drinks.

  • Summary

Planning your own funeral is a really thoughtful thing to do for those left behind,