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prepaid low cost funerals

Cutting Funeral Costs

Pure Cremation Comments on Funeral Habits and their Cost.

Continually increasing funeral costs and funeral poverty have once again dominated this year’s Royal London National Funeral Cost Index with the average cost of a funeral rising yet again faster than normal inflation.

OK, it is only marginally above the rate of inflation, but it is a major issue causing debt levels to rise by £79 to £1,680 for those who cannot comfortably afford a funeral. Funeral poverty set a record of more than £160m an increase of around £10m on the previous year.

The report also reveals the funeral industry suffers from vast gulfs in funeral costs from area to area, with widely varying fees for crematoriums and a shortage of burial plots with costs from minor to mind boggling to buy a plot.

So what is needed is a wider choice of ways to say goodbye.

Direct cremations and other ‘no frills’ options are increasingly popular but the report highlights ‘the challenge is to ensure that awareness of these options is raised and consumers are encouraged to shop around more to find the right solution for their needs’.

Pure Cremation is probably the leading specialist in direct cremation, not only offering low-cost cremation-only services but pushing wider conversations about what a funeral should look like and what it should achieve.

Pure Cremation’s  Catherine Powell commented: “Britain seems caught between the reality of an almost completely secular society and a template for the final rite of passage that originated 200 years ago. Weddings have changed beyond recognition in the last two decades to reflect preferences – a similar reinvention for funerals is long overdue.

“It is not just a question of cost and the cheapest option – it’s a question of choice and more importantly what is right for the family and the deceased.”

It is now more than 10 years since a report commissioned by the Funeralcare Forum revealed that 80% were disappointed with the funeral they arranged for a loved one – a shocking statistic that had nothing to do with the quality of care provided and everything to do with an anxiety about whether they had “done the right thing”. Another reason for prepaid funeral, where that burden is largely lifted from the shoulders of those left behind.

“People continue to resist talking about death and funerals, perhaps because they don’t realise the range of choices they now have. This causes both emotional and financial distress that could so easily be avoided.”

The team at Pure Cremation feel they have a responsibility that goes beyond simply promoting their service. Price transparency has always been a fundamental part of their approach, along with a consultative service offering clear guidance for bereaved families to help them make fully informed decisions, because they recognised that whilst direct cremation may be the right choice for many it is not for all.

They have also found a way to make a real difference to a group highlighted in the report, those applying for assistance with funeral costs.

Direct cremation funerals to increase

Direct cremation funerals to  increase to 10% of UK funerals by 2030

Research[1] conducted by Dignity plc, one of the UK’s (self styled) premium funeral directors, shows that 53% of online consumers would consider a David Bowie style funeral for themselves, namely a Direct Cremation.

At the Prepaid Funeral Review, we have looked across the market at prepaid Direct Cremations with a little concern.  What happens if family and friends don’t agree with your decision to cut them out of the traditional funeral?  We always ask people to consider this and discuss it with family members and friend.  A good proportion of them then come back and opt for a more conventional funeral.   But let’s not spoil Dignitys’ Press Release:

A direct cremation is a low cost alternative to a traditional funeral, because cremations take place without a funeral service. The family arranges for the deceased to be collected, taken into care, and a cremation takes place without the family present.  Ashes can then returned to the family who often arrange their own reception or event to remember the deceased, which can be done at a significantly lower cost.

Annual unattended direct cremation volumes in the UK are estimated to be between 3-5% of UK deaths (18,000-30,000 people a year2) and Dignity is predicting this figure to reach or exceed 10% by 2030.

Simon Cox, Head of Insight and External Affairs at Dignity said; “The growth in the UK’s interest in direct cremation is in response to a shift in consumer attitudes towards funerals. Consumers are moving away from a one size fits all traditional funeral service and among the very many different needs this includes those who may wish to choose an unattended or low cost funeral option.

In addition public figures, such as David Bowie, demonstrated earlier this year that there are other options for people who choose a send-off with no fuss.  We witnessed a sharp spike in public interest for direct cremation immediately after Bowie’s death”.

John Troyer from The Centre for Death and Society at University of Bath said “Based on my research on the history of final disposal methods in the United States, direct cremation is something that many individuals choose when making end-of-life decisions about what should be done with their body. As in the US, I would expect to see interest in direct cremation continue to grow.”

Simon Cox continued; “To put it into context a basic funeral is £3,973[2] and is predicted to grow to £5,334 by 2021[3]. Not everyone wants to or can spend over £3,900 on a funeral with more and more people looking for alternatives such as direct cremation services, which can cost less than half the price. This is because a direct cremation requires so much less than the traditional funeral in terms of the various elements, people and planning.

 

[1] Research conducted for Dignity by Trajectory Partnership. Amongst an online nationally representative sample of over 2,000 UK individuals.  2 Calculation using ONS figures

[2] Matter Communications 2016

[3] Dignity based on data from Matter Communications 2011-2016

Funeral Costs Shock 200,000 Families Every Year

Over 200,000 families fail to plan for funeral costs shock.

funeral costs shock

Avoid the funeral costs shock.

Funeral costs shock 200,000 families every year. say Co-op Funeralcare. Surveys reveal that failure to plan for inevitable funerals is costing next of kin dearly. Over 200,000* families being left without any funds to cover their loved one’s funeral in 2015.

Even in cases where financial provision had been made, the YouGov** survey found that 11% hadn’t left sufficient funds to cover the full cost.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

As a result of this shortfall, in spite of financial provision having been made, a fifth of families (18%) have had to unexpectedly fund over three quarters of the total funeral cost, equating to over £2,500 on average. With the average funeral now costing over £3,800, the majority of families left to fund any shortfall did this in a range of ways including:

  • 54% – accessed savings of family and friends of the person who passed away.
  • 10% – took out a personal loan.
  • 9% – covered the costs on a credit card.
  • 6% – sought assistance via the Government’s Social Fund.

Measures introduced by the Co-op, to tackle the issue of funeral affordability include improvements to Co-op’s most affordable funeral option, reducing 7% on average off the cost. Co-op has also become the first business to sign an enhanced pledge from campaign group Fair Funerals to tackle funeral poverty and increase price transparency, in addition to re-launching its funeral planning range to offer the UK’s most affordable*** national fully-guaranteed funeral plan. (We would add that you should read our review before considering a funeral plan – Prepaid Funeral Review Team.)

12% said they weren’t aware of the Government’s support via the Social Fund.  Of those that did apply, a third were not eligible for funding.  They then had to find alternative means to cover the funeral cost. This is a situation that is set to continue with nearly half of UK adults (48%) yet to consider how their funeral would be paid for.

Amongst the remainder who have made plans, the most popular way to save to cover funeral costs is as follows.

  • 44% – in a bank and building society savings account. (Please read the link Prepaid Funeral Review Team.) 
  • 20% – via a pre-paid funeral plan.
  • 20% – through other savings and investments. (Please read the link Prepaid Funeral Review Team.) 
  • 16% – via an over 50’s plan(Please read the link. Prepaid Funeral Review Team.) 
  • 13% – via their life insurance. (Unless written in trust or owned by a partner etc, these will not be released until probate has been granted, which could take months! Prepaid Funeral Review Team.) 

For those who have taken out a funeral plan, their intention was to ensure that their families had nothing more to pay to cover funeral costs. Highlighting this, 45% said it was very important that their funeral plan was inflation proof and fully protected loved ones against any future rises in costs. In spite of wanting to put arrangements in place, findings show that as many as 96% of those with a funeral plan don’t know whether it will cover the total funeral cost. (We have news – NO normal funeral plan will cover ALL of the costs, they just cover the costs stated in the plan brochure or provide a fund towards those costs with some form of indexation.  This is especially important for burial plans. If a plot needs to be bought at the time of death.  Prepaid Funeral Review Team.) 

Commenting on the findings, Richard Lancaster, Managing Director for Co-op Funeralcare said: “The end of our lives isn’t an easy thing to think about and as a result thousands of families are being left with a legacy of financial as well as emotional grief following a loss.”

“With a range of measures already launched this year, we are focused on playing our part to tackle the issue of funeral affordability both by reducing the cost of a funeral, and also by making it more accessible for families to make plans and budget gradually for funeral costs.”

Stephen Pett of The Prepaid Funeral Review said: “We welcome the Co-op Funeralcare initiative but would ask them to put their own Terms and Conditions of Business on a footing acceptable to anyone who takes the trouble to read them. THAT is treating customers fairly.”

References

*There were 529,655 deaths registered in England and Wales in 2015 according to the ONS. Based on 40% of this figure, 211,862 adults in 2015 were left without financial provision for a funeral in 2015

**You Gov research conducted amongst a sample of 1100 UK adults in May 2016

***According to a comparison of national funeral plan providers, the Simple Funeral plan is the most affordable set plan for both burial and cremation available nationwide and fully covering third party costs. (What they ACTUALLY cover is not ALL third party costs, but all LISTED third party costs.  The Co-op Plan would be a good one if the Terms of Business were acceptable. Prepaid Funeral Review Team) 

Low Cost Cremation Plans – The Way Forward?

Low Cost Cremation Plans – are they the way forward?

Leading bereavement expert says MPs’ Report On The State of Funeral Provision Is inaccurate. As British Funeral Culture Is Changing Rapidly. We at the Prepaid Funeral Review feel that there is some truth in that.  However, in the vast majority of cases, there will be significant emotional problems for at least some of those left behind. But that is just our view.  We have no problem organising great value low cost cremation plans for people who really understand them. Our concern is over the meaning of the word “direct” and the lack of understanding.

Direct Cremation and Low cost cremation: the answer to funeral poverty?

Following the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee’s damning report into the state of funeral provision for the poorer elements of society, a leading UK funeral expert believes the solutions to the problems already exist.

Maybe there is already a solution.    Simple out of normal hours cremation, and direct cremation plans where the deceased is cremated at a low cost crematorium. That crematorium may be hundreds of miles away.  Most do not allow the family to attend even if they could. There is a market for that, and some high profile celebrities like David Bowie have drawn greater attention to this as an option.

The Select Committee findings criticised the “opaque and outdated” state support arrangements for those unable to afford the cost of a funeral. Also the rigid definitions around whom the Government deems to have been “close” to the deceased. And fair game to be lumbered with the cost. Howard Hodgson, an innovative funeral director, agrees, pointing out that the provisions have not been reviewed for 13 years. However, he goes on to criticise its’ dated assessment of the market.  He says that there is no need for the intervention of the competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority.

Low cost cremation plans – why are they now acceptable to some?

Hodgson says the report fails to recognise that the market has changed dramatically to meet increased demand for low cost direct cremation.  Hodgson says there are two main drivers for this change:

  1. Financial considerations: fewer people are willing or able to afford funeral from normal cash reserves. Funeral poverty affects a significant proportion of the population.  Unless, of course, they have taken our advice and invested in a prepaid funeral plan!
  2. Less religious concerns for many of the population.

Reacting to the Select Committee’s report, Howard Hodgson said;

At Memoria it has become evident to us that there is an increasing desire by a growing section of the general public for a low cost direct cremation service. We do not believe that this will totally replace the traditional funeral but we do have significant evidence that it is increasing its market share at an impressive rate, signifying a distinct cultural change in the way people are approaching funerals.

Therefore, we believe that there is not only a moral need to supply this legitimate demand, but that such provision can also reduce the cost of a funeral by around 70%.  This must be good news for both the less well off and the public purse.

Just to ignore this trend is not in the interest of either the funeral industry or the Government. Indeed, no costly Government intervention is necessary because the market has found a solution to the problem as it usually does in a free enterprise economy.

We are now seeing a groundbreaking change as the baby boomers start to end their days. This generation changed the fashion of life and now it is changing the fashion of death. This is good news for families who want to select low cost direct cremation and yet does not impact at all on those who don’t.” 

Low Cost Cremation – Good, Bad, Indifferent?

Stephen Pett of the Prepaid Funeral Review said “Any financial preparation for a funeral has to be good for those left behind.  Direct Cremation Plans are increasingly an acceptable form of planning, but only in the right family context.  Why not contact us for advice?”

Cost of Dying Doubles in 10 Years

The cost of dying in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in the last decade.

Funeral costs in Northern Ireland

Funeral costs in Northern Ireland double

Northern Ireland funeral costs now exceed £3,000 on average, according to the Belfast Telegraph. That is a rise of 106% since 2004. Paupers’ funerals, carried out for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay, have also jumped alarmingly in recent years. Consequently families are being left struggling to cope with funeral costs.

The Telegraph article continues: “DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he knew of some families in his East Belfast constituency who are still saddled with debt nearly two years after burying loved ones.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

“I know one woman whose husband died at the end of 2014, and she is still struggling to meet the costs of the funeral,” he told their reporter.

“I am also aware of funeral directors who are struggling because they are carrying a significant amount of bad debt, where families are just unable to meet the bills that they have.”

On Wednesday Mr Robinson raised his concerns during a debate at Westminster, where he called for more help for hard-pressed families.

Northern Ireland Funeral Costs – a possible solution.

We at the Prepaid Funeral Review feel we have at least a partial solution in the Family Funeral Plan, specially designed to help families with at least a little spare income between them.

SunLife’s annual Cost Of Dying Report found the average funeral price in Norther Ireland to be £3,277. The 106% rise since 2004 is one of the biggest anywhere in the UK, though they are still relatively lower than the UK average.

The Belfast Telegraph continued “Death-related expenses are increasing faster than any cost of living bills such as rent, food or utilities. London remains the most expensive place to die, with the average funeral costing £5,529 – 42% above the national average of £3,897.”

Researchers for the annual Cost of Dying Report found that a significant number of those arranging  a funeral had to cut back on the arrangements for purely financial reasons. Cars for older family members, memorials and flowers all had to be left out. Payday loans or just selling belongings were other sources of finance.

“Citizens Advice Northern Ireland raised concerns about the support available for bereaved people with limited incomes. It said a Social Fund funeral payment – awarded to help meet essential costs – is inadequate. The charity noted the average award in 2014/15 was £1,048 – less than a third of the £3,277 average funeral bill.

Pol Callaghan from Citizens Advice Northern Ireland said: “The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for any family.  Unfortunately, for people on a low income it also brings a heavy financial burden. This compounds the trauma of bereavement with the stress of money worries and added debt. The diminished value of the Social Fund funeral payment only covers around one third of funeral costs. This is leaving people in real hardship.”

Citizens Advice is calling for a review of the payment.

Based on an article in the Belfast Telegraph on Northern Ireland Funeral Costs,