These days funeral planning services in general are regularly making headline news; so much so that with the busy lives we lead, it can be hard to keep abreast of all the latest reports and updates.
So to help keep you informed, here is a summary of the latest funeral planning services news and events that has happened over the last couple of months – good and bad.
Investigation into funeral costs and prepaid funeral plans announced
At the beginning of June both the Competition and Markets Authority and the Treasury announced their independent reviews on funeral costs and funeral plans respectively. Expected to take 12 months with an interim report expected after the first 6, the report will focus on ensuring customers get a fair deal when it comes to paying for a funeral and tighter regulation for the sale of prepaid funeral plans.
Although the Funeral Planning Authority currently oversee the regulation of some of the funeral plan UK providers, membership is not a requirement. This means that only those companies registered have had to prove that they comply with the FPA’s rules on how your money is held and the safeguards in place. Therefore this long awaited probe into funeral plan regulation and its outcome, be it intervention from the Financial Conduct Authority or stronger powers for the Funeral Planning Authority is very welcome news indeed.
Price of burials outstrips the cost of living
Towards the end of last month, the Telegraph and the Times reported how the huge rise in burial costs at 20% and cremation prices at 18% had outstripped the cost of living which has risen by less than 8%.
More worrying the report goes on to say how the average debt undertaken by families struggling with paying for a funeral is now around £1,680. With statements from Royal London, the report cited that a shortage of burial plots has in part led to a rise of 20% in certain locations, requesting Westminster to pass legislation that allows for sensitive re-use of abandoned old graves.
Of course at this stage there were no answers offered to these soaring burial costs and cremation prices; only worry of further rising funeral costs attributed to the increase in larger people requiring larger coffins, refrigeration and lifting equipment but it is clear that all hope is firmly pinned on the outcome of the Competition and Markets Authority and Treasury review findings.
Warnings over shortfall for those paying for a funeral with an Over 50s Life Insurance Plan
Research currently undertaken by the Coop funeral planning services found that families planning on paying for a funeral with an Over 50s plan face an average shortfall of £1,525. The research also found that over half of those surveyed who intended to use an Over 50 Life insurance plan to help with funeral costs weren’t aware of the shortfall.
To help combat the issue, Co op Funeralcare are offering families facing a shortfall discounts of between £300 to £400 off their eventual funeral costs but this will of course mean using the services of a co op funeral director.
Whilst getting help with funeral costs is always good news, it’s worth noting that a number of Over 50 life insurance providers have similar relationships with funeral plan providers life the Co op and offer incentives for agreeing for the cash sum from your over 50s plan to be paid directly to them. For example, Dignity currently offer a £300 contribution to Aviva and Sun Life Over 50 life insurance customers who agree to use their funeral services – a process that is free and usually referred to as a Funeral Benefit Option.
Rise of the ‘No Frills’ simple direct cremation funeral
With demand for a different style of funeral on the increase, direct cremation hit the headlines as the new funeral option for those looking for a cheap cremation but more importantly the increasing number of people wanting to avoid the upset and fuss of a funeral service.
Direct Cremation is the new kid on the block. It offers the simple, dignified cremation process but with no funeral service, so no family members or friends in attendance. At a fraction of the cost of a traditional funeral, direct cremation does of course appeal to people opting for a cheap cremation however most people choose this option because they either don’t believe in or don’t like the idea of a funeral service.
With an increasing number of companies now offering direct cremation funeral plans, I think you’ll be hearing more about these stripped back simple, affordable funerals in years to come.
Funeral Planning Authority Annual Report
Finally just to add that the Funeral Planning Authority launched its annual report looking at activity throughout 2017 and continued plans for 2018.
As you would expect, with all the close scrutiny on the funeral planning industry at the moment, the report details the Funeral Planning Authorities current role and plans for a more robust future, as it aims to persuade everyone that they are the appropriate body to provide funeral plan regulation going forward.
Having already undertaken changes to their internal structure that ensures true independence from the funeral plan industry, the FPA report proposes:
- 100% funeral plan provider registration
- Consumer education on the value of FPA registered funeral plans
- Encouraging wider conversations about death, funerals and the financial and practical implications of end of life planning
The FPA review also gives an oversight on complaints experienced and handled over the last 12 months, their registration and re-registration work for funeral plan providers and the introduction of their ‘mystery shopping’ programme; in place to ensure the funeral plan providers registered with them are complying with their rules and code of practice.
So that’s you up to date with the latest funeral plan news but as there is so much happening in the funeral planning market place at the moment, we will continue to keep you updated with regular blogs - so watch this space.