QSA is researching how it can continue supporting funeral customers - and is seeking views from people who have organised a funeral within the past three years, and from client-facing funeral professionals.
Down to Earth, Quaker Social Action’s funeral costs helpline, has been operating for over a decade. Our small team supports people on low incomes who struggle with funeral costs. We help navigate quotations from funeral directors, claims from the DWP and Social Security Scotland, and grant applications to charities.
Alongside the helpline, QSA has championed funeral price transparency in the UK since 2015 through our successful Fair Funerals pledge and wider campaign (see below). In September 2021 it became a legal requirement for all funeral directors in the UK to display their prices. So, we are now reviewing what to do next.
As part of the review, we are researching consumer vulnerability in the funeral sector to identify what further action we can take to try and ensure recently bereaved people are as supported as possible when planning a funeral. We are particularly focusing on financial vulnerability and circumstances where someone may struggle to afford funeral costs. To help us with this, we would be very grateful to hear from anyone who has arranged a funeral within the last three years by completing this survey. We are sorry for your recent loss. We are aware that this can be a sensitive topic and have carefully considered the questions included in the survey. We will also be hosting an online discussion group on Wednesday 10th March, 2022, at both 12pm and 1pm. If you are interested in joining us, you can find more details at the end of the survey.
We are also keen to hear the views of funeral directors. We would be very grateful to any client-facing funeral professionals who are able to support the initial stage of this research by completing this version of the survey. We will also be hosting an online discussion group for funeral professionals on Thursday 17 March 2022 at 9.30am - more details on this are included in the survey.
QSA's successful campaign for clear funeral pricing
In 2015 we began encouraging funeral directors to sign our Fair Funerals pledge, which meant they committed to being open about their prices. QSA created the pledge because our experience of running the Down to Earth helpline showed us that the funeral industry was not fully on board with the need for up front pricing information; and that this tendency, combined with bereaved people's sense of disorientation and desire to make funeral arrangements quickly, led to many people ending up with funerals they could not afford.
Alongside the pledge we also created a consumer tool showing the companies that signed up on a map. By 2019 over one third of UK funeral director branches had signed up to QSA's Fair Funerals pledge. In 2020 we introduced additional requirements around transparent payment terms, and hundreds of funeral directors have since signed up for this latest version of the Fair Funerals pledge.
Then in September 2021 it became a legal requirement for all funeral directors in the UK to display their prices, as a result of the Competition and Markets Authority's investigation into the funeral industry. QSA's voluntary pledge and wider Fair Funerals campaign had helped to pave the way for the CMA's investigation. Whilst we believe that the CMA should have gone further by introducing price controls, and that the UK government should have pursued the CMA's recommendation to regulate the industry, we are pleased that clear funeral pricing - on funeral directors' websites and in their premises - is now compulsory. This has led QSA to pause new applications to the voluntary Fair Funerals pledge, and to begin researching where next to focus our efforts, alongside continuing to provide the Down to Earth helpline.