We’re Giving Dignity a Helping Hand 4

James and Sharon Dunn uploading Dignity prices

Here at Beyond, we believe everyone has a right to an affordable funeral. We also believe that before we can make that right a reality, there needs to be price transparency in the funeral industry. It’s why we do what we do: help people compare funeral director costs for free, online, with no obligation.

It’s also why, when we heard that that Dignity Plc (the UK’s second largest funeral chain) made a commitment in January 2017 to make their prices available online by January 2019 – that is, two years later  – we decided to step in.

We don’t believe a company with Dignity’s resources should need two years to put prices online. So, we’ve done the work for them.

What exactly have we done?

We spent the last few months of 2017 gathering and collating prices from 764 Dignity-owned funeral homes. And, as of today, we’re including all of them on our funeral director comparison tool – alongside the 1,000+ independents who have already chosen to be transparent with their pricing.

Visitors to our site will now be able to see where Dignity branches are, what name the branch is using, and (most importantly) how much they charge compared to the independents in the same area. It looks something like this:

Funeral Prices in Glasgow - screenshot from www.beyond.life
Funeral Prices in Glasgow – screenshot from www.beyond.life

Or, to put it another way:

How much does a funeral cost in the UK? Dignity vs Independents
Cost of a Funeral – Dignity vs Independents

As a bonus, here are a few interesting facts about those prices:

  • The average cost of a Dignity-arranged ‘traditional’ funeral, with funeral director expenses, a hearse, one limousine and a wood veneer coffin is £4,659 – that’s not including third party costs, like the cost of the burial or cremation.
  • This is more than double the average for an equivalent funeral arranged by the independent funeral directors on Beyond, £2,087.
  • The most expensive branch we found was Jonathan Harvey in Glasgow, which charges £5,300 for a funeral with a hearse, one limousine and a wood veneer coffin (again, excluding third party costs).
  • The least expensive location we found was W Williams & Son in the leafy Cheshire village of Tarvin, which came in at £2,195 for the same funeral.
  • That’s a difference of £3,105 between inner-city Glasgow and a Cheshire village.
  • Our data also revealed some odd pricing structures. For example: in Newcastle, if you go into R S Johnson & Sons you will pay £4,850 for the package above. But if you drive 10 minutes down the road (just 2 miles) to Peter Johnson Funerals, you’ll save yourself £1,800 and pay only £3,050.

James and Sharon Dunn uploading Dignity pricesWhere does this price information come from?

The horse’s mouth. From July  to December last year, our intrepid team of volunteers gathered price sheets from 764 of the 814 Dignity-owned funeral homes in the UK. Fuelled by mince pies and justice, our co-founder James Dunn then teamed up with his mum Sharon to painstakingly enter every detail into our system over the Christmas break. It was very festive.

We warmly invite Dignity to send us any new or revised pricing whenever available – we’d be very happy to update our site and analysis accordingly (and give Sharon a welcome break).

How do the independent funeral directors on Beyond compare?

Over 1,000 independent funeral directors have chosen to list their costs on Beyond. On average, they’re 36% cheaper than the national average funeral cost, and 123% cheaper than Dignity funeral chains in particular. And like us, they believe that people have a right to arrange the funeral their loved one deserves, without worrying about finances.

For this reason and others, we remain committed to championing the amazing work these independent funeral directors do – and we’re confident that they will continue to flourish.

UPDATE: Dignity have recently responded to our research by questioning our methodology. You can check out our reply and find out more about how we collect and compare accurate prices here.

Want to find out more? Explore our funeral director comparison tool here, or contact the Beyond team at press@beyond.life for further details.

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4 Comments

  1. This is a brilliant tool to help families see where real transparency Liz found! Not in gimmicks and PR stunts of the corporate funeral provider.

  2. Well done! It’s about time someone did this. Opaque pricing in the industry has been a big issue since the big guys tried to monopolize the market. Well done Beyond!

  3. Excellent work. At last people can actually see the true difference between the conglomerates and the independents, allowing them to make an informed decision with regard to the costs.

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Child Funeral Fees to be Dropped in England 0

Carolyn Harris
Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP responsible for the campaign fo a Children’s Funeral Fund. Image by Chris McAndrew.

Child burial and cremation fees are to be dropped in England, the prime minister has announced.

Theresa May said that the costs will be covered by a Children’s Funeral Fund, which will be set up to help bereaved parents pay for the funerals of children under the age of 18.

The campaign for the Fund was driven by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who was forced to take out a loan to cover funeral costs in 1989 after her eight-year-old son died in a car accident.

Ms Harris, who is MP for Swansea East and Labour equality spokesperson, successfully campaigned for a Children’s Funeral Fund in Wales last year.


“It’s a huge thing to lose a child and then have to worry about what kind of funeral you can give them.”


Speaking to Sky News, Ms Harris said that the English Children’s Funeral Fund was a “bittersweet victory but a victory nonetheless.

“It is a huge thing for a parent to lose a child. It’s a huge thing to lose a child and then have to worry about what kind of funeral you can give them.”

She said: “I celebrated last year when the Welsh Government gave me the Children’s Funeral Fund, I’ve celebrated when every local authority right across this country has done this.

“But at last, after so much pressure and so much time, families right across the United Kingdom can know that if they’re ever in that terrible, terrible position when they lose a child, that there will now be a pot of money available to make sure that child has a dignified and respectful funeral.”


“No parent who has gone through the heart-breaking experience of losing a child should be left struggling to cover the cost of a funeral.”


It is estimated that 4,350 children under the age of 18 die in England each year. Meanwhile, the average funeral costs over £4,000 – a substantial cost that many parents coping with the unexpected loss of a child struggle to cover.

Announcing the decision, the prime minister praised Ms Harris’ dignity and strength in continuing the campaign, adding that “in the raw pain of immediate loss, it cannot be right that grieving parents should have to worry about how to meet the funeral costs for a child they hoped to see grow into adulthood.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the establishment of a fund was “very welcome and wonderful news.

“This is a simple piece of dignity for bereaved families across the country, secured through tenacious campaigning by Labour’s Carolyn Harris who tirelessly kept up the pressure when the Government was dragging its feet.

“No parent who has gone through the heart-breaking experience of losing a child should be left struggling to cover the cost of a funeral.”


“This new fund comes as welcome relief.”


The Children’s Funeral Fund has also been positively received in the industry. Beyond co-founder James Dunn said: “This new Fund comes as a welcome relief, not just for bereaved parents but also the funeral directors who help them. It’s often the case that, while the funeral director will waive their own fee for a child’s funeral, they’ll still be left in the position of explaining to the family why they have to pay burial or cremation fees.”

The Children’s Funeral Fund will be formally announced in the Autumn Budget later this year. Meanwhile, Labour campaigners are calling on the Scottish government to follow suit.

The Ancient Art of Obfuscation 0

This morning, Dignity challenged the accuracy of our pricing information

Our collation and publication of Dignity’s pricing was reported in ‘The Times’ this morning, and Dignity (led by Mike McCollum) has responded, saying:

  • The research is “out of date” and the prices incorrect
  • It has not been gathered independently by a recognised agency and its credibility is questionable
  • “Many prices listed … are incorrect, which would seem to defeat the object of a price comparison website”

To that, we say – come on, Mike, pull the other one: the game’s up.

It’s your own pricing, lovingly hand-collated from every Dignity branch. We’d be very happy to post images of all the pricing sheets online, should there be any serious dispute over their accuracy.

Look, here’s a nice photo of James and his mum Sharon with reams of them.

James Dunn and his mum collating Dignity's prices over Christmas
Christmas Collation

If any of the pricing has been recently updated, please send it over: we’ll happily update it for you.

Furthermore, for complete transparency, we’re going to demonstrate the methodology we use to make them comparable with other funeral directors below.

 

What pricing do we show on our website?

All prices shown on Beyond are comprised of two sets of prices:

  • prices charged by the funeral director
  • prices charged by third-parties, such as the cremation or minister fees

Independent funeral directors using Beyond supply their prices via their online account. For Dignity, we gathered physical pricing sheets from their locations across the country.

Third-party costs (also called disbursements) vary dramatically across the country, but are the same for all funeral directors in a local area. On Beyond, we include third-party fees so that people can get an accurate idea of the price that will be paid.

 

Here’s an example using a Dignity branch

We have used Jonathan Harvey in Glasgow as an example of how we use the Dignity pricing sheets to show comparable pricing for each Dignity branch.

Jonathan Harvey appears on Beyond for a “traditional” funeral at a total price of £6,338.

Funeral director fees and charges

These are shown on the Dignity pricing sheet (below):

  • ‘Our Service to You’ – £2,055
  • ‘Our Service to the Person who has Died’ – £900
  • ‘Your Appointed Funeral Director’ – £615
  • ‘Our Hearses’ – £695
  • One Limousine – £285
  • The Jura Coffin (Wood Veneer) – £750
  • The Wessex Urn – £88

After adding these together, the total cost comes to £5,388

Third party costs

For Jonathan Harvey, we use the closest crematorium: Maryhill Crematorium.

  • Cremation fee at Maryhill Crematorium – £645
  • Cost for a celebrant – £180
  • Flowers (coffin spray) – £125

This brings the total price to £6,338.

As a comparison, within about 5 miles you could go to James Cockburn (£3,165) or Anderson Maguire (£3,175) funeral directors and save yourself over £3,000.