We’re Giving Dignity a Helping Hand 5

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 [email protected] for further details.

Previous ArticleNext Article

5 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.

  4. The prices you’ve quoted for Dignity are VERY misleading. A lot of the charges are what every funeral director would have to pay (Cremation Fee £884, Doctors £164, Celebrant £180). Even with a limousine (£175), a wooden ashes urn (£88) and a 4 ft spray for top of coffin (£85), the total charges would be approximately £3700.
    I’ve worked for Dignity for 2 years and the facilities we have are first class. That can’t be said for some of the independents I’ve had dealings with, some who don’t have any proper storage facilities.
    And we have no hidden charges. I know someone who was charged £100 for an independent funeral director to dress their loved one and £25 for each chapel visit!! Dignity do NOT charge for these services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comparing Attitudes to Wills 0

What happens after we die?

It’s a spiritual question for some. For others, it’s about what happens to our money, belongings and reputation – the mark we leave on the world.

The UK's Attitude to Wills

Ready to make your will? Step this way

At Beyond, it costs just £90 to make a will from the comfort of your own sofa. 

Every will is checked by our in-house experts, who are on hand to answer your questions every step of the way. 

So, why wait? Click here to make your will today.

What Makes a Good Funeral? 0

A wicker coffin decorated with flowers by the team at Full Circle Funerals

What makes a ‘good’ funeral?

Most people in the funeral profession have their own (usually quite personal) idea of what the answer to this question should be.

For the eco-minded funeral director, it’s often things like willow coffins and natural burials. Others pride themselves on their traditional horse-drawn carriages and excellent embalming. And there’s always the odd funeral director who seems to think it’s all about having a lot of cars (so many cars).

But what happens when we ask bereaved families what they think?

Dr Sarah Jones, funeral director at Open Circle Funerals and author of the excellent Funerals, Your Way, has just completed a study that did just that. A collaboration with Dr Julie Rugg from the University of York’s Cemetery Research Group, the research revealed the five key factors that matter to families most. We caught up with Sarah to find out more.

 

Hi Sarah! What inspired you to do this research?

Having started my working life in healthcare, I was ‘brought up’ to make sure that everything I did was based on evidence.

Once I began arranging funerals, I naturally wanted to take the same approach. So, I began looking at all the writing available on funerals. But what I found was mostly based on anecdote, opinion or the personal reflections of professionals. And even the more robust research made assumptions about what was important, without having asked bereaved people themselves. I thought we could do better.

 

What were you trying to find out through your research?

Ultimately, I’d like to understand whether a funeral has any impact on wellbeing at all. What difference does a ‘good’ funeral make?

But before we can look at that, we need to understand what a good funeral is. Which aspects of a funeral are most important to families? Only then can we establish if, when all these factors are in place, there is an impact on how bereaved people feel.

 

How did you conduct your research?

Dr Julie Rugg and I designed and co-lead the study with the University of York. We recruited participants using newspaper articles and social media and asked them open questions about their experience of arranging or attending a funeral. We spoke to more than 50 people. Meanwhile, we had ethical oversight from an advisory committee made up of industry experts.

 

People aren’t always comfortable talking about death. Was it hard to find participants?

Actually, no! We thought that it might be, but in the end we had to stop recruiting new participants once we had interviewed 53 people. People were surprisingly forthcoming, too: the average interview was around an hour and a half long. We gathered a huge amount of data from these ‘experts by experience’!

 

What did you find out?

Once our interviews were complete, Dr Rugg analysed them to understand what people consistently said mattered to them. The five themes that emerged were:An infographic showing Dr Jones' findings

  1. Were funeral wishes known?
  2. Were decisions inclusive?
  3. Was the funeral director responsive?
  4. Was contact with the body helpful?
  5. Did the funeral event meet expectations?

 

Why did it matter if funeral wishes were known?

People spoke in detail about how meaningful it was to be able to fulfil funeral wishes after someone has died. If their wishes were unknown, it often meant that the family worried about whether they’d done the right thing. Interestingly, it didn’t seem to matter if the instructions were detailed or not. It was enough to just have some direction.

 

What does it mean that decisions were inclusive?

How well a family worked together to arrange the funeral had a significant impact on how satisfied they were with it. Most families seemed to try hard to manage this. But in some cases, people felt deliberately excluded from arrangements, or felt that their opinions were ignored. These people were the most dissatisfied with the funeral.

 

Any key takeaways for funeral directors?

First impressions count. People often commented on whether the funeral director had got the tone right straight off the bat – and this initial impression seemed to set the tone for the relationship.

One thing that might surprise funeral directors is that while some people wanted to be given a lot of personalisation, choice and control over the funeral, others did not.

Essentially, funeral directors need to have the emotional intelligence and skill to be able to understand and deliver the kind of support that each individual family wants and needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all option.

 

You mention contact with the body: do families want more, or less?

It varied. While some people found being with the body consoling, others didn’t need or want that contact at all. But time and again we heard that it was important. Contact with the body of the person who had died, at the right time, was a key talking point. It matters a great deal to many people.

 

What about embalming?

Not wanting to bias our interviewees, we didn’t ask any direct questions about embalming. But the people who raised it themselves did so in a negative way – citing various interventions which had occurred without their prior knowledge.

 

Did any of your findings really surprise you?

For me, one of the most striking findings was that different people found meaning in very different elements of the funeral.

For some people, this happened at the time of death.  For others, it was the act of carrying the coffin, writing the eulogy or lovingly preparing the written service booklet.  Some people found the choice of coffin or flowers important; others couldn’t even remember what had been chosen.

 

What would you like others to draw from your work?

Funeral services are under a lot of scrutiny at the moment. It’s the perfect time to reassess the kind of support we offer bereaved families. And there’s no denying that the people who shared their accounts with us really challenged some of the current thinking about funerals and what people want from a funeral director.

What I’d like this study to do is help people in the funeral profession benefit from the perspective of bereaved people. After all, we all want to offer the best possible support to the families who place their trust in us.

Want to find out more about the study? A full report can be downloaded for free here.