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.

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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.

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Isn’t it About Time You Made a Will? 0

couple holding hands

Most of us plan on making a will – one day. One of these days, we think. One, far-off day, when we have a bit of time free, and nothing better to do. I should really get on that.

But every year, thousands of us die without one. 60% of Brits don’t have a will. And while that number dwindles as we get older, the consequences of dying without a will when you’re young can be, in a way, even more devastating.

Alex and Nic’s story

In 2018, Alex and her husband Nic were starting a family. A “typical London couple,” the two of them had met online 10 years before, and had been married for 4. Now settled into their own home, they’d started planning for a baby. But all that was derailed in an instant when Nic died of a pulmonary embolism.

He was just 39.

“You don’t expect someone of 39 just to drop down dead,” Alex says. “He just died very, very suddenly.” Nic had a blood clot in his leg, which travelled to his lungs and became a fatal pulmonary embolism. The condition often strikes out of the blue, and rapidly becomes deadly. Sufferers can be almost any age.

“My whole world exploded,” Alex says. “A decade’s worth of building a life, of hopes and ideas of what the future will be, was just ripped apart.”

“You don’t think the worst is going to happen to you, but, actually, it does happen.”

Nic hadn’t made a will. While the two of them had discussed it – the latest conversation being just a week before Nic’s death – the task hadn’t been high on their to-do list as future parents.

“Life just gets in the way, and you never think it’s that urgent, do you?” Alex explains. “Most of my friends are in their mid-30s, and they have kids, and they don’t have a will. Now, I try to tell people: ‘You don’t think the worst is going to happen to you but, actually, it does happen to people.’”

With Nic gone and no will, Alex had the heartbreaking task of trying to guess what he would have wanted. A funeral had to be planned; Nic’s belongings had to go somewhere; their home, with its mortgage, had to be accounted for – and all without any instructions. It was hard.

“You’re doing your best, but you don’t actually know if it’s what the person would have wanted.”

“Telling institutions that, as a spouse, you’re entitled to this, that or the other is tricky, because it’s not clear what he wanted, necessarily,” Alex says.

That lack of direction hit hard on an emotional level, as well. For Nic’s funeral, Alex wanted a cremation with a Humanist ceremony, like their wedding – while some of his family would have preferred a Catholic ceremony.

In the end, Alex chose the Humanist option. But that was “based on a gut feeling,” about what Nic would have preferred, she explains. “And that feels terrible, because you’re doing your best, but you don’t actually know if it’s what the person would have wanted.”

“I guess people get too upset to talk about these things because they don’t want to think about their death. But it meant that I was angry with him for a while, because he was disorganised – and he should have prioritised this aspect of our lives.”

“You don’t want to debase what you’re feeling by talking about money.”

The lack of will wasn’t the only issue. Nic had a pension, but as it was set up before Alex and Nic were together, the beneficiary was his mother. The pension provider refused to make a change that would recognise Alex’s arguably greater claim as Nic’s spouse, only eventually compromising on a 50-50 split. Alex and her mother-in-law had to agree a final, much fairer, settlement between themselves.

“Luckily, you know, she’s an incredibly kind woman and she was happy with that,” Alex says. “But not everyone would have done that.

It’s a terrible thing to think about at a moment in your life when you’re grieving, and you don’t want to debase what you’re feeling by talking about money.”

In the end, Alex was saved a lot of hardship by something almost incidental. While Nic hadn’t made any provisions just in case something happened to him, his workplace had a ‘death in service’ policy that meant that she received enough money to pay off a lot of the mortgage.

It could have been much worse, she admits. “We were just at a point where I was getting ready to be pregnant and to be way more reliant on him financially. I’d already taken a slightly less-stressful job, and all of that stuff that women do. And yet he didn’t have a will or life insurance. It was just sheer luck that he worked for a company that had good employment benefits.”

“I consider myself lucky.”

Alex’s status as Nic’s wife also meant that under intestacy law, she could inherit most of his estate. Other bereaved partners aren’t so fortunate.

“We were married, and so I had a certain level of legal protection, even if we hadn’t got around to doing a will,” Alex says.

“I’ve heard stories from people who weren’t married to their long-term partner, and so their partner’s parents came and took away X, Y or Z amount of money, or whatever they could take – and they’re not even considered the next-of-kin. My heart goes out to them, because it all gets much blurrier.

“I miss Nic more than I can say. But I still consider myself lucky, because it could have been so much worse.”

A year and a half on, Alex is finally in a better position, at least, financially. But she has some advice for those who are putting off making their wills: “Stop procrastinating and get on with it! And have honest conversations with your friends and family. Even if he’d told his mum what he wanted, but not me, I wouldn’t care.

“Obviously, you should formalise it in a will, but just writing down anything about what you want will make a difference. Just get on and do it.”

Make a will today

Ready to make your will? Click here to use Beyond’s online will service. It takes just 15 minutes to protect your loved ones and get peace of mind.


Do you have a story to tell?

Have you struggled because someone close to you died without making a will? We would love to hear from you. Contact our team at [email protected] to tell your story.

Launch of Children’s Funeral Fund Promises Help for Bereaved Parents 0

Children’s Funeral Fund

The launch of the Children’s Funeral Fund was announced this week, over a year since then-Prime Minister Theresa May approved it. The Fund offers bereaved parents much-needed help with cremation, burial and coffin costs.

The Children’s Funeral Fund comes as a result of a lengthy cross-party campaign led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, whose son Martin died tragically at the age of 8. Harris’ tireless campaigning has already led to success in Wales, with England following suit now.

 

Who does the Children’s Funeral Fund help?

The Children’s Funeral Fund offers financial support to parents who have lost a child under the age of 18. The Fund also supports parents who lose a child in the late stages of pregnancy, after 24 weeks.

 

What does the Children’s Funeral Fund cover?

The Fund will cover:

  • All cremation costs, including certificates
  • All burial fees, including grave digging 
  • Up to £300 towards the cost of a coffin

 

How do parents claim from the Fund?

The Children’s Funeral Fund is organised so that most parents won’t have to do more than they usually would to arrange their child’s funeral. Instead, funeral directors and staff at crematoria and cemeteries will simply apply to the Fund for payment for their services.

Families who choose to arrange the funeral themselves, without the help of a funeral director, will also be able to apply to the Children’s Funeral Fund on their own behalf.

If you are a funeral professional and you’d like to find out more about how exactly to claim from the Children’s Funeral Fund on behalf of a family, click here.

 

What doesn’t the Children’s Funeral Fund cover?

Most funeral directors waive their professional fees when caring for a child who has died. Now, with the coffin,cremation and burial fees also taken care of, the cost of a funeral is almost completely covered. Parents will only have to pay for a few third party services, such as flowers and a venue for the wake.

 

Is other help available?

For parents who need financial help with the remaining costs, it’s useful to know that they will still be able to apply for the Funeral Expenses Payment. This is a type of government grant available to pay for a funeral if the family is on certain qualifying benefits. You can find out more about the Funeral Expenses Payment and other forms of financial support here.

Are you a bereaved parent, or a funeral professional? Share your thoughts about the new Children’s Funeral Fund here.