It can now be said with some certainty that Direct Cremation has become an accepted option when choosing the way to depart from this mortal coil.

For some folk it’s refreshing to have the choice of a break from the norm.  Unlike the more traditional form of arrangements, it gives families a greater freedom to do their own thing – or indeed no-thing.

Five years or so ago, you could easily count the number of firms offering direct cremation on one hand.  These days, an increasing number of traditional funeral directors, and several dedicated firms now offer the service, as a response to public demand.   At Simplicita, the service we offer was devised back in 1991, and signalled the “birth” of Direct Cremation in the UK.   

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A recent survey by the National Association of Funeral Directors revealed that around 85% of their members now offer some form of Direct Cremation as an option.

As an outsider to “funeralworld”, you might think that all providers are broadly the same, delivering the same service in the same way.   But, as with every other consumer purchase, there is a balance to be struck between getting value for money, and the quality of service provided.

Offering a funeral service, in it’s various forms, is not regulated in the UK, and apart from the crematorium operators themselves, there is no licensing or minimum legal standard for provision of service.   You might think it slightly worrying that literally anyone can open an undertakers shop on the high street, or promote their services on a captivating website.  

One way of ensuring that things both “front of house” and behind the scenes are as they should be, is to select a direct cremation provider who is both established, and is a member of a recognised trade organisation, such as the NAFD or SAIF, or is recommended by the Good Funeral Guide.   This means that their premises and methods of operation will have been inspected, and thus meet or exceed recognised professional standards.

Go one step further, if you feel inclined.   Ask if you can inspect their full facilities, including their mortuary .  You would probably never wish to do so, but, if a firm refuses, then ask yourself, why?

It’s a fact that the proprietors of some UK websites offering direct cremation have few or no facilities.  No properly equipped transfer vehicle.  No trained staff.  Nowhere for the deceased to rest between death and cremation.  

Perhaps that also means no professional indemnity insurance, no public liability insurance, employer’s liability insurance etc etc?   It does make you wonder what would happen if matters got delayed or didn’t quite go to plan…

Direct cremation is much less involved than providing a full funeral service, hence, it may attract eager newcomers to “try their hand” at offering this option.  Although every good business has to start somewhere, it is essential that those offering the service have sufficient experience and facilities to address the more complicated arrangements and situations that can occur from time to time.  

Direct cremation is also less expensive than the more traditional offerings, and with it comes the inevitable scramble for providers to undercut their competitors, in order to gain new business.   Low prices are good news for consumers, but buyer beware, there may be a pitfall.

Artificially low prices can be very tempting, except that there is a point where it becomes impossible to provide a dignified, professional service, which is sustainable.  Some of the prices that have been advertised on the internet in recent months arguably fall into that category.

It could be suggested that the £1000 (or less) figure that the press have been quoting in past newspaper articles, and indeed, also by some consumer organisations, is a trifle misleading.  Yes, some cremations will easily fall within that price zone, but most will not, and it could be argued that a guide of between £1200 to £1500 is more realistic for the majority of serious direct cremation providers.

As we’re talking about direct cremation, then we can’t ignore direct cremation pre-paid plans.  Although plans aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, they certainly appeal to a very large, and growing number of people.  A part of the funeral market that cannot be ignored.

There are direct cremation plans on offer from several sources.   If you’re looking into the possibility of purchasing such a plan, be mindful of the importance that the funds you pay towards the plan are placed in a secure and recognised place, such as a trust fund. It is advisable that the plan provider is also registered with the Funeral Planning Authority, or similar financial body.  It’s also important that the plan you choose complies with the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

It can be argued that some of the plans currently on offer are priced at a level that (again) is unsustainable.  The fear is that some of these offerings may very well be unable to provide the service promised when actually needed.  If the price of a plan seems too good to be true….  think very, very carefully!  

It is always prudent to research the background of plan providers, in order to reassure yourself that all is well, before making that most important purchase. Are they established? Do they comply with current legislation?    For those that want to delve deeper, the Companies House website, for instance, provides a wealth of information, such as identifying directors of previously dissolved companies, which can help identify risks that you may wish to consider.

The ethics of direct cremation may well mean different things to different people. It is truly important that those firms who provide this service do so, with care, sensitivity, and the dignity that all families expect, when their loved one is entrusted into their care.  

It is equally important that those considering a direct cremation appreciate that without proper facilities, the websites that offer the lowest prices may not necessarily be the most prudent choice of service provider, for a very good reason.

Article by Nick Gandon of Simplicita Cremations