Jacqueline Landy, Manager of Bereavement Services, Lambeth has spent the past few years developing the 'simple funeral' for the families of her community. She's certainly not the only one in her sector to be working on the idea that local government can offer funeral services from start to finish, but here she gives some unique insight on the journey to bring this to life and the way in which we can all benefit from such a service
The Lambeth Simple Funeral became available in April 2019.
Funeral directors who take responsibility for organising the service and dealing with the legalities and paperwork and the Cemetery and Crematorium who are responsible for the service and burial, are ordinarily completely separate entities and charge as such.
It is possible for someone to bury a loved one without the help of a funeral director, but without experience or knowledge of the process, it can be hopelessly overwhelming.
The costs of bereavement add up.
As well as the two fundamental services, there will also be other, less obvious elements to consider such as the memorial, the celebrants, the legal fees and so on. Many, perhaps most, when death comes so suddenly, are not at all prepared to deal with this.
The Lambeth Simple Funeral therefore offers a the first fixed-price, complete, managed bereavement service for everyone in the community.
Prior to her role at Bereavement Services, Jacqueline had worked for over 7 years as a funeral director. With another 7 years in her current job, she boasts a specific and intimate knowledge of all aspects of the bereavement process; she declared to her department, "we can do the funerals ourselves." She says, "At the time, our contract with the specified funeral director was close to an end so it was an auspicious time for change."
Jacqueline has even worked with local funeral directors, to provide an out of hours service for collection of the deceased.
It is still awfully common for families to go into debt or fall significantly under when faced with the often unexpected and sometimes devastating cost of a funeral.
Loved ones frequently have no choice but to give their family member a Public Health Funeral even if they are there to arrange it. According to Trust for London, the poverty rate in Lambeth is almost 30%, and above the London average of 27%.
The average cremation costs £3757, sourcing from the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index. For the average person living in the south of London, this would come to something like 2 to 3 months of rent in one fell swoop, according to the MoveBubble London Rental Report. Jacqueline attests that, "We were finding that that many of the referrals we were receiving under Section 46 (Public Health Funerals) often had family or friends who have some money but not enough to pay what their local funeral director had quoted."
Based on the available facilities, her extensive experience, and still with the explicit priority of allowing families choice, Jacqueline began creating the simple funeral offer.
Bereavement Services will arrange the funeral, collect the deceased, organise and pay for Medical Papers, provide a suitable coffin, and of course carry out the cremation or burial. The cost for cremation is a standard fee – families are guided throughout the process by professionals, and even advised on potential celebrant choices,
including being made aware of what Lambeth can't do well before any payments are made.
The Simple Funeral has become so popular that the Cemetery needed to create a separate dedicated arranging room to meet families and arrange the funeral.
Jacqueline elaborates, "All staff have Public Health duties in their job description but I am fortunate in that three of us come from funeral backgrounds and are managing the majority of the Simple Funerals."
It has taken a while, but the benefits are already apparent.
Beyond the obvious good the service does for the community, Jacqueline reports a healthy enthusiasm from within the team, many of whom, while having worked in the Cemetery for years, never bridged the gap between burial and cremation services and caring for the deceased and their families.
The end - to - end funeral is an innovative, intuitive alternative to the traditional route for funeral arranging. It is hopeful that in the future more cemeteries and local governments will adopt this model so more families are offered the choice to simplify, and reduce the costs of, the bereavement experience.
Jacqueline Landy, Bereavement Services Manager