Sometimes in my casework I have to deal with sensitive subjects and one of the most heartbreaking is when a constituent has lost a loved one, thought they had a plan in place to cover the funeral only to find that this was not the case.
The resident may have paid into a plan for many years, not wanting their children or family to foot the bill, others with a terminal illness sought to organise as much as possible before they pass but this does not always proceed as expected.
The average funeral now costs between £3500-£8000, a huge figure for many families. At times residents feel pressured to buy into plans, spending most or all of their savings but still not covering all of the funeral expenses. They are conscious that funerals need to be organised quickly and are often afraid to say no to a funeral director. I do my best to help these constituents where possible liaising with the funeral directors, DWP, local authorities and Ministers to see what can be done.
Today, the City Minister has set out new plans to regulate the pre-paid funeral sector to ensure those who are at a vulnerable stage in their life get the information they need.
We are working to end the use of high pressure and misleading tactics in the sale of funeral plans. The legislation governing the oversight of the sector has not changed since 2001 and needs to be updated to address disreputable practices, such as the misleading sales tactics currently used to pressure people into buying plans.
The regulation of the sector will now be overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority, who will design a framework to bring regulation in line with other financial products and ensure that providers are clear and fair.
Under these new plans, anyone found breaching the regulations can have their authorisation revoked, face fines and even criminal charges. People will be able to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service if they have a complaint.
There will also be clearer information if price raises do occur between initial purchase and the time the plan holder passes away, ending the horrible situations where key elements of the funeral are no longer covered by the funeral plan such as embalming fluid, coffins, plots and transport from morgues. There will also be more clarity if a firm closes and passes on their clients to another funeral director.
Planning a funeral is a difficult experience without the added worry that the products may not cover the basics. I feel that this is a step in the right direction. By regulating pre-paid funeral plans, people can have more confidence in the products they’re being offered and peace of mind that their affairs will be handled correctly.
I will continue to press this agenda with Ministers and funeral directors to help make funerals easier to organise and more affordable for all.
If you are in the unfortunate circumstance of needing to plan a funeral click here for a guide which may help.