The coincidence of ITV exposing the most appalling practices of Gillman’s Funeral Directors, now sadly part of Funeral Services Partnership, and the commercial greed encouraged by Dignity Funeral Services on the same night as Dead Good Job, BBC2, highlighted some of the very best in the death business, underlines some interesting issues.
It is difficult to comprehend the absolutely disgusting, disrespectful, racist, venal and unprofessional attitudes that characterise Funeral Services Partnership’s approach to handling every aspect of a funeral.
Despite the repeated apologies of Phillip Greenfield, CEO of Funeral Partnerships, nobody will believe his assertion that the practices exposed by an undercover reporter taken on as a casual worker at Gillmans are exceptions. This description of their business, on their website, says it all: ‘a midlands based consolidator of funeral care providers.’
The appalling practices of dealing with a body, loathsome attitudes towards families, particularly those from ethnic minority communities, lack of training and understaffing is clearly endemic in an organisation that believes, in Greenfield’s words, to be a high street business just like any other, and whose main aim is to increase shareholder value.
So whatever you do, do not purchase a funeral from any company that is part of Funeral Services Partnership.
The same advice must be true of any funeral director that’s part of Dignity. It’s a stock exchange listed company, it wants to make as much profit as possible and it does so by ripping off the client. And clients who are bereaved, in shock and affected by intense grief are very easy to rip off, as Dignity know only too well. They’re good at it, so avoid a Dignity owned funeral director if you believe integrity is more important than profit.
Of the big conglomerates, that leaves the Co-operative Funeralcare Services. However, their funeral directors are now affected by a similar exposure of unprofessional, greedy and disrespectful attitudes broadcast earlier this year. As with Funeral Services Partnership and Dignity, the Co-operative Funeralcare is driven by accountants wanting to increase the bottom line figure, with service to the client coming a rather distant second, despite of course, statements to the contrary from their managing director. This blog shows their lack of professionalism.
Contrast this with the excellent standards shown by the funeral directors taking part in Dead Good Job. Of course, they knew a camera crew were following them around, but what is more germane is the attitudes of those running their independent funeral service companies such as Paul Sinclair of Motorcyle Funerals, Carl Marlow of Go As You Please and Gulam Mabud Taslim and granddaughter Moona Taslim-Saif who run the family Muslim funeral company, Haji Taslim in London’s east end.
Of course they run commercial businesses, but their shared ethos is to provide a good service which is based on a sympathetic understanding of giving what their clients want and can afford. Indeed what was interesting was the community role played in particular by Haji Taslim, their community being the Muslims of Whitechapel and environs.
There needs to be a re-evaluation of what we expect a funeral to be and how it’s delivered. One increasingly attractive option is for a community funeral in which various members of a community, however that is defined, collaborate to deliver the care, the expertise, the mourners, the officiant and pooled funds to give a member of that community a good funeral.
That’s at the personal not for profit end of a spectrum at which the other end squat the disgusting, venal ‘profit is everything’ companies described above.
Somewhere closer to where we should be looking short term are the small, independent funeral directors not yet purchased by the Co-op, Dignity or utterly wretched Funeral Services Partnership. These independents deserve our support.