We are campaigners fighting for more support for bereaved families, fairer funerals and ending poverty. In our blog we discuss issues and themes related to dignity, emotional support and affordablity in funerals.
The cost-of-living crisis has made many headlines recently. But there was already a cost of dying crisis forcing bereaved families into unmanageable debt and emotional distress. Every day our organisation sees families across Scotland who simply can’t afford to say goodbye. People need to be warned that it is only going to get worse.
On losing his beloved wife, CS Lewis famously reflected on the similarity of the emotions of grief and abject fear. Overwhelming. Incapacitating. Unshakable. While we all experience it differently, times of bereavement are often our hardest days. Yet like so much in society, there is vast inequality. Some people face the trauma of poverty – selling their possessions, begging loans from neighbours, or entering high-interest credit card debt. Death is not, perhaps, the “great leveller” but rather a driver of terrible inequality.
When Emma (not her real name) lost her mother, she did what has been normal for centuries: she popped to the local funeral director. Emma was shocked to be quoted over £3,200 for a simple cremation. Just the deposit needed to discuss the details would be £800.
Like most Scots, Emma only discovered that we are in the midst of the worst ever cost of dying crisis when she was already responsible for arranging a funeral herself. In fact, the average price of a basic funeral – without flowers, food, limo, venue hirer or other extras – is £4056**, that is almost double the price a decade ago*.
Royal London’s Funeral Cost Index Report 2019 found that those in their lowest income bracket spent 65% of their annual income on a funeral, compared to 3% for those in the most affluent income bracket (over £150,000)***. Added to the current cost of living crisis – how can these people realistically cope in 2022?
I know about Emma as she came to Caledonia Cremation, a charity-run funeral directors which is part of Caledonia Funeral Aid. Fortunately, for Emma we were able to both help her without any deposit, and she secured some Government funding for a simpler cremation without the ceremony taking place at the crematorium. This still gave her the chance to say goodbye and scatter the ashes but without the expense.
Sadly, countless others, especially the working poor, are not entitled to the relevant funeral benefits or decide they still need to have a more traditional funeral, despite the cost. Some of these people are then upsold extras by funeral directors under pressure to give their loved one “the send off they deserve”, or worse have huge delays while they find enough money for a deposit. I’ll always remember one orphaned student we worked with when we set up in 2018 whose father was left in a morgue for months because students fall between the cracks of the benefits system. This remains an issue despite the recent introduction of a more generous and better administered Funeral Support Payment from Scottish Government.
Some people in poverty do turn to Local Authority funerals– but the standards vary widely depending on which Local Authority you fall under. For example, a report by Royal London found that 21 local councils do not return ashes to bereaved families after a public health funeral****- Just heart-breaking. I am always desperate to help them better listen to bereaved families in how they approach this mandatory council service. It is hard; but we can do more as a society.
As part of a charity, we can only help a limited number of people with the donations we receive. Our hope long-term is that the increasing regulation of the industry creates a better offer for people facing funeral poverty without inadvertently further driving up prices. But unless there is government subsidy of gas prices or funerals, we fully expect cremation prices to rise steeply next year.
If you are worried for your own cost of dying, then our advice is simple: plan ahead by talking about your funeral wishes with someone now before it is too late. Perhaps over dinner. Perhaps in a letter. Let them know if you want something specific, something elaborate or, like myself, just something low-key and personal.
John Halliday – CEO of the anti-poverty charity Community Renewal Trust and Chair of Caledonia Funeral Aid CIC.
*Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2012
**Sunlife Cost of Dying 2022 Report Includes that 22% use a credit card to pay for a funeral, 10% borrowed money from a loan provider, 16% sold belongings.
***Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2019
**** Royal London Public Health funeral report 2019
Funeral Poverty Adviser & Funeral Arranger
Closing 26 May 2022
Caledonia Funeral Aid CIC is a social enterprise and part of the anti-poverty charity Community Renewal Trust. Our vision is for a Scotland where everyone can afford a dignified funeral, personal to their needs. Currently we know thousands of bereaved Scottish families fall into deep funeral poverty which adds to their trauma and suffering at the worst possible time.
Part of our work is to act as a funeral directors, offering simple dignified caring direct cremations with high-quality service and an affordable price. This is done primarily as a telephone service and involves us collaborating with partner funeral directors and crematoria.
Caledonia Funeral Aid CIC also provides advice on funeral practicalities, funerals costs and the emotional toll of a funeral through a support helpline, online resources and community events for people who have recently experienced bereavement. Increasingly we are also seeking to provide community workshops, events and meetings for people who may in future face funeral poverty to seek to reduce this. We are hoping that these aspects of our work can increasingly be delivered through volunteers but we are aware that these volunteers need careful recruitment, training and support.
This is expected to be one of a small number of posts each sharing the delivery of all aspects of Caledonia Funeral Aid CIC and Caledonia Cremation. We do not require you to bring complete knowledge about funerals and funeral poverty but rather to draw on our existing knowledge, be both thorough and caring, and quickly build connections/expertise.
Our mission is ending funeral poverty. The key aspect of this role is to provide advice through our telephone helpline, through online resources, through social media and through other enquires. This advice will be about funeral practicalities, funeral costs and the emotional toll of funerals. Signposting people to claim funeral benefits/grants is one part of this, but a larger part is compassionate listening. We increasingly also wish to use community events/workshops help prevent funeral poverty occurring.
Another key aspect of the role is providing funeral director services in which you will make arrangements with the family/friends of a deceased person to conduct a direct cremation funeral. You will then be involved in sub-contracting with partners to fulfil different aspects of this including the recovery, care for, storage and transport of the deceased person. Please note that we are not a traditional funeral director, indeed most of your role will be conducted working at home. However, you may have some limited involvement in recovery, care for, storage and transport, mostly to understand the process – you will never be involved in this routinely. You will be on a rota to respond to occasional out-of-hours urgent calls (sometimes overnight) from people with an emergency situation.
In this role of funeral arranging, you will need to use email, post and telephone to: listen to people’s needs, provide holistic support, take payments, arrange a formal contract and record evidence of decisions/authorisation in our secure online Management Information System. Communicating clearly, compassionately and punctually between all parties involved in the funeral at all times is absolutely vital.
Application closing date: 12noon 26/05/2022
Please read the full job description. Apply with a CV and covering letter, Your covering letter must focus on whether you meet the essential and desirable criteria in the person specification. Send application to the Chair email@example.com.
Interviews will be held on 30 May and 1 June – please keep at least one hour free on each of these dates.
Our not-for-profit direct cremations are available across mainland Scotland
As Scotland’s only social enterprise funeral directors, it is essential that we are available to as many people as possible. So, our support is available nationwide.
We offer not-for-profit direct cremations across mainland Scotland. So from Aviemore to Aberdeen, Dundee to Dumfries, Glasgow to Galashiels, Greenock to Glenrothes, Edinburgh to Elgin, Perth to Peebles – we will be there to support you.
Additional support for those facing funeral poverty
Caledonia Cremation was set up by Scottish anti-poverty charity Community Renewal to help bereaved Scots who can’t afford a funeral and need help.
With the average cost of a basic funeral sitting at £4,000 – many people faced with organising a funeral where no financial plans were in place don’t know where to turn.
We are here to support every bereaved Scot – regardless of their financial circumstances, so please do get in touch:
Call 03000 113 311
Due to these unprecedented times – we are extending our support for bereaved Scots by launching Caledonia Funeral Aid
Times are extremely hard for many now, especially those who have lost someone during the last two years.
The mental health of the bereaved has particularly suffered during these uncertain times, so we are launching Caledonia Funeral Aid, which aims to provide an extra support system for recently bereaved people in Edinburgh.
Caledonia Funeral Aid is an extension of the work Caledonia Cremation does nationwide – fighting funeral poverty by offering not for profit cremations.
Now we are offering practical and emotional support to recently bereaved people in Edinburgh, even if they haven’t used us for a funeral.
What kind of support is available?
We will provide a trained coach and funeral support worker to help Edinburgh residents who have experienced a bereavement in the past 6 months.
The support will focus on your emotional and practical needs. We will listen and provide a safe and trusted place in which to discuss your loss and its impact on your life.
Where is the support available?
We are delighted to offer this service initially in Edinburgh, thanks to funding from the Edinburgh Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund.
However, our aim is to launch this nationwide very shortly.
How do I get in touch?
Those wishing to access the support can call 03000 11 33 01.
Help us to support those facing funeral poverty
With the average cost of a basic funeral sitting at £4,000, we receive calls from many people, especially those experiencing in-work poverty or students, who just can’t afford that amount. They don’t qualify for financial help and have nowhere to turn. We never turn anyone away and through the fundraising efforts of Caledonia Funeral Aid, we hope to extend our help to even more bereaved Scots nationwide.
We accept donations through our website and our team are also doing all the Kiltwalk this year so anyone wo wants to help us support more bereaved Scots can do so here
Funeral poverty isn’t going away.
We need to do more.
So Caledonia Cremation is launching Caledonia Funeral Aid which aims to raise funds so we can support even more bereaved Scots facing hardship.
For our first major campaign, staff, friends and volunteers are doing all 5 Kiltwalks this year!
Kiltwalk 2022 Dates
- Glasgow Kiltwalk – 24 April
- Aberdeen Kiltwalk – 29 May
- Dundee Kiltwalk – 21 August
- Edinburgh Kiltwalk – 18 September
- Scotland’s Virtual Kiltwalk 7 – 9 October
With the average cost of a basic funeral costing over £4,000 – some understandably don’t know if they can afford to say goodbye to their friend or loved one. With the funds raised by Caledonia Funeral Aid, we can support these people.
If you would like to join our Kiltwalk team we can give you free registration codes. All you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do the rest!
Together we can #endfuneralpoverty and be sure everyone gets their loving goodbye
Caledonia Cremation has launched the first ever Pay-What-You-Can funerals to support those facing funeral poverty this January
Everyone has felt the negative effects of the recent Covid restrictions. Plus everyday household bills are rising at an alarming rate. So – for those who experience a bereavement, life must seem especially difficult– especially for those from low-income households.
So, we are responding to the Covid and cost-of-living crisis by offering pay-what-you can funerals* for the remainder of January.
John Halliday, Director of Caledonia Cremation explains why we decided to extend our offer to bereaved Scots:
“Caledonia Cremation is not a traditional funeral director. When we launched in 2018, we became Scotland’s only social-enterprise funeral director. That means our first concern is people and not profits.
I see all around that this pandemic has made rich people richer and poorer people poorer. I strongly feel it is up to society to do our bit now in helping those worst affected, however we can.
People need better food, cheaper housing, catch-up education and help back into work. Caledonia Cremation can’t do all those things, but what we can do something about the cost of funerals.
Sadly, it is a fact of life that everyone needs a funeral. But for some people their funeral is the most expensive purchase they ever make. The average cost of a basic funeral is over four thousand pounds**. So – our contribution is this – we’ve decided to remove all our fees and just let bereaved families pay-what- you-can during this pandemic recovery period.
There is no means testing, we trust people to know what they can and cannot afford.
No one anywhere has ever done this before, so we are learning as we go.
If someone wants to know the usual price, we can tell them. If generous people want to add more towards our fundraising to tackle the root causes of poverty, that is fantastic. But if all they can find to cover the funeral is a few hundred pounds, that’s absolutely fine too.
No one should judge your worth based on the size of your savings.
We hope everyone has a happy and healthy 2022, but if the unthinkable happens, then please know you are not alone – we are here and will do everything we can to support you throughout your loss.”
The pay-what-you-can scheme will run during January and anyone who needs support can call Caledonia Cremation on 03000 11 33 11 or visit their website caledoniacremation.org.uk.
*Terms & Conditions
Please note Caledonia Cremation offer direct cremation only funerals. To find out more about direct cremation and to view our usual prices – click here.
Due to the specifics of the benefits system – those in receipt of Funeral Support Payment are asked to pay our normal price.
Anyone eligible for that funeral support benefit must apply. But we acknowledge that many people in poverty are not eligible such as orphaned students and the working poor.
We are a charity-owned and operated funeral directors who support people facing funeral poverty. Therefore, we gently remind people that the scheme is “pay what you can” – rather than pay what you want.
Caledonia Cremation reserves the right to halt the scheme at any time
The loss of a friend or relative is something that triggers so many emotions. However, shame should never be one of them.
Cruelly there are two words used freely when talking about one type of funeral that can cause shame and distress for everyone involved.
Those words are Pauper’s funeral.
These are words that are insensitively used to describe a funeral which is organised and paid for by the local authority. There are several reasons why this may happen, but one may be that their friends or family can not afford to pay for a funeral of someone who had no financial plans in place.
It is unacceptable that these people and the deceased are described this way. Especially considering the average cost of a basic funeral is £4,184 and £9,263 if you include all the extra costs*.
Even more distressing are the news stories reporting that some local authorities withhold the deceased ashes**.
We are living in a world where working people are in poverty; where the cost of living is high, and inflation keeps rising. It is completely understandable that people can’t afford to invest in a funeral plan or pay for someone else’s funeral.
If someone close to you died right now, and they had no financial plans in place, would you be able to find £4,184?
Caledonia Cremation is a charity-owned and operated funeral directors. We were set up to fight funeral poverty and provide full support to every bereaved person across mainland Scotland – regardless of their financial circumstances.
So, we ask everyone to think twice before using the P word. We must remove the pressure people feel to get into debt to pay for a big expensive funeral. We must show compassion for those who find themselves in this distressing position and support them towards the help that is available. Every person who has experienced loss deserves our compassion – not our judgement.
If we can help you, or someone you know, then please do get in touch.
Call 03000 11 33 11
Or if you would like to support us in our work, you can donate here
But we politely ask everyone reading this blog to never, ever use the P word ever again.
We’ve all read about the “alternative” funerals; Star Wars funerals; Viking funerals or New Orleans inspired processions.
So it inspired us to ask some of the team at Community Renewal (the charity that owns and operates Caledonia Cremation) about their end-of-life wishes.
We want to empower everyone to choose the funeral that is right for them or their loved one. In so doing, the funeral is more personal, less decisions need to be made after the person has passed away, and the bereaved may also avoid the pressure to pay a funeral bill they might not be able to afford.
Direct Cremation is one type of funeral that allows time and freedom to celebrate a loved one’s life in a way that is totally personal to them.
If we can advise you in anyway, please do get in touch. We are a social enterprise funeral directors who provide not-for-profit direct cremation across mainland Scotland.
Call 03000 113 311
A Quiet Revolution has backed our Gie it a bye… campaign with a very generous donation.
We are delighted to announce that we have just received an unbelievably generous pledge of £1,000 from the Scottish Charity, A Quiet Revolution
Jane Alcorn, Chair of A Quiet Revolution said:
“We’re a small Scottish charity trying to change the world one ceremony at a time.
We love what Caledonia Cremations’ Crowdfunding campaign is doing, encouraging people to give a little, that can mean a lot. We were delighted to contribute donations from couples we have married who have paid it forward.”
In addition to supporting bereaved people experiencing hardship, Caledonia Cremation offers families direct cremation which cuts out having to attend a burial or cremation.
“Frankly, this can be very hard to do when you’re feeling fragile,” said Jane.
“Direct cremation encourages families to think about what else they might prefer to do. This is where A Quiet Revolution can complement Caledonia. We have a small celebrant network who craft ceremonies with human kindness at their heart.”
Barbara Chalmers, Founder of A Quiet Revolution and a celebrant with the network said:
“As a celebrant, my goal is to help families get the right sort of send-off for them. A wake in the kitchen, a cuppa and cake in a local cafe or a gathering in the park with flasks and homemade buns can be a beautiful thing. We can craft and deliver a ceremony that offers moments of joy at an otherwise dark time… a proper celebration of a life.”
A Quiet Revolution can also pay for the celebrant for families in need.
If you would like to join A Quiet Revolution in supporting our work helping bereaved people across Scotland, then you can pledge here
Do you back our work supporting people facing funeral poverty in Scotland?
If so, then this September we ask – would you give up just one wee treat and donate that money to Caledonia Cremation so we can support those facing funeral poverty?
You could Gie it a bye for just one day this month, or one day a week or more if you are up to it – whatever you prefer! Every penny donated will help us support someone experiencing hardship.
It could be your morning coffee or roll, a takeaway lunch or your “one for the road” drink in the pub.
We aren’t asking for big donations – anything from £3 upwards will help us to support others.