Campaigning in the industry

words: Alun Tucker
Alun Tucker, Executive Chairman, SAIF

A few months ago I was alerted to plans being discussed by the local authority in North East Lincolnshire to establish its own not for profit funeral service, in an attempt to provide low cost funerals for people in Grimsby and the wider region.

Even more worryingly, it was suggested that, if the scheme was deemed to be successful, it could be rolled out across the country, and that would have serious implications for all of our members.

In response, SAIF began to lobby the councillors with the aim of gaining support within the council while raising awareness of the campaign in the local media to bring it to the attention of the public.

A letter was sent to all members of the council outlining our three main areas of concern, including unfair competition with local businesses, the public receiving a poor standard of service, and the council underestimating the total cost of the scheme.

We received very positive feedback from several councillors, who agreed with the argument SAIF was putting forward. This added weight to the amendment, drafted by Councillor Philip Jackson, to scrap the proposal entirely.

In conjunction with this, we put more pressure on the council through the local media by generating strong coverage in the Grimsby Telegraph, both in print and online, highlighting the concerns of funeral directors in the industry, on the day of the council meeting to vote on the proposal.

At the meeting, the plan was debated for several hours and, unfortunately, the final vote to move forward with the proposal and to test the market was agreed by 18 votes to 17.

However, through our lobbying, we now have significant support from councillors who oppose the idea of the council creating its own funeral service. This puts us in a strong position looking ahead as we will be continuing to fight against the proposal to ensure it is voted down when the council reconvenes to discuss the next stage.

We also have support from the Grimsby Telegraph, the largest newspaper in the region, which opposes the plans and has raised concerns about the impact the proposal will have on both the funeral industry and the local economy.

In response to the decision made by the council, we provided an additional statement to the local newspaper which subsequently ran a story with the headline: “Warning: Council-run funeral service WILL cost jobs” and reiterated the concern of SAIF and our members.

Moving forward, we will continue to gain support from the public through the Grimsby Telegraph ahead of the next council meeting.

Elsewhere, I am very pleased with the feedback we have had from our members for our new, free counselling service SAIFSupport, run by Professional Help, that launched at the start of October.

It was really good to see members engaging in a discussion about mental health in the funeral industry at our Education Day, and the latest report on SAIFSupport shows an increasing number of members are starting to make use of the service.

The feedback we have had so far has also been very positive and I would like to take this opportunity to urge members to remind their staff of the availability of this free counselling service that they can use in confidence.

We are now looking at the possibility of expanding the services we offer through SAIFSupport to include literature and advice, which would be free to all members.

SAIFSupport has received very positive coverage in the local media across the country and over the next couple of months, we will be raising awareness of the issue of mental health in the funeral industry to national publications.

If any members would like to support the work we are doing by providing a case study of their own experiences of mental health as a funeral director, I would be very grateful if they could get in contact.

Alun Tucker,
SAIF Executive Chairman

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