SAIF meets parliamentarians in Northern Ireland

words: Terry Tennens

Phillip Logan MLA

SAIF President Paul Allcock and CEO Terry Tennens had the privilege of meeting Phillip Logan, MLA, the new Chairman of the All Party Political Group (APPG) on Funerals and Bereavement. Mr Logan was elected as a Northern Ireland Assembly member for the North Antrim constituency in May 2016.

We were impressed with Mr Logan’s awareness of the funeral sector and were delighted to learn that he has a strong pedigree – his father is an independent family funeral director.

Paul Allcock discussed the unprecedented rise in third party costs since he opened his business in 2000; at that time, burial fees were £300 and now these costs can be £3,000 per plot. The significant increase impacts the affordability of funerals and the choices for clients.

Unique to Northen Ireland, funeral homes need to ensure their employees have a PSV (public service vehicle) licence, for which SAIF members have to organise annual training.

Gavin Robinson, MP for East Belfast

SAIF was honoured to meet Mr Robinson who was elected in May 2015 to represent East Belfast in the Westminster Parliament. A barrister, he is a former city councillor for the Titanic district of Belfast and was Lord Mayor of the City in 2012-13.

On 14 September 2016, Mr Robinson led the debate in the House of Commons, articulately raising the question of the social fund payment being static since 2003, and highlighting the plight of low-income families who simply cannot save for or afford a funeral service.

In our discussion, Mr Robinson was acutely aware of how local authorities are carrying a burden with more than 3,500 public health funerals in 2015, while the contribution of the Government to funeral costs has diminished in real terms to 1993 figures.

He went on to advocate that the discretionary costs for a minister or celebrant and the hire of a place of worship or a hall are in fact nondiscretionary, and the deceased have the right to a full funeral service, honour in death as in life.

Department of Communities

The Northern Ireland Department of Communities (equivalent of Westminster’s Department for Work and Pensions) kindly hosted SAIF’s Paul Allcock and Terry Tennens.

The DWP is keen for online pricing by funeral homes so that clients can understand the breakdown of fees and third-party costs. SAIF explained that it fully supported the first Fair Funerals Pledge, and 58% of pledges had been made by SAIF members.

However, we explained that while many members do include their pricing online, as Paul Allcock has done since 2000, there are many who do not have a website. SAIF is developing a web project to support smaller members with their digital presence, and so online pricing is not yet mandatory.

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