August 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
This week QSA and St Joseph’s Hospice in East London hosted a strategy meeting examining what is meant by a “good death” and how to tackle some of the barriers to achieving it.
Heather Richardson, the clinical director of the hospice, said: “As a society we are . . . dependent on professionals to tell us what to do rather than having the right information to make our own choices.”
Mr Powell said the scheme aims to debunk some of the myths of funerals. “You don’t legally need a funeral director; you can do it yourself. You could use an estate car rather than a hearse; a morning cremation is cheaper than an afternoon; a cardboard coffin can be bought for less than £100 and you can bring your own flowers.”
You can also shop around. Mr Ogston added: “People simply pick up the phonebook and choose a funeral director at random, when they could ring around and get the same for £1,000 less.”
Where people die without relatives, local authorities offer what used to be called pauper’s burials. Some councils, such as Hounslow in West London, offer a £1,000 all-in deal, and in Nottingham the basic funeral comes with a choice of coffins, a hearse, flowers and a following car at a discount rate.
In May, Mr Ogston and mentor Anne-Marie Brenkle were paying their first visit to Alan and his mother Irene, 89 , when she died.
Alan said: “She must have heard their voices and felt that they were good people and then just let herself go. It was so peaceful. I am so glad they were there. If I had been alone, I would have jumped off the veranda. I had been with her for 61 years and looked after her at home when she became ill as I didn’t want her in hospital.”
When he applied for a funeral grant, the call centre promised that Alan would receive a decision within ten days. After eight weeks it admitted his application was lost and that he would need to submit afresh.
“The total bill was £1,500 and I paid £700 deposit and hope the Social Fund will pay £1,200,” he said. “But I am full of anxiety. The funeral director has been very good but I am expecting a call from him saying it’s been a while now.” The good news is that the Social Fund came through at the 11th hour and paid the £1,200 this week.