Representatives from two DMAG members: the Funeral Furnishers Manufacturers Association and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) have had letters published in the Lincolnshire Free Press newspaper in response to an article by our Chair Sir John Hayes on 25th January.

Funeral directors are on the frontline

Thank you for carrying the recent article by Sir John Hayes MP on the work of funeral directors during the pandemic.

Sir John’s comments are very welcome and provided a real morale boost to our team during this incredibly challenging time.

Make no mistake, funeral directors are on the frontline of this crisis, providing support and comfort to bereaved families who are saying goodbye to loved ones amidst the toughest of restrictions.

On top of this, our staff put themselves at great risk on a daily basis visiting places of potential infection, such as care homes, hospitals, and domestic addresses, to transport people who have died into our care.

Despite these dangers and restrictions, we are committed to ensuring people are able to arrange a meaningful funeral.

Another area of our work involves facilitating viewings in our chapel of rest, to allow people to spend precious time with a friend or relative before their final journey.

COVID-19 aside, our approach has been to ensure families are able to have these important moments – as we only get one chance to get a funeral right and create a positive memory for years to come.

Funeral directors are arguably the final emergency service in the frontline of coronavirus. But at times we feel overlooked.

As Sir John pointed out, our work is done in a quiet and dignified way which is perhaps the reason why we often go unnoticed by the powers that be.

For members of our profession, the pandemic has brought this injustice into sharp relief.

For example, many funeral directors across England initially struggled to get vaccinated due to inconsistencies in the way the vaccine programme was rolled out.

We’ve also faced the risk of being fined if mourner numbers at a funeral service exceed the legal limit under coronavirus restrictions. Yet funeral service venue managers somehow seem exempt.

It should be noted that whilst we go out of our way to ensure families understand the rules, it is not always possible to prevent people from turning up at a funeral unannounced.

We want to work proactively with our partners in the police and local authorities to ensure funerals can continue to take place safely and that the bereaved are treated with the care and respect they deserve.

Thankfully, Sir John has made an important contribution to an evolving national conversation about the role of funeral directors.

And whilst many aspects of life are unlikely to return to the way they were before coronavirus blighted our lives, let’s hope as we emerge from this dreadful period there will be a greater understanding of the work of funeral directors – and the positive impact we have on people at life’s most difficult time.

Mark Forth

Coffin makers deserve huge credit too

I would like to add some comments to those made by Sir John Hayes MP in his column published on January 25, paying tribute to funeral workers.

Where Sir John rightly praises the work of those frontline funeral workers, there is another group who are the first in the funeral supply chain.

These are coffin manufacturers.

Since March last year, there has been a huge effort by coffin manufacturers, and others in the supply chain, to produce sufficient coffins, fittings and soft goods to meet the demand presented by funeral directors who must satisfy their clients’ wishes.

Manufacturers have had to change their working practices, some choosing to move to 24 hour production, buy and/or hire additional vehicles and employing additional staff to successfully cope with the additional funerals brought about by the pandemic.

This work is unseen by the public but, of course, the coffin is the focal point of a funeral.

Let us not overlook their contribution at this time.

I thank Sir John Hayes for his leadership of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Funerals and Bereavement and hope it will continue to be the voice of our critical sector within parliament and to Government ministers.

Alun Tucker

Chief Executive, Funeral Furnishing Manufacturer’s Association

The letters are available to read here: https://www.spaldingtoday.co.uk/news/letters-to-the-editor-9157812/

We have also tweeted out a link here: https://twitter.com/APPGFB/status/1364545067835404288