AIM OF MY CAMPAIGN
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, (The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817).
Government/s proves willing to explain in advance of tax rises what people will be expected to pay. It proves willing in advance of death to prompt thought about making organ donations to save lives, but proves most unwilling to explain to the public exactly what their legal rights are when someone close to them dies. The primary aim of my desk-top campaign is to encourage that it does so.
Had I been given the right information when I lost some close family members, more recently my son, I would have been better equipped to make informed decisions. I would not be left feeling that I could have done more when completing the last loving act that I could for them and saying my goodbyes. I am not alone with regrets.
As the government, and many non-government agencies fail to inform the public about their legal rights, I sensed that something must be done to change this. I also sensed that someone needed to remind everyone working in local and central government and the NHS who the “funeral director” is when arrangements for a funeral are going to be made. It is the bereaved that “direct” a funeral – not the company engaged to “undertake” it, so my use of the term “undertaker” on this website is deliberate.
I include on the site information that I hope helps people understand the law about their private and consumer rights in advance of a death, or that they may draw on the information if wanting to arrange a funeral. I believe this approach can only lend to empowering people before blindly making contracts with undertakers, or if deciding not to hire an undertaker at all.
Every day people are forced into making contracts with undertakers. They are forced because they know very little in advance of a death about the alternatives available to them. Staff working in institutions where people die, are used to undertakers collecting bodies and not family members. As a result it is often presumed that families do not need comprehensive guidance about the legal options open to them.
Failing to provide people with comprehensive guidance creates dependency on others who quite clearly feel that they know more about our needs than we do ourselves. It can also lead people into making bad purchasing decisions.
John Vickers, former Director General of Fair Trading, appeared to have shared similar concerns about the lack of information provided to the public in advance of a death. He said in a “Funerals Report” made in 2001 that:
“A particular concern was that, as well as the obvious distress, the bereaved might not have the right information to enable them to make good purchasing decisions”.
He went onto say that:
“The key to overcoming these difficulties (problems with undertakers) is better and more, timely information”.
Similar concerns were expressed in reports made by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in 1989 and 1995. The OFT no longer exists and I have not seen any evidence that officials either in central or local government has met recommendations in a satisfactory way.
I am not an academic and I do not sense that I need to be one in order to determine that government/s have for what seems forever, paid little interest in how people “dispose” (an insensitive legal term) of their dead, as long as consideration to public health legislation is met. Public officials have given little consideration to making obvious the legal rights people have when a relative dies. It appears that many have relied on religious bodies and other people working outside of government to do that for them.
As a result of what I experienced before and after burying my son, I have popped my head up and aim to convince government that it needs to do better. I aim to convince some officials that new legislation is needed if to afford more protection to often vulnerable individuals arranging funerals.
Many good people before me have attempted to make obvious the legal rights people have when someone close to them dies, but they have failed to put pressure on the weak links in government who have failed to ensure that members of the public are provided with adequate and accurate information. The weakest link is local authority. Local authorities rely on undertakers and charities to do what they should be doing…delivering public information in a timely way.
Local authorities have failed to acknowledge that accurate information about what to do following a death is just as vital as providing people in communities with information about what to do in the event of fire, flood or other emergency situation. If to meet recommendations of the OFT in that people are better educated in advance of a death about what the options are after a death, people need sound information on law.
“A right delayed is a right denied”. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Preparedness is the key to overcoming the influence that the funerals industry has, not only over members of the public, but members of government. Leading figures in the industry have over many years, managed to convince some government officials that ‘they’ know better about what meets the needs of the newly bereaved and officials have allowed this to happen, as long as it “disposes” of our dead.