In this section of the site I provide practical information about what people are legally able to do for themselves when someone close to them dies. This includes information about collecting and transporting the body of someone who has died, and caring for the body in a domestic environment.
I am confident that if my efforts to provide the public with accurate and practical information is adopted by other information providers, that this could quickly put an end to the false belief that the law requires that we must be passive, helpless and solely dependent on the commercial sector in the event of death.
The reason why I believe that new informative guidance is necessary!
Long before commercial services and care giving institutions came about in the Western world, people were generally aware about how to care for the body of someone who had died in their own home and then carried the body to the grave. If they were not aware, there was always someone on hand in the community that was. Generations of people appear to have been least content to take care of their own in death or help others when in need, but I am not entirely convinced that this is simply because the majority of people no longer have a desire to do so.
My research leads me to believe that much of the decline has derived from fear which has been contrived by those looking to profit from death and their services encouraged by civil servants as it takes the onus off the public sector to assist people in their hours of need. My reflections on this issue is not based on empirical research, they are based on observations of poorly designed literature that is produced by civil servants in central government and is mimicked and reproduced by those working in local government and other agencies, and of my own and other peoples bad experiences.
One example of public services pointing people to the commercial sector and making unsupported claims is shown in old literature produced by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP). It was once stated that:
“Many people choose to entrust the organisation of a funeral to a professional funeral director. They do so partly for reasons of convenience, at what is generally a stressful time, but also to ensure that the remains of the deceased are disposed of with dignity and propriety”.
After I put it to the DWP that (a) this statement could suggest that many people have been buried or cremated without dignity and propriety because not everyone uses commercial services, (b) it could be perceived by those that haven’t hired in services as offensive, and (c) the statement was unsupported, the statement has since been removed.
How could guidance be improved?
I believe that comprehensive guidance about how to care for the body of someone who has died and how to arrange a burial, cremation or “disposal” (an insensitive legal term) by any other means should be produced by government by default. We are all encouraged to purchase a coffin for the purpose of burial or cremation, but the law places no duty on any of us to purchase a coffin or make one ourselves. This is public information and I cannot think of any other public matter that is left entirely to the commercial and voluntary sector to educate the public about.
Contrary to what many people may believe about the objective of my campaign, more especially commercial funeral providers, I am not an advocate for families to arrange funerals unsupported. I firmly believe that as a death itself becomes a matter of public interest and a legal duty placed on us all to register a death, that civil servants have an obligation to make obvious the legal rights that people have when someone close to them dies. When civil servants meet this obligation, only then can people truly determine what level of support they feel that they may need and what they are willing to pay for.
“Teresa’s work is changing the way bereaved people are informed of their legal rights by HM Government and other information providers. Very few people have the tirelessness and tenacity required to besiege entrenched and complacent organisations as she does. Here at the Good Funeral Guide we admire and respect her enormously. Her work is vital and invaluable”. (Charles Cowling. Good Funeral Guide)