Funeral procession: Three in ten don’t get enough time to say goodbye to their loved one at crematorium service

  • Over 150,000 families experience “conveyor belt” cremations each year
  • The UK’s most authoritative research into how people view cremations published by Dignity

A new report published today by funeral provider Dignity uncovers that three in ten (29%) mourners who had recently organised a funeral felt that they were not given enough time to properly say goodbye to their loved one at the crematorium.

Even more (36%) felt that the experience at the crematorium was like being on a conveyor belt. This is despite the fact that the research showed that for most people having a private and uninterrupted moment to remember their loved one is the most important factor in a funeral service.

In the UK today, 77% of funerals are cremations, meaning that this conveyor belt feeling is experienced by mourners at more than 150,000 funerals every year.

The research revealed that 44 of the UK’s 290 crematoria offer time slots of 30 minutes or less, which a significant majority (59%) of people questioned believed was not long enough. Dignity is today publishing a cremation comparison tool that will allow members of the public to identify the length of time slot their local crematorium offers, as well as other key factors such as the cost and capacity of a crematorium.

One participant in the research said: “When we got there, there were people coming out from the earlier one … and at the end there was another waiting to be done, so it was like, “get out of the chapel now”….Afterwards we were standing around talking and you really don’t want to leave.”

The report “Cost, Quality, Seclusion and Time: What do UK consumers want from a cremation funeral?” by leading research agency Trajectory found:

  • Not enough time to say goodbye: Three in ten (29%) said that they did not get enough time at the crematorium.
  • That “conveyor belt” feeling: More than a third (36%) had the feeling that they were on a conveyor belt and 70% of these people said that they would have liked more time at the crematorium.
  • Longer services: A majority of people (59%) said that 30 minutes is not long enough for a cremation service. However, time slots at 13% of crematoria are 30mins or less and 30% offer less than 45mins.
  • Cost not a factor: Six in ten (60%) said that cost wasn’t a consideration when arranging the cremation. Moreover, the research showed that the length of a service impacted on whether people felt they had received value for money, whereas the price they paid made no difference.

All of Dignity’s own crematoria have a time slot of 45 minutes or more and the majority offer 60 minutes.

Simon Cox, Head of Insight, Dignity said: “Today’s findings should concern us all. The funeral service is a critical time for people who have lost a loved one. Whether it is a solemn occasion or a celebration it is essential that we have enough time to say goodbye. The fact that so many mourners felt rushed at the crematorium should give pause to everyone in the funeral industry. The sector is letting down a third of mourning families.

In response to these findings we are calling on all crematoria to commit to a minimum 45 minute time slot for a funeral.”

Prof Douglas Davies Director for the Centre for Death and Life Studies at Durham University said: “At a time of unprecedented choice over many aspects of life this important research clearly maps many contemporary attitudes to funerals. In pinpointing the image of the ‘conveyor belt’ as a popular expression of how mourners can feel too processed at crematoria it brings statistical weight to my own observations of some thirty years ago that it was not actual machinery but that sense of being processed that made many unhappy.”

Choosing the right crematorium

The report finds that many crematoria are not providing consumers with the service or information that they need to choose the right crematorium. In particular, the report explains that the price per minute paid for a cremation is a better measure of value for most consumers than price alone.

Carried out by leading research company Trajectory, the study involved a survey of 2,022 people who had organised a funeral, focus groups in London and Manchester, as well as interviews with industry bodies and funeral directors. The research began in July 2017 and took a year to complete.

The research concludes that consumers should use six key criteria in choosing the best crematorium for them:

  • Making sure that all the people who want to attend can attend.
  • Finding a convenient date and time.
  • Not seeing other mourners - enough time in the chapel and a period of time around the service.
  • Keeping the absolute cost within budget.
  • Value – aside from cost, making sure that the service delivers the desired experience in terms of having sufficient time to remember their loved one in their way.
  • Personalisation – such as music, or video facilities.

A new online crematorium comparison tool based on these six criteria has been published here: www.dignityfunerals.co.uk/crematoria-comparison

Report author, Tom Johnson, Trajectory, said: “This is the most rigorous study of cremations ever undertaken in the UK. The consumer voice comes across loud and clear; the thing that people most value at a cremation is the time to say goodbye to their loved ones and at the moment not enough crematoria are giving consumers what they want. We hope that the six criteria for crematoria we have identified will give consumers the information they need to make an informed choice when organising a cremation.”

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