The Partnership Podcast


April 15, 2020 Golden Charter Season 1 Episode 7
The Partnership Podcast
The Partnership Podcast
Apr 15, 2020 Season 1 Episode 7
Golden Charter

This special edition covers where to find the latest guidance on COVID-19 and hears from funeral directors who have been impacted by it and changed their ways of working.

Show Notes Transcript

This special edition covers where to find the latest guidance on COVID-19 and hears from funeral directors who have been impacted by it and changed their ways of working.

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:04] Welcome to a special edition of the Partnership Podcast, focused on your response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the support available to you and your staff. Funeral directors have been on the front lines of this crisis from the beginning, supporting your communities and in many cases devising innovative solutions to the issues that have emerged. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:25] It's a very difficult time. Partly, of course, due to the deaths the pandemic is causing, but also in managing the risks to your own staff, changing the way you work, and how it has robbed you of much of the face to face support that is a keystone of your work. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:40] So this week, we're going to look at the latest UK advice, and share insights from Independents across the country. The best way to get through this is together, benefiting from the collective wisdom and support of the entire independent community. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:05] So in March, as the realities of COVID-19 emerged, one funeral director in Derby was searching high and low and couldn't find the headsets and speakers she knew her business would need to effectively work from home. The funeral director was Helen Wathall, fifth generation in her family business, and the solution came from the next generation down, her teenage son, Hugo. As Helen told SAIFInsight this month, Hugo pointed out that no one uses speakers anymore.

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:35] And soon after, he had tracked down a dozen headsets designed for gaming, which, used alongside webcams, let Helen continue to effectively serve her local community while having 13 members of staff socially distanced at home.

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:48] This is the kind of story we are hearing. Of times that are anything but business as usual, but that bring out the innovation and resourcefulness of independents during a trial like no other. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:02:01] Your trade association is the first place to look for that communication, as they are collecting the guidance most specifically relevant to you. SAIF has joined with other associations in launching the Deceased Management Advisory Group, DMAG, to give a voice to the bereavement sector as a whole. And the website at is acting as a central hub for advice. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:02:25] We would suggest you regularly take a look at the funeral director advice page at, as it collects relevant news and updates in one place. SAIF members can find more specific COVID-19 resources on the SAIF website. For example, last week's SAIF News section linked members to a survey on PPE, which the association is using to inform its work and its government engagement. If you haven't already done so, please do complete this survey. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:02:55] As the situation continues to develop daily and trade bodies continue to engage with the government directly, your association will be a key place to look for day to day updates.

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:05] Now, as for speaking to other funeral directors, at Golden Charter, we learnt the value of doing that through our regional calls every week, which have been putting local Independents in touch with each other. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:16] The Independents on those calls found that across the country, the same issues were coming up time after time. PPE is a big one. There have been widespread issues with adequately supplying protective equipment to funeral directors and staff. And in the early days of the pandemic, there was a lack of clarity around what equipment was appropriate to use. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:37] To counter this, as you might expect, there are many reports of funeral directors working together within their locality, pooling resources and sharing and promoting new working practices. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:47] And now SAIF has confirmed that PPE will be distributed to funeral directors in England and Wales, through the local resilience forums that have sprung up across the country. We'd encourage you to speak to your local forum to find out more, or find out more about them by contacting your local government in your own area. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:04:06] Now, it's also worth looking to the government for business rate relief. Following the Chancellor's business support announcement, you should be eligible for some form of relief, depending on the size of your business, and possibly even a grant. So it is well worth someone in your team checking for details. 

[00:04:24] So look, while support is increasingly out there, lack of clarity is the cause of most issues that Independents listed in our calls. In everything from dealing with groups of mourners to differing advice on how infectious bodies remained after death from COVID-19, we were hearing that clearer, more explicit guidance was needed. As further guidance emerges this month, we hope that message has now reached the right ears. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:04:50] Keeping your staff and your family safe is at the forefront of your minds, and you have shown extraordinary focus to achieve that while, still providing dignified funerals. Never before has the strength of your relationship with your community mattered as much as it does now. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:05:05] To help keep each other informed and supported, some Independents have also set up local groups, emailing, web chatting, or WhatsApping with other funeral directors in their area. We have seen companies come together this way to communicate and support each other to ensure families receive the best service possible at this extraordinary time. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:05:24] Scottish SAIF has done similar work on a large scale using Slack. The examples we are finding have one thing in common. They show the critical need to be up to speed digitally during the pandemic. For different people, this has been as simple as email chains or has extended to setting up live streaming of funerals for the first time. The main thing is that we all use the technology available to us to communicate with each other. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:05:49] Many of you are now utilising video links and Facetime to converse with your families, as well as utilising live streaming for funerals to connect to absent mourners. This goes for Golden Charter too. Our area and regional business managers are fully set up to work at home and support you as needed, as are our usual head office teams. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:06:10] Right now, the focus for most of you will be on the strain the situation is putting on the health and well-being of your own teams, and your at-need service. We can support you through enquiry handling, helping you digitally and helping you communicate with each other, whether through our weekly regional calls or our closed Facebook groups. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:06:30] And it goes beyond communicating within the profession. The people who are picking up social media as a way to speak to local customers have been able to inform communities of revised arrangements and let families interact. And the benefits of that work at this time are obvious. We can see from the increased number of calls into Golden Charter's contact centre that customers are motivated to put a plan in place. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:06:55] So if you want any support with further helping your families in the digital or social media realm, or assistance with enquiry handling over the next few months, please speak to your local representative. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:07:06] And if there's anything else you need help with, tell them and we'll see what else we can do. You're the ones on the front lines of this national emergency. So if you find yourself in need of anything, we want to know how else we can help. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:07:19] Now, before we move on to the summary, I'm eternally grateful to Andrea Button, of Button's Funeral Services down in Chatham, Kent. Andrea very kindly found the time to make a short recording for us on how she's approached COVID-19. So here you are, here's Andrea, and Andrea, once again, thank you ever so much, it really is appreciated. 

Andrea Button [00:07:47] My name is Andrea Button and I work at Button and Family Funeral Services, located in Chatham, which is part of the Medway towns in Kent. This is a very worrying and unsettling time for us all. We are facing a virus that we know little about, restrictions, and increased workload, with fewer avenues for assistance. We personally have lost two key players, who are now being shielded. 

Andrea Button [00:08:10] The theory we are following is to take all of the advice, and then add some to keep safe. The biggest change for us was closing our office and not permitting viewing. We are now treating every one of our guests as infectious. We seem to have been one step ahead so far, thanks to our 'add some' theory, but we are never complacent. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:08:37] Look, thank you for taking time to listen to this special episode of the Partnersip Podcast. We will continue to work with you to offer the best possible service to families as we get through this pandemic. If there's anything more we want to hear about, or want support with, please let your local business manager know. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:08:54] If you have your own insights, tips and suggestions that could help your colleagues in the funeral profession, pass those along too and we can help distribute them. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:09:03] As you well know by now, this is a constantly changing situation and best practice can be updated rapidly, so please keep an eye on the latest government updates, those of your trade association, and 

Malcolm Flanders [00:09:16] Wherever you're listening to this, stay safe. We know you're doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances. Stay in touch and I'll talk to you again on the Partnership Podcast.