A Professional Award

I am really pleased to share that this month I received my Diploma in Funeral Services from the British Institute of Funeral Directors (BIFD) and I am now a Licensed Member of the Institute.

This was a private journey of studying and assessments, but very important to me. Here is my comment about this award:

Why would you need a diploma to be a great funeral director? The simple answer is, you don’t. But it helps.

There are many brilliant undertakers who have never been anywhere near formal study and who have absolutely no interest in having letters after their names. And there are plenty of qualified funeral directors who hold certificates and diplomas but who aren’t necessarily the people who would be your first choice to look after someone who has died.

A piece of paper doesn’t bestow gifts of empathy, intuition and understanding, all of which are essential in the best undertaker. But what achieving a diploma does is to illustrate dedication and commitment, and a determination to completely understand the role of a funeral director. The effort involved in studying, learning, completing assignments and attending study days is considerable, and for those who fund their studies themselves, there is also a personal financial investment that runs into thousands of pounds.

Achieving a diploma in funeral service demonstrates how seriously an individual takes their role, and how important it is to them to acquire as much knowledge and understanding of every aspect of their work as possible, and to prove that they are fully competent to others. It is an indication of serious commitment, and therefore probably good character in a completely unregulated sector.

The funeral industry likes to describe itself as a profession, but it doesn’t quite fall into the definition of 'a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification’, not least because the use of a funeral director is not compulsory, or even necessary in some instances. Families are perfectly able to look after their dead themselves, though most choose not to these days. And anyone can carry out the necessary tasks involved in disposing of a body legally.

This has a downside; anyone can call themselves a funeral director and set up a business offering undertaking services, no matter what their background is. A convicted criminal could leave prison one day and proclaim themselves a funeral director the next, taking custody of the dead and selling services to the bereaved perfectly easily.

In Scotland, an inspector of funerals has just been appointed, and after a period of consultation, she will be making recommendation to the Scottish government about regulating funerals, and the possible introduction of licensing. It is very likely that England and Wales will follow the lead of Scotland by introducing regulation of some kind, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the requirement for some kind of formal qualification will form part of this.

Funeral directors holding diplomas will not need to worry about the approach of regulation, but those without may well find themselves unable to continue serving the bereaved in a few years time. Achieving a diploma now shows not only commitment and dedication to the work that a funeral director does, but also foresight, and a willingness to adapt in the rapidly changing world of funerals.

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