Freeman Brothers Manager, Abi Pattenden, reflects on her term as National Association of Funeral Directors President so far…
I am now almost halfway through my year as the President of the National Association of Funeral Directors and, as I was feeling a bit reflective, I thought I might write an update on the work I have been doing so far.
My year in office started quite unexpectedly with the Competition and Markets Authority and HM Treasury both launching consultations into funerals (the CMA into pricing and the Treasury into funeral plans)- on the same day! The CMA requested a lot of information within a short period of time, and I was heavily involved in producing our report, which ran to 50,000 words in total. The initial report will come out at the end of November and another part of my role will be to help with what the Association’s response to it will be.
The Treasury consultation required less work as not all of the questions were relevant to funeral directors. Additionally, members of the NAFD are in more varied positions as some only sell their own plans- Freeman Brothers is an example of this– while some sell plans of a single third-party provider and some may take plans from many providers. Part of any membership organisation’s role is to understand where its members have similarities and differences and to try to find unifying positions. Our response was thorough and comprehensive and, again, we await the results with interest.
I have chaired several Executive Committee and Membership Committee meetings and participated in two strategy days looking at the future of the Association, and been involved in the recruitment of a new CEO, who starts this month. The Presidential role is both to chair meetings and ceremonial, and my diary is now filling up with invitations all over the UK to attend events- York, Falkirk, Cornwall, Coventry, London and even further afield, Salt Lake City! I am shortly to attend our sister association, the National Funeral Directors Association of America’s, annual conference in Utah. This will also partly be to promote our funeral exhibition, taking place next year.
A project close to my heart has been the work the NAFD is doing towards helping to teach children about bereavement. The aim is to introduce the issue sensitively and in an age-appropriate way, which in time would make better bereaved adults. So many times in my career as a funeral director I have been told about bad experiences people have had in their younger days- when the death of someone close to them was either explained in a way they couldn’t understand or brushed under the carpet and they weren’t able to grieve. Often, these childhood experiences extend into adulthood and I am proud that I might be able to make a difference during my Presidential year.
Finally, our Autumn General Meeting took place in Coventry recently. This marks halfway through the Association’s year and also features the Past President’s Dinner- at which the current President is guest of honour. It’s a bit of an ongoing joke that the dinner itself is shrouded in secrecy but actually it was a lovely event at which I was made to feel very welcome by the esteemed ranks of those who have held this position before me. The Meeting itself provides an excellent opportunity to update the Membership on all ongoing events and gain approval for the direction of travel.
Over the next few weeks there will be lots of travelling and lots of chances to meet colleagues all over the country. I’m really looking forward to it!
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