By Sam Tyrer, MD, Co-op Funeralcare

None of us could have predicted the impact the coronavirus crisis would have on every single one of us. These are unprecedented times, and that means we must respond in extraordinary ways.

It’s our duty, as a Co-op, to recognise the impact it’s having on our clients and to work hard to respond and support our communities in the best ways we can. We’re arranging funerals in a way we would never have thought possible just weeks ago, so that bereaved families can continue to honour their loved ones in unique and beautiful ways, and say their best possible goodbye.

Sadly, one of the real issues is funeral poverty. Now, more than ever, our clients will need more support, and more options, when it comes to paying for a funeral. So we’ve launched our new Funeralcare Hardship Fund, which will provide £250 to help families of key workers who’ve died as a result of coronavirus, and are in hardship, to afford a funeral.

We’re raising the funds for this through our Co-op Members’ Coronavirus Fund, which makes it easy for our members to donate from their 5% reward balance. We’ve developed a really simple online process for our clients to find out if they’re eligible for the Hardship Fund, by working in partnership with a third party, Charis Grants (a company who specialises in running funds like this).

It’s part of some incredible work we’re doing to support our clients, adapting our services to help mourners come together and commemorate loved ones in the best way we can.

We’ve seen an increase in our direct cremation services, so we’ve developed a direct burial service too (the first national funeral provider to do so). These are simple, unattended funerals with no service, but clients can now choose a cortege; a final journey for their loved one, to their home or other special places, to help families and friends say goodbye in their own way whilst in lockdown. We’ve also partnered with Flowerbx to offer a range of quality floral tributes nationwide, as fresh flowers are in short supply. And for families unable to have a full funeral, we’ve also introduced future remembrance services so that they can come together to remember their loved ones when social distancing is eased.

I’m so proud of our response to the current crisis so far, and it’s thanks to our professional, dedicated, colleagues who are supporting our clients and communities. Our new funeral options will help us be there to support clients today through immediate funeral arrangements, and also help them have a fuller tribute to their loved one at a time when we can all come together again. We hope we’ll be able to help lots of families at a time when they need it the most.