Co-operative Funeralcare opens investigation into undercover exposé
The UK’s biggest funeral company has begun an inquiry after staff were secretly filmed storing dead bodies like “stacking television sets” in a warehouse on an industrial estate off a busy motorway.
Co-operative Funeralcare, which organises more than 100,000 funerals a year from 900 funeral homes, said it was shocked and disappointed by information provided to it by undercover journalists, “which goes against everything we stand for”.
While relatives believed their loved ones were at funeral homes, footage taken for Channel 4′s Dispatches programme shows bodies being stored in a warehouse or “hub”. The warehouse contained a garage with a fleet of limousines and hearses, storage for dozens of coffins, and a large refrigerated area – the mortuary – with rack upon rack of bodies, some of them uncovered.
When families asked to see their loved ones, the body would be taken back to the funeral home, a journey of up to 30 miles, according to the documentary Undercover Undertaker, to be shown at 8pm on Monday.
An undercover journalist reported that on one occasion the lid was taken off a coffin as staff tried to fit four coffins into a van. It was carried out of the vehicle without a lid at the destination, near a block of flats.
In another instance, a woman’s funeral was halted when the wrong body was brought to Teesside crematorium. Her daughter Mandy Rowden said the funeral director stopped proceedings and “just sort of pushed her back in again”. Mourners were told there would be a delay while the correct body was located.
Thirty minutes later, funeral staff returned but in a van, not a hearse. “They just swapped bodies over. But they forgot to put the flowers on me mam … the other lady got them,” said Rowden. Co-operative Funeralcare waived its bill, paid compensation and disciplined staff members after the incident.
The documentary claims staff are under pressure to sell expensive funeral packages to mourners, to increase profits, which last year were £52 million .
The former funeral ombudsman, Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe, described the practices alleged in the film as shocking. “I had no idea that they’re treating people as if they’re stacking television sets, really. I’d hate to think that a member of my family would have been treated in that way,” he told the programme.
The managing director of Co-operative Funeralcare, George Tinning, told the programme hub was a misnomer. “It’s an industry term, and if I can put it in context, it’s not unique to the Co-operative.” He added: “We have over 150 hubs … I don’t believe it’s industrial, I believe the premises are fitted out to a high standard.”
A company spokesman said: “We do not believe that the instances shown in the programme are representative of our many caring staff. We have however launched an immediate investigation into the programme’s findings and will take any action necessary to ensure our high standards and our policy of enabling clients to make informed choices is maintained.”
By Jeff Cox, CNBC.com Senior Writer
NEW YORK (CNBC) — Large regional banks are filling a void created by the biggest institutions’ regulatory burdens and the competitive disadvantage of smaller companies, analyst Dick Bove said.
Firms in the middle tier of banking — think US Bancorp , PNC and Capital One, for instance — are growing their key commercial and industrial lending portfolios while their competitors have had to pull back their activities, according to an analysis from the widely followed Rochdale Securities vice president of equity research. …
Link: Where Large Banks Fail, Regionals are Succeeding: Bove