Abbey Funeral Services

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Abbey Funeral Services's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Abbey Funeral Services is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.abbeyfs.co.uk

BEST PRACTICE SPONSOR 2020
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
44 | SEAFARERS UK
have one thing in common – their
work is out of sight and out of mind.
Even in their periods ashore, seafarers
tend to follow unassuming lives,
preferring to live within their own
communities, and finding it difficult to
convey a sense of their working lives in
the vastness of the untamed waters to
those whose own daily experiences are
rarely more stressful than a crowded
commuter train or a faulty iPad.
We’re not seeking compassion or
sympathy – our seafarers are all
volunteers in their chosen professions
– but rather a greater public
understanding and appreciation for
this now much-reduced cadre of
people whose work is so vital to the
life of this country.
Although we’re now very much safer
than a century ago, seafarers expect
the unexpected on a daily basis.
Embedded in our national heritage
are the words of the Naval Prayer:
“Preserve us from the dangers of
the sea and from the violence of the
enemy”, while the well-known hymn
Eternal Father
enjoins the Almighty
“from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe’er they go”.
Sea blindness
For centuries, this island has been
defended, fed and supplied – indeed
enriched – by those who go down
to the sea in ships, but it is only in
relatively recent years that reduced
numbers of personnel and fewer
but ever-bigger ships operating from
massive, yet relatively isolated, ports
like Felixstowe have pushed them from
the public consciousness.
Gone are the days when the streets of
Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham
played host to uniformed “Jolly Jack”
and, it is said, one could walk across
the Hull docks on the decks of the
hundreds of trawlers returned with
rich pickings from Icelandic and Arctic
waters. Such times are unlikely to
return, yet that should not result in the
vital but unsung work of present-day
seafarers fading from view.
We and our partners are working not
only to provide assistance to relieve
the stresses of life at sea but also to
ensure that the country overcomes the
insidious disease of “sea blindness”
that has afflicted so many of the
public. We trust that a moment’s
reflection on the facts above may lead
to a search for greater understanding
and gratitude throughout the
parliamentary estate and beyond,
and a desire to help Seafarers UK
give the red, white and blue ensigns
the support and resources they so
richlydeserve.
Help Seafarers
UK give the
red, white and
blue ensigns
the support
and resources
they so richly
deserve
The Royal Navy protects
the UK’s interests all
around the world
45ABBEY FUNERAL SERVICES |
COMMUNITY
Managing Director Chris Parker
A funeral parlour with experience
and a reputation for quality
Based in Tonbridge, Kent, Abbey Funeral Services has more
than 35 years’ experience in directing funerals. Chris and Jim
Parker, the husband-and-wife founders of the business, have
both been presidents of the Society of Allied & Independent Funeral
Directors. The award-winning firm has enabled and supported
families going through the most distressing times of their lives
across the areas of Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Southborough,
East Peckham and more since 1983. Chris tells
The Parliamentary
Review
about the past, present and future of the firm.
A funeral has to be the greatest distress purchase any human will ever make.
Funeral directors are charged with advising a grieving family through the maze of
legalities that exist within the organisation of a funeral, while also supporting them
emotionally in what is, quite possibly, the worst experience of their life.
Our past
Abbey Funeral Services was set up in 1983 by me and my husband Jim Parker in the
market town of Tonbridge in Kent. Jim had experience in the funeral profession,
and I had worked for 18 years as a nurse for the local health authority. My
professional training came from a short spell working for another funeral business
before we opened and then through intense training from our first employee who
had worked in the profession for an extensive period of time.
In 1993 our eldest daughter joined the business at a time when Jim’s health was
poor following a cancer diagnosis. I continued to run the business supported by Jo,
FACTS ABOUT
ABBEY FUNERAL SERVICES
»Managing Director: Chris Parker
»Founded in 1983
»Located in Kent
»Services: Funeral parlour
»No. of employees: 11
Abbey Funeral
Services
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
46 | ABBEY FUNERAL SERVICES
who is now preparing in turn to take
over the business fromme.
During our 35 years we have earned an
enviable reputation. Our turnover has
risen to £1.1 million and we employ 11
local people. We also control around
a third of the market despite being
one of seven funeral directors in the
town. Jim and I were both chosen by
fellow professionals to be president of
our national funeral society and Jo was
elected to take on the role in 2021 –
not bad for a small firm in rural Kent.
Our present
We pride ourselves on ensuring that
our staff have the best and most
appropriate training, most of which is
sourced from the Independent Funeral
Directors College, which I co-founded
in 1995. Our work is in part custodian
of the body, ensuring that it is kept in
the appropriate temperature-controlled
and hygienic conditions. This comes at
a cost, and it is quite normal for even
a very small funeral business to have
invested many thousands of pounds in
mortuary equipment.
Our profession is one steeped in
tradition, but despite this the last
two decades have seen monumental,
consumer-driven, changes. No longer
can we assume that a family’s choice
will be between burial or cremation,
oak or elm, Catholic or Protestant.
Almost anything is possible.
24-hour service
Our work is incredibly varied but comes
with enormous challenges. We are
first responders and very often witness
sights that most people will, thankfully,
never have to see. Providing a 24-hour
service takes its toll on family life.
Our first few years in business were
extremely difficult. We lived on savings
for the first year, taking nothing
from the business. Our competition
consisted of two branches of large
funeral groups, both established in the
town. Our USP was, and still is, that
we are an independent family business
deeply rooted in West Kent for several
generations and that we are involved
in much of what happens in the
community. People know us and they
know our family.
Although we are a close family, those
earlier years were difficult. Anyone
who has their own business will tell
you the same, but ours is somewhat
more testing in that we may be called
at any hour. We have missed birthdays,
school open days and even the birth
of our first grandchild to attend to
bereaved families.
Left: Tailoring services
to suit unique and
individual requirements
Right: Chris, Jim and
daughter Jo Parker at an
industry awards event
During our 35
years we have
earned an
enviable
reputation
BEST PRACTICE SPONSOR 2020
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
46 | ABBEY FUNERAL SERVICES
who is now preparing in turn to take
over the business fromme.
During our 35 years we have earned an
enviable reputation. Our turnover has
risen to £1.1 million and we employ 11
local people. We also control around
a third of the market despite being
one of seven funeral directors in the
town. Jim and I were both chosen by
fellow professionals to be president of
our national funeral society and Jo was
elected to take on the role in 2021 –
not bad for a small firm in rural Kent.
Our present
We pride ourselves on ensuring that
our staff have the best and most
appropriate training, most of which is
sourced from the Independent Funeral
Directors College, which I co-founded
in 1995. Our work is in part custodian
of the body, ensuring that it is kept in
the appropriate temperature-controlled
and hygienic conditions. This comes at
a cost, and it is quite normal for even
a very small funeral business to have
invested many thousands of pounds in
mortuary equipment.
Our profession is one steeped in
tradition, but despite this the last
two decades have seen monumental,
consumer-driven, changes. No longer
can we assume that a family’s choice
will be between burial or cremation,
oak or elm, Catholic or Protestant.
Almost anything is possible.
24-hour service
Our work is incredibly varied but comes
with enormous challenges. We are
first responders and very often witness
sights that most people will, thankfully,
never have to see. Providing a 24-hour
service takes its toll on family life.
Our first few years in business were
extremely difficult. We lived on savings
for the first year, taking nothing
from the business. Our competition
consisted of two branches of large
funeral groups, both established in the
town. Our USP was, and still is, that
we are an independent family business
deeply rooted in West Kent for several
generations and that we are involved
in much of what happens in the
community. People know us and they
know our family.
Although we are a close family, those
earlier years were difficult. Anyone
who has their own business will tell
you the same, but ours is somewhat
more testing in that we may be called
at any hour. We have missed birthdays,
school open days and even the birth
of our first grandchild to attend to
bereaved families.
Left: Tailoring services
to suit unique and
individual requirements
Right: Chris, Jim and
daughter Jo Parker at an
industry awards event
During our 35
years we have
earned an
enviable
reputation
47ABBEY FUNERAL SERVICES |
COMMUNITY
Mental health
Another person’s grief can impact your
own mental health in very negative
ways, as can working in a highly
time-sensitive profession. I have been
greatly encouraged to see the increase
in mental health awareness, not just in
the UK but across the globe, and have
had support in place for my staff for
many years. It may be a simple chat
over a coffee following a difficult case,
a critical debriefing or professional
counselling for anyone who may
bestruggling.
I have recently completed a mental
health first aid course which will help
with both staff wellbeing and our
bereavement support charity, which
supports around 100 older people
every month at lunch clubs and
coffeemornings.
Premises are costly; offices, lounges,
a viewing chapel and mortuaries
mean that our premises need to be
sizeable. In addition to this we need
to provide areas in which to store
coffins, workshop areas and garaging.
Hearses and limousines are not
cheap items with an average cost of
£140,000each.
Our future
As a business, we seriously consider
our carbon footprint and make every
effort to ensure that we source as
much as we can locally. Where that’s
not possible we choose manufacturers
who mirror our responsible
environmental attitudes. Our wooden
coffins are all purchased from a firm
in Suffolk who use only timber from
UK-managed forestry. Our next change
will be to hybrid, if not completely
electric, vehicles.
Our profession has never been
under greater scrutiny than it is now.
Regulation in Scotland, the possibility
of England following suit and a
CMA investigation means that we
must ensure that our houses are in
order. Being transparent on prices is
important. We were one of the first
firms to sign up to the fair funerals
pledge. Families who come to us are at
their most vulnerable. They need clear
information, fair prices and honest
empathic professionals.
Our family, and an amazing team,
care for our community in their
saddestdays.
I have recently
completed a
mental health
first aid course
which will
help with both
staff wellbeing
and our
bereavement
support
charity
Left: The Abbey Funeral
Services premises
Right: Delivering quality,
respectful services

www.abbeyfs.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Abbey Funeral Services. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.



Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development