Heather’s story

Heather Kennedy
Campaign’s Manager, Fair Funerals

Death is not an easy topic to discuss – even less so when money comes into the equation. But Heather is not one to put her head in the sand. She works for anti-poverty charity Quaker Social Action (QSA) on their Fair Funerals campaign, and believes that bereaved people on low incomes have been forgotten for too long.

Previous to joining QSA, Heather worked in media and communications for equalities charities. She was also a writer and editor for Women’s Views on News. Outside of work, Heather is involved in housing campaigning, supporting private tenants to understand and enforce their rights. She is a campaigner at heart.

When Heather began as Campaign’s Manager back in 2014, she was shocked that the thousands of people struggling with the shame and distress of funeral poverty seemed to be completely ignored by government and the media.

The campaign
Fair Funerals tackles the underlying causes of funeral poverty by:

  • educating people about their choices so they can avoid funeral poverty
  • influencing government to do more for bereaved people on low incomes
  • working with the funeral industry to make funerals more affordable.

Funerals are expensive[1], but talking about finance is often the last thing people want to do when they are grieving. In 2014, only 10% of funeral directors in the UK had prices on their websites. This presented a big problem for people trying to find a funeral within their means. This is when the idea of a “Fair Funerals pledge” emerged: a voluntary pledge that asks funeral directors to be open about pricing. Fast forward to today, and the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)[2] has found that a third of their members have prices online, with another third planning to put pricing information online by 2019.

Heather believes strong leadership from the NAFD is partly to thank for this upsurge in transparency, but also that Fair Funerals has played a significant role in shifting the mainstream practices of an entire industry – by sticking to their guns and making the case time and time again for why online pricing helps grieving people.

Another major success was the campaign’s effort to ask the Work and Pensions Select Committee to investigate funeral poverty in 2015 and 2016 as part of a wide inquiry. The Committee heard evidence on the growing number of people unable to afford a dignified funeral, the steep increase in funeral costs, and the inadequacies of bereavement benefits and Social Fund Funeral Payments.

Heather is proud of what has been achieved so far: “To all those people who thought funeral poverty was too “unsexy” to campaign on, we’ve proved that by putting bereaved people at the heart of our work and relentlessly sticking to our practical demands, you can convince government and the funeral industry that things need to change.”

Influencing Change
Heather attended the Influencing Change course in 2014 in London, and believes it was instrumental in the campaign’s development.

I really valued the session on audience analysis: how to tailor your message to different groups,” she says. “The ‘inside and outside influencing’ was an invaluable concept to understand in the funeral industry, and the tools for elevator pitching and campaign framing really helped to tighten up our message.

Heather also found the presentation on parliamentary lobbying and the individual coaching sessions very informative, as they provided a framework that led the campaign to influence the Work and Pension Committee. And the peer to peer aspect is something that she continues to benefit from: “Having access to a peer group of campaigners was incredibly helpful. People on the course gave a lot of feedback and it was great to help others with their campaigns too. There is a Facebook group running, and I am still in touch with people I went on the course with.”

On a personal level, the course boosted her confidence. “When I went into this job, I used to say ‘I am new to campaigning” Heather explains. “After attending the IC training, I gained confidence in my judgement and principles, and being new to campaigning didn’t matter anymore.

What was the best thing about the ‘Influencing Change’ course?
“The course content around message framing, power analysis and identifying targets and influencers.”

Why would you recommend it to someone else?
“This will give you the skills and confidence to make sound decisions as a campaigner. This confidence will probably allow you to be bolder, and as a campaigner – regardless of what you’re campaigning on – you need to be bold.”

Your one piece of advice for someone else trying to achieve change?
“Your campaign must take your campaign targets (i.e. decision makers and influencers) out of their comfort zone if you want to see change. Whether this is by bringing them face to face with people affected, or by using creative tactics that are outside their realm of experience, if you want them to change their position you need to force them out of their comfort zone.”

[1] http://fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk/content/what-funeral-poverty
[2] NAFD represent 80% of the funeral industry

SMK TeamHeather’s story