Coronavirus: Simpler funerals now the norm, says Dignity

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Funeral services in churches have not been possible since lockdown measures were rolled out in the UK

Families are opting for simpler, cheaper funeral services amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to UK funeral services group Dignity.

Although its first-quarter revenues rose 2%, by April it made less money per funeral as services shrunk in size and extras such as limousines were cut.

About 60% of Dignity's funerals are now simple services, up from 20% last year.

Average income per funeral - excluding ancillary revenues - has dropped to £2,200, down from £2,648 in January.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in April that the number of deaths in England and Wales was nearly double what would normally be expected, hitting a 20-year high.

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There were around 20,000 "excess deaths" recorded in a single week in March, Dignity said

Dignity reported an 11% fall in operating profit for the first three months of 2020, with customers choosing lower-cost funerals as the coronavirus pandemic grew.

Underlying revenue for the period rose 2% to £83.1m as the number of deaths in the 13 weeks of the year increased 1% to 161,000.

The figures include only the first few days of the UK's lockdown which Prime Minister Boris Johnson put into effect from 23 March.

Dignity said the possible number of deaths from Covid-19 was "a matter of substantial speculation".

Although the government did not put a maximum number on the number of funeral attendees, it said only close family should attend services and all should observe social distancing throughout.

During April, Dignity said average income for its full funeral services had fallen to £3,150 after it decided to withdraw limousine options and church services also ended.

The funeral provider said it would not provide any financial forecasts for the rest of the year.