The appointment of an independent Inspector of Funeral Directors in April 2017 followed recommendations from Lord Bonomy and Dame Elish Angiolini to consider how regulation might benefit the funeral director industry, together with the more general cross-sector recognition of the importance of introducing, promoting and maintaining standards of practice throughout the funeral industry in Scotland.
For the first 18 months of this appointment the Inspector of Funeral Directors, Natalie McKail, will work closely with funeral directors, the Inspector of Crematoria and the wider funeral industry to understand how funeral directors currently conduct their business; to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on how the funeral director industry should be regulated in the future; and to make recommendations on whether licencing should be introduced as part of this regulation.
Following this initial period, the Inspector will be expected to formally inspect the funeral director industry in line the powers set out in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.
The background to this appointment is in part reflected in full in the report of the Infant Cremation Commission and the Report of the National Cremation Investigation. The Commission was established in April 2013, and led by Rt Hon Lord Bonomy was charged with examining the policies, practice and legislation related to the cremation of infants in Scotland.
The Commission published its report in June 2014, setting out 64 recommendations to improve the processes in place when cremating infants in Scotland. Recommendation 63 of the Commission’s report was for the appointment of an Inspector of Funeral Directors and recommendation 64 referred to regulation of the funeral industry:
“Scottish Ministers should appoint an independent Inspector to monitor working practices and standards at crematoria, provide feedback to Cremation Authorities on how they are performing and to report to the Scottish Ministers as required. The independent Inspector should have authority to investigate complaints from the public about working practices and standards at crematoria, to adjudicate upon these complaints and report findings to the Scottish Ministers. The role of the Inspector should be extended to the funeral industry in respect of which there is no current provision for inspection.”
“The Scottish Ministers should keep the cremation and funeral industries under review and should consider, in light of the reports of the National Committee and the independent Inspector, whether further regulation of either is required.”
The full text of the Commission’s report is available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/06/8342
The National Cremation Investigation published its report in June 2016 and set out 15 general conclusions and recommendations. Recommendation 3, 4 and 5 of the Investigation relate to the overall regulation of the funeral industry
“The overall regulation of the funeral profession needs to be improved. Funeral Directors as well as Cremation Authorities should be licenced and subject to a statutory regime of regulation and inspection.
“The Scottish Government should exercise its powers under the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 to regulate the Funaral Directing profession.”
“An Inspectorate of the Funeral Business should be appointed incorporating the current role of the Inspector of Crematoria.”
The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2016 and provides the statutory framework to appoint Inspectors of Funeral Directors. The Act also makes provision for Scottish Ministers to introduce a licencing scheme for the funeral director industry, should licencing be deemed appropriate.
This work is set against a background of rising funeral costs in Scotland. According to the Royal London Annual Funeral Cost Index 2015, funeral costs have continued to rise (92% increase in Scotland over the last 10 years) and there is significant variation between Local Authority charges. Research by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management found that 19% of respondents struggled to meet funeral costs. Indications are that funeral costs will continue to rise. A review of Funeral Poverty was commissioned by the Scottish Government and was published on 3 February 2016 and can be found at http://www.cas.org.uk/publications/funeral-poverty
Initially, the Inspector will focus on gaining a detailed understanding of how the funeral director industry conducts its business with a view to making recommendations to Scottish Ministers on how it should be regulated and whether licencing should be introduced as part of this regulation. The Inspector will also make an assessment of how well funeral directors are adhering to the National Committee on Infant Cremation Code of Practice and will publish their findings in a report.
Following the initial 18 month period, the Inspector will commence work to begin a process of formal inspections of the funeral industry, in line with the powers set out in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 and the related regulations.
The Inspector will work closely with the Inspector of Crematoria, as well as other inspectors as they are appointed, to ensure that the policies and practices of each part of the funeral industry are inter-linked and provide the best possible service for bereaved families. It is likely that the Scottish Government will appoint more Inspectors of Funeral Directors as the workload increases.