Information

Draft statutory guidance on funeral costs: consultation

This consultation document seeks views on draft statutory guidance on funeral costs for local authorities, burial and cremation authorities and funeral directors.


Section 3: The draft guidance

Background

23. There are four short sections of draft guidance: for burial authorities, for cremation authorities, for funeral directors, and a section for local authorities in relation to charge setting. These are set out below.

24. In section 4 of this document, we have set out questions about a range of themes that the draft guidance is designed to address. The themes are as follows:

  • Use of language and terminology (page 18)
  • Display of pricing (pages 19 and 20)
  • Transparency of cremation charges (pages 21 and 22)
  • Definition of a simple funeral (pages 23 to 25)
  • Transparency of pricing at point of sale (pages 26 to 27)
  • Burial or cremation without using the services of a funeral director (page 28)
  • Understanding local authority charges (pages 29 to 33)
  • Local authority measures to reduce funeral poverty (page 34)

25. Questions about potential impacts of the draft guidance on individuals, the public, private and third sectors are set out on page 35.

26. The finalised guidance will be published as part of a larger document that will include additional context and information about the issues that the guidance addresses. We also propose that this larger published document will include a glossary of terms alongside the finalised guidance.

Draft guidance for burial authorities

1. In order to help people understand the costs of arranging burial, burial authorities should use clear, easily understood language to describe the services being offered.

2. In order to support consumer choice, burial authorities should display all their prices clearly, in the following ways:

  • At the premises of the burial authority, displayed in a public and prominent place to be determined by the burial authority
  • Ensuring that anybody visiting the premises is able to take away a paper copy of this price list
  • Ensuring that members of the public can be sent a price list on request, either in paper form or by email
  • For burial authorities with a website, all pricing information should be available on the website and this pricing information should be clearly signposted
  • For burial authorities with a website, pricing information should be displayed in a format that will allow it to be downloaded by a member of the public, such as in pdf format
  • Local authorities are required under Section 20 of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 to publish their fees in paper form and online. Local authorities should ensure that burial pricing information published online is displayed in the bereavement services (or equivalent) section of the local authority’s website and that this pricing information is clearly signposted.

3. In order to support the public in understanding the cost of different components of a funeral, burial authorities should explain alongside their pricing information that any funeral director fees will be in addition to the costs payable to the burial authority, such as burial fees and lair purchase charges.

4. As some burial authorities charge different fees according to the day of the week, if it is a public holiday, or due to the time of day at which the burial service takes place, each burial authority should display clearly any variation in charging due to the day or time of the burial.

5. In determining services to be offered, burial authorities should keep in mind that it is desirable that a person can afford to pay for them, and ensure that where lower-cost options are available, these are clearly displayed in the burial authority’s pricing information.

6. Where direct burial is offered as a lower-cost option, burial authorities should be clear in describing what this includes and what it does not include, so that people can consider if this option is suitable for them.

7. If someone wishes to bury the person who has died without using the services of a funeral director and a burial authority is able to support this request, burial authorities should make reasonable efforts to accommodate the person’s wishes.

Draft guidance for cremation authorities

1. In order to help people understand the costs of different components of the funeral, crematoriums should use clear, easily understood language to describe the services being offered.

2. In order to support consumer choice, crematoriums should display all their prices clearly, in the following ways:

  • At the crematorium, displayed in a public and prominent place to be determined by the crematorium
  • Ensuring that anybody visiting the premises is able to take away a paper copy of this price list
  • Ensuring that members of the public can be sent a price list on request, either in paper form or by email
  • For crematoriums with a website, all pricing information should be available on the website and this pricing information should be clearly signposted
  • For crematoriums with a website, pricing information should be displayed in a format that will allow it to be downloaded by a member of the public, such as in pdf format
  • Local authorities are required under Section 63 of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 to publish their fees in paper form and online [1] . Local authorities should ensure that cremation pricing information published online is displayed in the bereavement services (or equivalent) section of the local authority’s website and that this pricing information is clearly signposted.

3. In order to support the public in understanding the cost of different components of a funeral, crematoriums should explain alongside their pricing information that any funeral director fees will be in addition to the crematorium’s published pricing.

4. In order to help consumers understand the services included in a standard cremation service and compare this fee across different providers, the charge displayed for a standard cremation service should comprise of the following components:

  • Cremation fee
  • Mercury abatement fee (where applicable)
  • Provision of container for ashes
  • Cremation certificate
  • Provision of chapel / service room
  • Administration and processing of forms

5. The price of additional components to the funeral service, such as provision of music, webcasting, dispersal of ashes or the purchase of a casket or urn, should be displayed separately from the standard cremation service fee, in order to

Draft guidance for cremation authorities (continued)

support people in understanding which costs are optional and which costs are mandatory.

6. As different crematoriums offer different lengths of time slot for services, each crematorium should display the length of the time slot for their standard cremation service and the additional fees for extending this time slot.

7. As different crematoriums price differently according to the time of day that the service slot occupies, each crematorium should display clearly what time slots their standard cremation service is available within.

8. In determining services to be offered, crematoriums should keep in mind that it is desirable that a person can afford to pay for them, and ensure that where lower-cost options are available, these are clearly shown in the crematorium’s pricing information.

9. Where direct cremation is offered as a lower-cost option, crematoriums should clearly describe what this includes and what it does not include, so that people can consider if this option is suitable for them.

10. If someone wishes to have a cremation without using the services of a funeral director and a crematorium is able to support this request, crematoriums should make reasonable efforts to accommodate the person’s wishes.

Draft guidance for funeral directors

1. In order to help consumers understand the costs of different components of the funeral, funeral directors should use clear, easily understood language to describe the services being offered.

2. Funeral directors should use common descriptors where possible to enable consumers to make pricing comparisons more easily between funeral directors.

3. In order to support consumer choice, funeral directors should display all their prices clearly, in the following ways:

  • At the funeral director premises, displayed in a public and prominent place
  • Ensuring that anybody visiting their premises is able to take away a paper copy of this price list
  • Ensuring that all clients are provided with a copy of this list to keep when visiting clients at home
  • Funeral directors with a website should make their pricing information available on their website and this pricing information should be clearly signposted.

4. When talking people through their options for a funeral, funeral directors should ensure that where appropriate, the full range of price options available is presented for each purchasing decision to ensure that people are able to consider costs throughout the process and can base their decisions on cost if they wish to do so.

5. Funeral directors should make sure they are clear about what services are being requested by the client and should provide every client with a clear written confirmation of funeral arrangements. This written confirmation should include an itemised estimate of all the charges to be incurred, based on the arrangements that have been agreed, and should explain clearly why each charge has been included.

6. To help clients understand the funeral costs, the written estimate should state clearly which costs are attributable to the funeral director and which costs will be paid to a third party by the funeral director on the client’s behalf. The third party should be named wherever possible.

7. Funeral directors should provide clients with a detailed itemised final account that is comparable with the written estimate provided.

8. Funeral directors should clearly and sensitively describe their services for care of the deceased, to ensure that people have an accurate understanding of how the deceased will be cared for, and the costs associated with this care, while in the funeral director’s care.

Draft guidance for funeral directors (continued)

9. In determining services to be offered, funeral directors should keep in mind that it is desirable that a person can afford to pay for them. Where lower-cost options are offered these could include a clearly-priced simple funeral which includes the following components:

  • The funeral director’s services;
  • Attending to the necessary arrangements, such as completion of necessary certification, taking instructions and providing guidance on registration and legally-required procedures;
  • Provision of the necessary staff for care of the deceased and support for the bereaved;
  • Provision of an appropriate and robust lined coffin suitable for burial or cremation;
  • Transportation of the deceased person from the place of death during normal working hours (normally within ten miles but taking into account local circumstances);
  • Appropriate arrangements for the uplift of the deceased and care of the deceased person prior to the funeral, in appropriate facilities;
  • Viewing of the deceased person, by appointment;
  • Provision of a hearse or other appropriate vehicle direct to the nearest crematorium or cemetery at a date and time agreed with the funeral director and clearly described to the client;
  • The opportunity to hold a service at the cemetery or crematorium;
  • If burial is specified (where this is available locally) this may involve an additional charge.

10. The definition of a simple funeral set out above does not include the following services:

  • Embalming;
  • Provision of a limousine; or
  • Any third party fees or disbursements payable on the client’s behalf.

11. Funeral Directors should ensure that where they offer this simple funeral, their pricing information sets this out and also includes a clear description of any other lower-cost options they offer, such as direct cremation, to support consumer choice.

12. If a client chooses a simple funeral, a funeral director should still be able to recommend embalming, for an additional charge, if the funeral director offers this as part of their services and assesses that this may be necessary.

13. If a client chooses a simple funeral, a funeral director should still have discretion to recommend against viewing if the funeral director assesses that viewing may not be suitable.

Draft guidance for funeral directors (continued)

14. Funeral Directors should ensure that if a client chooses to modify or upgrade any particular aspect of a simple funeral, the increase in price should be proportionate to the request for additional services.

15. Where direct cremation or direct burial is offered as a lower-cost option, funeral directors should be clear in describing what this includes and what it does not include, so that people can consider if this option is suitable for them.

Note: In this draft guidance for funeral directors, the term ‘simple funeral’ refers to a funeral which includes the opportunity to have a commemorative service at the time of the cremation or burial. In this draft guidance, the term ‘direct cremation’ refers to a cremation that does not include any commemorative service element and is not attended by friends or relatives of the deceased person.

Draft additional guidance for Local Authorities

1. When setting charges for burial and cremation, local authorities should, where possible, take account of local and national strategies for poverty reduction and obligations under poverty and equality legislation, such as the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 and, where appropriate, the new Fairer Scotland Duty as set out in Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010. In addition, local authorities will want to ensure that any decisions taken are in line with their statutory equality responsibilities.

2. Local authority strategies for poverty reduction should recognise that funeral costs contribute to poverty and should, where possible, include measures aimed at addressing funeral poverty.

3. To ensure greater transparency of the charge setting process, local authorities should consult the public when developing charging proposals. In this process of consultation, local authorities should consider a range of ways to engage with the public, such as public meetings, and provide the opportunity for members of the public to provide a written response. Ideally, consultation with people with direct experience of poverty and disadvantage would be a central part of any consultation programme.

4. Local authorities should explain the reasons for any proposed changes to charges in order to help the public understand the drivers behind the cost of these elements of a funeral.

5. To increase public understanding of the costs associated with local authorities’ provision of burial and cremation services, local authorities should publish information annually on their websites showing income generated and expenditure incurred through the provision of these services. This information should be based on the local authority’s data that is already submitted to the Scottish Government via the Local Financial Returns.

6. When setting charges for burial and cremation, local authorities should keep in mind that it is desirable that a bereaved person can afford to pay for them, and should have regard to the rate of inflation and consider whether above-inflation charge increases can be avoided.

7. Local authorities should consider putting in place measures to support and assist bereaved people who are unable to or struggling to meet the costs of arranging a funeral, such as providing advice to the public, or working with funeral directors to provide support to people who would struggle to pay for a funeral.

8. If pre-purchase of burial lairs is offered by a local authority, the local authority should consider allowing payments to be made in stages over a number of months or years, in order to make this cost more affordable and to reduce the possibility of financial shock to relatives of the deceased person at the point of bereavement.

Draft additional guidance for Local Authorities (continued)

9. Local authorities should work together, using existing mechanisms and forums where possible, to identify and share best practice in the setting and presentation of charges for burial and cremation.

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