Funeral Support Payment: evaluation - qualitative research

Qualitative research supporting the findings from the evaluation of the Funeral Support Payment.

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Annex A: Discussion guides

FSP client discussion guide (depth interview)

Introduction

  • Remind participant of the aims of the research:
    The Scottish Government has asked Ipsos MORI to get feedback on the on the Funeral Support Payment. We are speaking to several people who have used the payment to find out how well it works in practice, and we're also talking to a few support organisations and funeral directors. The findings will be published as part of an evaluation of FSP.
  • Remind participant that the interview will last about 45 minutes.
  • Remind participant that they don't have to answer any questions they don't want to answer. Acknowledge that we understand that thinking about this time in their life may be difficult and upsetting it's fine to pause/stop the interview at any time.
  • Provide reassurances of anonymity and confidentiality. Explain that no identifying information about individuals will be passed on to anyone outwith the Ipsos MORI research team, so it will not be possible for the Scottish Government or anyone else to identify individuals in any reports that Ipsos MORI produce.
  • Check if participant has any questions.
  • Request permission to record interview. Explain that this is for transcription and analysis purposes and that recordings will not be shared outside the research team at Ipsos MORI.

Introductions and background (1-2 mins)

That's recording us now. Could I quickly ask you to confirm for the recording that you are happy to take part based on the information we just discussed?

To start with, could you tell me a bit about yourself and where you live?

What is a typical day for you these days?

Information about the funeral (5 mins)

I just wanted to start off by asking a bit about the funeral you planned when you received FSP if that's alright.

I know that you received Funeral Support Payment [insert broad time frame which we'll have from recruitment e.g. last year/earlier this year]. Does that sound about right?

And could tell me whose funeral that was for?

  • Could you tell me a bit about the funeral arrangements? Was it a cremation or a burial?
  • What type of service was it? (If needed ask, was it a religious service?)

Thank you for clarifying on that. I ask about this because in some religions there are particular types of ceremonies and customs involved…

    • Do you know if [the deceased] was a religious person?
    • And, how about you, would you describe yourself as religious?
  • Did you use a funeral director to help with arranging the funeral?
  • What were the different costs/elements involved? Possible probes:
    • Flowers
    • Catering
    • Press notice (i.e. notice in the newspaper)
    • Additional cars
    • Embalming
    • Memorials or headstones
    • Stationery (e.g. order of service)
    • Organist or other musician
    • Medical certificates

Was it the first time you had organised a funeral?

  • If no: Was it the first time you had received FSP?

And just before I move on, how did you find the process of planning the funeral overall?

  • Easy/difficult to arrange?

Awareness and understanding of FSP (5 mins)

Now I'd like to ask a bit about the Funeral Support Payment and how you found out about it.

Thinking back to before you applied for FSP, how did you first hear about FSP?

  • When?
  • From who?

Note to interviewer: Try to establish whether they just heard about it informally or whether they went on to read information on the SG website etc

Why did you decide to apply for FSP?

  • Did you get encouraged/recommended to apply?

When you first heard about it, what expenses did you think and hope it would cover?

  • Was there anything you expected it to cover that it didn't cover?

Was it easy to understand what the payment can be used for/what it can't be used for?

  • Was there anything about the payment that was unclear at first?
  • Was there anything that could have been explained better?
  • Was there anything you think was particularly clear and easy to understand about the payment?

Was it clear if you were eligible for the benefit?

Application process for FSP (5 mins)

Thanks again for your answers so far. We're onto the next set of questions now, and this is about the application process for FSP and how well it works.

Firstly, just to get a bit of context, can I ask when you applied for FSP?

How did you apply? (and why?)

  • Online? Telephone?

Did you receive any help or support to apply?

  • From who?
  • Did they offer to help, or did you ask them to help?

Overall, what did you think about the application process?

  • Understanding of what to do
  • How easy was it to complete the form?

Was there anything that worked particularly well?

Was there anything that could have been better?

  • Can you think of anything that would make it easier for people to apply for FSP in the future?

What do you think about the timings of the application process and receiving the payment?

  • Were the timings clear when you first applied for FSP?
  • Did FSP cause or reduce any unwanted funeral delays?

Use of FSP (15 mins)

Thanks that's really helpful to know. Now the next few questions I'd like to ask you are about the different funeral expenses and how you used the funeral support payment. I know this could be a difficult topic to discuss so I want to remind you that it's completely find to skip any questions you'd prefer not to answer, and if you find the questions upsetting at all we can pause or stop the interview, so please do let me know if you would like to skip a question or take a break or stop the interview, that's completely fine.

Firstly, can I check if [the deceased] had a funeral plan?

If Yes: how did this affect your FSP claim?

Did [the deceased] leave any money for funeral costs, or were you able to use any money from their estate?

If Yes: how did this affect your FSP claim?

Would you say all or most of your funeral costs were covered by FSP, or just some of them?

(Probe for roughly what proportion)

What were you able to pay for using FSP?

Prompt if necessary, refer to earlier discusssion of funeral expenses:

  • the cost of a burial plot/burial fees/grave-digging
  • cremation fees (including the cost of removing a pacemaker)
  • costs of any medical references and medical certificates
  • costs of documents required to release the assets of the person who died
  • transport costs (for journeys >80 km) that are to:
    • transport the body within the UK to a funeral director's premises/place of rest
    • transport the coffin and bearers in a hearse and the mourners in another vehicle to the funeral
    • one return journey undertaken to make arrangements for the funeral

What expenses did you have that were not covered by FSP?

If any: Did you understand from the start that they would not be covered?

  • If you had realised that would not be covered, would you have done anything differently

How did you pay for these expenses?

Prompts: borrowing/savings/money from client's estate

For those who had to pay some of their own money:

At the time, did you know that there are some options, e.g. a direct cremation/simple burial, that are less expensive than normal funerals and sometimes FSP can cover the whole cost for this?

If necessary: A simple burial cuts out some costs of a traditional funeral and reduces the cost of other things. For example, it doesn't include hired transport (hearse & limo), have fewer/no flowers, and will include a less decorative coffin. The funeral director chooses the time of the funeral and they probably won't collect the deceased out of hours.

A direct cremation is a cremation without a funeral service. The cost of cremation without service is typically lower because expensive coffins, flowers, cars and the funeral service itself are not included.

  • Do you think this is something you would have done if you were aware of it?
  • Were there certain things that aren't part of a direct cremation/simple burial that were important to you to pay for yourself?

Do you anticipate any further funeral related costs in the future?

  • Headstone
  • Memorial

I know that FSP can be paid directly to you or to your funeral director. Did you receive the money personally or arrange for it to go to the funeral director?

  • Why?
  • Did this work well for you or do you think you should have [arranged for it to go directly to the funeral director/had it paid to you]?

If paid directly to them: did your funeral director know that you were applying for FSP?

Did the funeral director ever mention FSP?

How do you think having FSP impacted on your funeral arrangements and choices?

  • Would you have done things differently without FSP?
  • Do you think you would have spent more or less if you didn't have FSP?

How did it make you feel to be in charge of the funeral costs?

  • What spending decisions did you find particularly difficult, if any?
  • To what extent do you think your spending decisions were influenced by other people's expectations/opinions, if at all?

Did Covid-19 restrictions affect your funeral plans at all?

  • Smaller numbers
  • No wake/reception (less catering/other expenses)

If Covid affected funeral plans:

Did Covid-19 affect the expenses that were incurred and that you were able to claim?

  • Do you think in more 'normal' times, the expenses you claimed would have been different?

And thinking more broadly about the effect of the pandemic on you at that time, do you think the pandemic had an impact on your grieving process?

Financial impact (5 mins)

Just to let you know, I'm going to move on now to asking a bit about the financial impact of FSP and whether it made a difference to your finances. As always, tell me if you would like to skip any questions.

Firstly, how do you feel about your current financial situation?

  • Do you ever feel worried or stressed about money?
  • Is your financial situation similar or different to around the time of your bereavement?

How big an impact, if at all, do you think FSP had on your finances?

I know that for many people the costs of funerals are something they've never had knowledge or experience of before.

What did you think about the costs involved in a funeral when you first found out about them?

  • How confident were you that you could meet these costs?

I know it might be hard to imagine, but do you think your financial situation would have been different at all if you hadn't received FSP?

One of the aims of FSP is to help people avoid having to take out large loans for funeral expenses. Do you think FSP helped to reduce your need to take on take on extra debt?

Impact on mental wellbeing (& grieving process) (5 mins)

The next few questions are about FSP and the impact on your mental wellbeing.

If had funeral plan:
You mentioned that [the deceased] had a funeral plan. Is that something you knew about in advance?

  • o Did knowing this/not knowing about this in advance have an impact on how stressed you felt about paying for the funeral?

Overall, how do you think FSP impacted on your mental wellbeing (if at all)?

Did the payment reduce any money-related stress?

Do you think FSP had an impact on your grieving process?

  • E.g. feeling less worried about money and being less distracted from processing your loss

Do you think you would have had more peace of mind if you had known more about FSP earlier?

Ideas for improvement (2 mins)

We're onto the last topic now, which is about getting your views on what could be improved about FSP.

Firstly, after what we've just spoken about, are there any changes you think should be made to FSP?

Prompt if necessary: to the application process? / To what it covers?

What do you think might help make more people aware of it?

What would be the best way, or the best time, to reach out to people and explain what FSP is?

End of main interview (1 min)

That's all the questions I wanted to ask you today, unless you think there is anything else we might have missed which would be useful for the Scottish Government to know about FSP?

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today, it's been really helpful and insightful. I appreciate it's a difficult subject to talk about. In case it would be useful for you, I just wanted to remind you that the information sheet has a list of organisations that offer support with the issues we've been discussing today, like mental health support or organisations which give financial advice.

The last thing to do is make sure we can get your thank you payment over to you [discuss arrangements].

The money normally takes a week or two to arrive in your account. If you have any issues feel free to drop me an email and let me know.

[If appropriate, ask participant what they have planned for the rest of their day etc. to end on a conversational note]

Funeral director discussion guide (depth interview)

Introduction (3 minutes)

  • Remind participant of the aims of the research:
    The Scottish Government has asked Ipsos MORI to get feedback on the on the Funeral Support Payment. We are speaking to funeral directors to find out how well it works in practice from the perspective of industry experts. We're also talking to those who have received FSP and to a few support organisations. The findings will be published as part of an evaluation of FSP.
  • Remind participant that the interview will last about 45 minutes.
  • Remind participant that they don't have to answer any questions they don't want to answer. Provide reassurances of anonymity and confidentiality. Explain that no identifying information about individuals or organisations will be passed on to anyone outwith the Ipsos MORI research team, so it will not be possible for the Scottish Government or anyone else to identify individuals/organisations in any reports that Ipsos MORI produce. If there are comments which are potentially identifiable (e.g. because they offer a particular/unique service), then we will check that you are happy for them to be reported.
  • Request permission to record interview. Explain that this is for transcription and analysis purposes and that recordings will not be shared outside the research team at Ipsos MORI.
  • Note to interviewer: we refer to people as customers in this guide, but if the funeral director uses a different term please adapt accordingly.

Background (5 minutes)

Firstly, it would be great if we could get some background on your organisation and your role within it.

  • So, could you tell me a bit about your role and what it is that [organisation] does?

Probe where relevant:

    • Where do most of your customers live – how wide an area do you cover? Are there particular types of customer that you serve?
    • What range of services do you provide to people who are arranging a funeral?
    • Do the services you offer vary depending on the customer? How so/in what ways? (e.g. burial/cremation, religion, any other specific requirements, presence/absence of a funeral plan)
    • If not covered ask: How many employees does the organisation have?
  • What, if any, are the main challenges you face as an organisation?

Probe where relevant:

    • As a [small/large] business?
    • In terms of the geographical area you cover?
    • Customers' ability to pay for the type of funeral they might like?
    • What have been the main challenges or changes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Impressions of FSP (10 minutes)

Now I'd like to talk about your experiences in relation to FSP.

Before we go into it in detail, what do you think of FSP overall?

  • And how much difference has it made to you as a funeral director? When did you first become aware of FSP?
  • What is your understanding of FSP and how it works?

Allow participant to answer freely but could probe on:

    • Aims
    • Level of cover
    • What it can be used for
    • Who is eligible
  • How often do you provide services to customers in receipt of FSP?
  • Would you typically advise customers about the availability of FSP?
    • If no– why not?
    • If yes – how do you go about this?
  • How do you find the process of arranging a funeral for customers in receipt of FSP? Probe on ease/difficulty
    • Does your approach change at all if someone is eligible for FSP, compared to situations where FSP does not apply? If yes – in what ways?
    • Are there any other considerations that apply when supporting an FSP client with funeral arrangements?
    • Do you tend to receive FSP payment directly from the Scottish Government or the customer?
    • If both – what does this depend on?
    • How does this arrangement work for you?

Impact on business (10 minutes)

Now thinking about the impact of FSP on your organisation….

  • In what ways, if any, does the availability of FSP impact on your business?

Probe where relevant:

    • The options that customers choose and the amount that they spend?
    • The amount of time you spend on planning with customers?
    • Business/resource planning
    • Business confidence (providing assurance that customers are able to afford funeral costs)
    • Marketing activities (promoting FSP availability)
  • Does the service you provide to customers in receipt of FSP require more or less of you/your staff's time, or does it make no difference? [if more] How so?
  • In your experience, has the provision of FSP helped to more or less timely payment?
    • If yes– how so?
    • If no – why not?
  • How often do you experience customers not being able to pay or choosing options that they cannot really afford?
    • How much difference, if any, has FSP made to this?

Impact on clients (10 minutes)

And now thinking about the impact of FSP on your clients…

  • Note to interviewer: If participant raises Covid-19, probe to understand impact of pandemic on customers' experiences at the point it is raised. Otherwise, ask at the end of this section.What difference, if any, do you think FSP has made to your customers when planning funerals?
    • Do you think experiences vary for customers?
    • If yes – how/why?
    • [If not raised, ask] Do you think experiences vary between different groups of people? (if required, for example those on lower incomes or those organising religious services)? If yes – in what ways? Why do you think that is the case?
    • How do you think having FSP has impacted on your customers' funeral arrangements and choices?
  • From your experience, do you think the payment enables some of your customers to access funerals that better fit their needs?
    • If yes – in what ways?
    • If no – why is that?
  • How much, if at all, has it helped reduce the distress involved for customers?
  • Do you think the eligibility criteria is clear to you/your customers?
    • If yes – why is that?
    • If no – why not? How do you think this could be improved?
  • In what ways, if any, has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on your customers' experiences of arranging a funeral?
    • Do you think the pandemic has impacted on how customers use FSP?
    • If yes – in what ways? Why is that?
    • If no – why not?

Thoughts on improvements (10 minutes)

We're coming into the final part of the interview now. Before we finish, I'd like to understand more about your views on FSP.

  • Based on your experience providing services to customers in receipt of FSP, what do you think works well? Probe fully (if Covid-19 raised here, discuss fully/establish extent to which they consider this to be temporary impact or not)
  • And what doesn't work so well? Probe fully (if Covid-19 raised here, discuss fully/establish extent to which they consider this to be temporary impact or not)
  • Is there anything that would help funeral directors be better prepared to interact with customers using FSP?
  • What further support (if any) do you think should be given to customers to make use of the payment?
  • What further information or support (if any) do you think should be given to funeral directors in relation to FSP?
  • What changes – if any - would you see made to FSP?
    • Are there any changes you would see made to FSP as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
    • Do you think the effectiveness of FSP will be impacted as the country emerges from restrictions? What makes you say that?
  • Do you have any thoughts on how FSP should be promoted?

Thank & close

Third sector organisation discussion guide (group discussion)

Introduction

  • Remind participants of the aims of the research:
    The Scottish Government has asked Ipsos MORI to get feedback on the on the Funeral Support Payment. We are speaking to people in support roles to find out how well it works in practice, and we're also talking to FSP recipients and funeral directors. The findings will be published as part of an evaluation of FSP.
  • Remind participants that the group discussion will last about 90 minutes.
  • Remind participants that they don't have to answer any questions they don't want to answer.
  • Provide reassurances of anonymity and confidentiality. Explain that no identifying information about individuals will be passed on to anyone outwith the Ipsos MORI research team, so it will not be possible for the Scottish Government or anyone else to identify individuals in any reports that Ipsos MORI produce.
  • Ask that participants respect this confidentiality and do not share any information that others bring up in the discussion group
  • Check if participants have any questions.
  • Request permission to record interview (audio only) – ensure that every participant has given permission before recording. Explain that this is for transcription and analysis purposes and that recordings will not be shared outside the research team at Ipsos MORI.

Introductions and background (5 mins)

That's recording us now. Could I quickly ask you to confirm for the recording that you are happy to take part based on the information we just discussed?

To start with, could we just go around the group and you could tell me your name and a bit about where you work and what your role is?

And how much does the Funeral Support Payment feature in your job? What are the main things you do in relation to FSP (if anything)?

Awareness and understanding of FSP (10 mins)

Now I'd like to ask a bit about your knowledge of Funeral Support Payment and how you found out about it.

How did you first hear about the FSP? Where have you got your information from on the FSP?

And turning now to what the payment is for…

  • What do you see as the aims of FSP?
  • What can and what can't be used for?
  • Who is eligible for it? What do you think of the eligibility criteria?

Where would you go for more information on FSP? Who would you ask?

Do you talk about the FSP with your colleagues? Do you think your colleagues in similar roles are all aware of the FSP?

Do you feel confident advising clients on the FSP? How about more specifically on:

  • Their eligibility
  • The amount they are likely to be entitled to /what expenses it is likely to cover and what won't be covered
  • How to apply
  • How it works if the person who died had a pre-paid funeral plan
  • Practicalities around the payment – when will they receive the money, payment to either them or funeral director etc.

Moving on now to awareness among clients…

How much awareness is there of FSP among the people your organisation works with?

If they have already heard of it, where have they gotten their information from?

Do you think clients find it easy to understand what the payment can be used for/what it can't be used for?

What are the main things they normally ask you about it?

Do people who are eligible tend to apply? If not, what are the barriers? Have you noticed any difference in ease of applying among different groups? I.e. do some groups face unique barriers? How about any difference in ease or likelihood of applying by:

Religion? Ethnicity? Disability? Gender? Where they live?

Funeral expenses and use of FSP (20 Mins)

Now the next few questions I'd like to ask you are about the different kinds of expenses clients use FSP on.

What are the immediate kinds of expenses clients have to think about when planning a funeral on a low income?

Prompt if necessary/if time. probe around which tend to be clients' priority, how much these tend to be covered by FSP (bearing in mind higher/lower rates) and how clients deal with it when things aren't fully covered

  • the cost of a burial plot/burial fees/grave-digging
  • cremation fees (including the cost of removing a pacemaker)
  • costs of any medical references and medical certificates
  • costs of documents required to release the assets of the person who died
  • transport costs (for journeys >80 km) that are to:
    • transport the body within the UK to a funeral director's premises/place of rest
    • transport the coffin and bearers in a hearse and the mourners in another vehicle to the funeral
    • one return journey undertaken to make arrangements for the funeral

What expenses do clients have that are not covered by FSP?

    • Prompt if necessary. probe on how clients cover these expenses
    • Flowers
    • Catering
    • Press notice (i.e. notice in the newspaper)
    • Additional cars
    • Embalming
    • Memorials or headstones
    • Stationery (e.g. order of service)
    • Organist or other musician
    • Medical certificates

If any: Do they understand from the start that they would not be covered?

What are people's biggest concerns when they're thinking about paying for the funeral?

How do your clients manage their finances to cope with these expenses? Have you ever heard of people borrowing money or cutting back on other spending to afford the funeral?

One of the aims of FSP is to help people avoid having to take out large loans for funeral expenses. Do you think FSP helps to reduce clients' need to take on take on extra debt?

We know that clients choices can sometimes be affected by other people's expectations/opinions.

  • Is this something you have sensed among the clients you support?
  • Do they ever talk to you about this?
  • How do you think the FSP affects this – does it reduce pressure or add to it?
  • Do they use the FSP to help with basics and spend more (of the money they would otherwise have used) on a bigger funeral e.g. catering, venue, flowers?

Do you think that clients spend their money any differently as a result of getting the FSP?

  • Would they have done things differently without FSP? Spent any more or less money?

As you might know, generally the FSP doesn't cover the full funeral cost, but there are some options, e.g. a direct cremation/simple burial, that may be completely covered by FSP.

  • Were you aware of this?
  • Are your clients normally aware of this? Have you ever seen someone make this choice?

If necessary: A simple burial cuts out some of the costs of a traditional funeral and reduces the cost to just the minimum. For example, it doesn't include hired transport (hearse & limo), have fewer/no flowers, and will include a less decorative coffin. The funeral director chooses the time of the funeral and they probably won't collect the deceased out of hours.

A direct cremation is a cremation without a funeral service. The cost of cremation without service is typically lower because expensive coffins, flowers, cars and the funeral service itself are not included.

I know that FSP can be paid directly to clients or to the funeral director. Which way do clients normally prefer? Would you recommend either way?

As far as you can tell, what is the experience like for clients when they deal with funeral directors or local authorities?

When supporting your clients, have you ever contacted a funeral director or a local authority directly? If yes – what was your experience like?

Has Covid-19 had any impact on experiences of funeral planning on a low income? How about on how FSP is spent/what costs are claimed for? (e.g. smaller numbers, no wake/reception)

We'll move on now and I'll ask a bit about what financial impact the FSP has for claimants, in your experience.

In your experience, are clients worried about the cost of planning the funeral? Do they talk to you about money worries?

  • What impact (if any) has Covid-19 had on clients' level of money worries?

In your experience, how big an impact, if any, do you think FSP has on client finances?

Application process for FSP (10 mins)

We're onto the next set of questions now, and this is about the application process for FSP and how well it works.

In your experience, how do clients find the application process?

Is there any difference in application method- i.e. is it any more or less straightforward to apply by phone, online or on paper?

What are the barriers to applying?

Do the people you support need much help with the application? How confident are you in providing that help?

Do you have any thoughts on how the application process could be improved?

What do you think about the timings of the application process and receiving the payment?

  • Does FSP cause or reduce any unwanted funeral delays?

Impact on mental wellbeing (& grieving process) (20 mins)

The next few questions are about FSP and the impact on mental wellbeing.

Overall, how do you think FSP impacts on client mental wellbeing (if at all)?

  • Probe on impact of pandemic

Does the payment reduce any money-related stress?

  • Probe on impact of pandemic

Do you think FSP has any impact on clients' grieving process?

  • E.g. feeling less worried about money and being less distracted from processing their loss
  • Probe on impact of pandemic

Ideas for improvement (20 mins)

We're onto the last topic now, which is about getting your views on what could be improved about FSP.

Firstly, after what we've just spoken about, are there any changes you think should be made to FSP?

Prompt if necessary: to the application process? / To what it covers?

What do you think might help make more people aware of it?

What would be the best way, or the best time, to reach out to people and explain what FSP is?

What could the Scottish Government do to help people in organisations like yours to support people to claim FSP?

End of group (5 mins)

That's all the questions I wanted to ask you today, unless you think there is anything else we might have missed which would be useful for the Scottish Government to know about FSP?

If there's anything else you think of later you're very welcome to get back in touch.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today, it's been really helpful and insightful.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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