Chapter 2: Awareness and understanding of FSP
Clients typically heard about the availability of the Funeral Support Payment (FSP) from their funeral director. Few clients were aware of the support prior to their bereavement and a number of suggestions were made for improving levels of awareness among the general public (e.g. TV advertising or leaflets in hospitals or other care settings).
Third sector organisations and funeral directors demonstrated high levels of awareness and understanding of FSP, and felt confident in their ability to advise clients about it.
Clients generally understood what the payment was and whether or not they would be eligible for it, based on the information provided to them by the funeral director (or other source), the Scottish Government's website or via the Social Security Scotland helpline.
There was some evidence that the specific parameters of the payment, i.e. what would or would not be covered by FSP, were not clear to clients as they were gathering information about it. Often in the early stages of grief, and under significant financial strain, the overriding concern among clients was whether or not some contribution to the funeral costs would be given. This chapter discusses levels of awareness and understanding of FSP among clients prior to their application. It seek to address the following research objectives:
- How clients became aware of FSP.
- Confidence among funeral directors and third sector organisations to support and advise clients on FSP, and preparedness to interact with clients in receipt of FSP.
- Clarity over what FSP does and does not cover.
The chapter will first explore levels of awareness and ways clients first heard about the availability of support. It will then turn to the understanding of FSP among funeral directors providing services to FSP recipients and third sector organisations providing relevant support to clients. Expectations of the payment across the research audiences is also discused in this chapter. The findings are drawn from FSP clients, funeral directors and third sector organisations.
Awareness of FSP
Among FSP clients, awareness of the availability of the benefit prior to their bereavement was generally low, although there were those who were aware of it due to their experience of other grants. Funeral directors and third sector organisations reported high levels of awareness of FSP and demonstrated sound understanding of the payment and its purpose.
Clients typically found out about FSP through their funeral director. However, a range of other sources were mentioned, including:
- Their church or mosque
- Charities or third sector organisations (such as Women's Aid, Money Matters, Citizens Advice Scotland or Funeral Link)
- Family member or social worker
- Through work
- News/media/social media
- While applying for Universal Credit as a result of their bereavement.
FSP was described as a 'hidden benefit' and clients generally felt that the support is not widely advertised. This was echoed among third sector organisations who agreed that levels of awareness among the general public were not as high as they could be. There was a sense among clients that knowing about FSP earlier would have been beneficial, particularly in cases where the death was not sudden.
FSP clients offered a range of ways in which they felt awareness of FSP could be raised, including:
- TV advertising
- Leaflets in hospitals and other care settings
- Funeral directors
- Signposting for those applying for, or in receipt of, other benefits
- When the death certificate is issued
- GP surgeries.
Funeral directors also offered their views on how FSP could be better promoted through their organisations, which is discussed in Chapter 7.
Aamaal's experience of FSP
Aamaal is 43 and lives in the west of Scotland. She lived with her husband until he died unexpectedly in the summer of 2020. Aamaal arranged an Islamic funeral for her husband and, in accordance with Islamic customs, he was buried within three days.
Aamaal arranged the funeral through the mosque but was not aware of FSP at the time of her bereavement. In order to cover the costs of the funeral, Aamaal borrowed money from her sister, who also helped with the funeral arrangements. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, fewer people attended the funeral. For Aamaal this was a very difficult time as she was struggling with both her grief and the financial pressures of arranging her husband's funeral.
"In our culture, its supposed to be a celebration and not a time for worrying about money. I expected it to be easier but it was very hard. On the one side I was grieving and on the other I was worried about the finances. You don't know how you can manage it."
Aamaal found out about FSP while applying for Universal Credit a short while after the funeral. She applied online and found the process to be straightforward. However, as English is not her first language, she asked her sister to help her complete the online form. As the funeral had already taken place, Aamaal opted to have the money paid to her directly so that she could pay her sister back. Although she would have liked FSP to cover more of the overall funeral costs, Aamaal felt grateful to have received some support. She suggested that more people could be made aware of FSP via the mosque in future.
"This payment gave me hope that somebody is there to help and support me. You need this when you are grieving."
Third sector organisations and funeral directors
Third sector organisations felt confident in their ability to advise on the availability of FSP, although the frequency of supporting clients to access the payment, and the extent to which they got involved in the application process, varied according to the type of organisation and services provided.
Funeral directors were also aware of FSP and demonstrated a good understanding of its purpose. As with third sector organisations, they differed in their level of involvement in the application process, and the frequency of their interactions with clients in receipt of FSP varied from weekly to once or twice a year.
Nevertheless, funeral directors consistently reported that they would advise their clients of the availability of FSP. In some cases, particularly where there was more limited knowledge of the eligibility criteria for FSP, funeral directors tended to feel that it was not their place to advise on eligibility but would signpost all clients to the Social Security Scotland helpline or government website. In other cases, funeral directors described how they would try to get an understanding of their clients' financial situation during initial planning conversations, before advising on their eligibility for FSP.
"During arrangement procedure, you'll get a good handle on whether the person is going to be needing financial help or not […]. We advise clients on the best course of action."
Funeral director, larger business, West Lothian
There were also funeral directors who would go through the application with their clients. The reasons given for this were twofold: so that errors on the form could be minimised to avoid unnecessary delays to an application decision, and so that funeral directors could encourage clients to request the payment be made directly to them (rather than the recipient) to prevent non-payment of bills. Experiences of the payment method among clients are discussed further in Chapter 4, while views of the wider industry on this are explored further in Chapter 7.
Understanding of the payment
FSP clients tended to have an accurate understanding of whether or not they would be eligible for FSP. Clients typically received initial information via the funeral director, or other source, but also found further details directly on the Scottish Government's website or by phoning Social Security Scotland. The amount of information provided was considered to be sufficient and, as described by one participant, the guidance 'did what is said on the tin' in terms of explaining what the payment was and who could apply for it.
Third sector organisations participating in this research also felt that the initial information they provide to clients about the availability of the payment and eligibility helps to reassure people during a time of uncertainty.
"When we're supporting a client, we'll tell them exactly what the breakdown of the FSP is and it's a great sense of relief that there's a little bit of hope that they may get the funeral paid for."
Third sector organisation
Expectations of the payment
Although clients tended to have a sound understanding of the eligibility criteria from the outset, they felt less clear at that stage on what the payment would cover. This appeared to be, at least in part, because they were in the early stages of grief, and often under significant financial strain when they become aware of FSP. They did not recall having focused on the 'specifics' of the payment and, instead, hoped that the payment would help towards the basic costs of the funeral (such as the cremation, council and/or service fees), while understanding that it may not cover the whole cost.
"When you lose someone you're not thinking straight about what you can use it for. As far as I was concerned, it was a funeral grant to help me bury my daughter and that's all it was for. [It] wasn't to be used for a lot of extras because it's not even enough to pay for a decent funeral anyway."
FSP client, 55+, East Ayrshire
Although clients may not be focusing on details due to their bereavement, third sector participants and funeral directors pointed to a lack of clarity about what the payment does and does not cover. There was a concern that recipients who were not being advised by a support organisation may find it hard to know what to expect in terms of an award amount. One view was that the information on the Funeral Expenses Payment offered in England is clearer than that available for FSP.
"The FSP information under mygov.scot website doesn't really show or explain clearly in the way I think the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions] one does. For regular members of the public, who aren't getting info from us, how much would they know or understand about how much they would get in advance?"
Third sector organisation
In comparing their early impressions of the payment to their subsequent experience of it, clients' initial expectations had generally been met. There were, however, a couple of exceptions to this, such as one view that the headstone should have been covered but was not (the impact of which is explored in Chapter 6). There was also one view that the basic costs of arranging Muslim funerals are higher due to the customs involved, such as the burial having to take place within a fixed period after death and the washing and preparation of the body prior to burial, which aren't accounted for in FSP.
"It wasn't covering the full cost of the funeral, because the cost of burials and other expenses linked to a Muslim funeral are a lot higher. It's just different procedures."
FSP client, 55+, West Lothian
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