Funeral Support Payment: evaluation - qualitative research

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

This document is part of a collection

Chapter 7: Impact of FSP on business and the wider funeral industry

Main findings

Funeral directors confirmed that FSP does not substantially change clients spending choices. This was partly because they were still planning a funeral on a tight budget.

Funeral directors reported that a FSP claim also made little difference to the amount of time it takes them to plan a funeral. It took longer if the funeral director chose to support an application more actively, or where communication from Social Security Scotland was considered inefficient, but overall the impact was minor.

They also commented that FSP money tended to arrive as quickly or more quickly than non-FSP payments, particularly when it was being sent directly to their business. However, they did highlight that the payment reference number system makes it difficult to identify which payment from Social Security Scotland was for which funeral account.

Funeral directors felt that it would be easier for them to support FSP clients if there was greater promotion of FSP, greater involvement of funeral directors in FSP development, and better communication from Social Security Scotland about the progress of claims.

Funeral directors and third sector participants discussed the payment method of FSP, balancing the importance of client choice with the possibility that the money would not make it to funeral directors.

This chapter will cover the impact that FSP has had on funeral directors and the wider funeral industry. It will draw largely on insight from funeral directors themselves, supported by findings from research with third sector participants.

This chapter relates to the following research objectives:

  • The extent to which FSP provides clarity and assurance for Scottish funeral directors, particularly regarding:
  • Which clients will be eligible for the benefit
  • Timely payment from Social Security Scotland on behalf of clients (where applicable)
  • The extent to which FSP has led to changes in client behaviour, exploring:
  • Decisions on funeral arrangements
  • If FSP has enabled clients on low incomes to access funerals.
  • Whether funeral directors or third sector organisations believe that FSP can be improved, exploring any additional support that is or should be given to clients

This chapter will first discuss any impacts of FSP on client spending, from the perspective of funeral directors. It will then turn to the impact FSP has on funeral directors' experiences of planning a funeral and receiving their payment. Finally, this chapter will explore how funeral directors and third sector participants operating in the funeral industry feel they can be better supported to work with those receiving FSP.

Impact of FSP on clients' funeral spending

Funeral directors did not consider FSP to have a notable effect on clients' funeral spending. They suggested that FSP made a positive difference to their clients and helps to some degree to enable customers to access funerals that meet their needs. However, they stressed that clients receiving FSP were still planning a funeral on a low budget and were aware of this fact, and therefore FSP did not change their choices.

"Even though they are getting some money to help pay for the funeral they seem to be quite aware of not letting the costs getting too high, I guess, ultimately, they are aware that there is still going to be a balance to pay."

Funeral director, smaller business, Aberdeenshire

A further reason given by funeral directors as to why FSP did not substantially change clients' spending was the desire of clients to plan a funeral they felt the deceased person would have been happy with. Although they tried to keep costs down, financial considerations were sometimes a secondary concern, whether or not they received FSP.

"No, they know what they want anyway, we just discuss that [money] at the end of arrangements."

Funeral director, smaller business, Dumfries and Galloway

Impact on time spent planning funeral

Similarly, funeral directors reported that FSP made little difference to the amount of time it took to plan a funeral or the approach to planning it. While it could involve some time supporting their application or communicating with Social Security Scotland, this was generally negligible.

"No, [FSP] makes no difference in terms of the amount of time that is spent organising a funeral. Like I said, the only difference would be going through the FSP application, but with this new system it takes about 10 to 15 minutes, it is really a minimal impact in terms of extra time spent, it is really hardly any time to be honest."

Funeral director, smaller business, Aberdeenshire

A related view was that FSP in fact saved time for funeral directors in the long run because, although they might spend extra time helping with an FSP application at the beginning of the process, it meant that they were less likely to have repayment issues further down the line.

Impact of FSP on timeliness of payment

Funeral directors reported that FSP payments tended to come through relatively quickly; they were generally as timely, or timelier, than those from non-FSP clients, particularly where the FSP was transferred directly to their business. Reclaiming money from the estate to pay for a funeral could take a year, so FSP money came quicker in comparison. One funeral director also suggested that FSP makes it more likely that the entire bill would be paid in a timely manner, because families on low incomes had a smaller balance to pay off themselves.

An administrative issue highlighted by funeral directors was that the reference numbers used to mark payments into their business account from Social Security Scotland were not clearly identifiable. This was particularly challenging for larger businesses that were dealing with many funerals every week.

"One of the issues we have is the way it is paid. Matching up the BACS payments to the actual funeral invoices is a challenge- we are doing thousands of funerals, all paid into the same account. We have sometimes chased a family when they have actually already paid."

Funeral director, larger business, Scotland-wide

Experiences supporting FSP clients

Funeral directors and third sector participants were asked how the Scottish Government could help them to support people claiming FSP. Their responses included:

  • Greater promotion of FSP
  • Greater involvement of funeral directors in the development of FSP
  • Better communication from Social Security Scotland about the progress of claims

These suggestions will now be discussed in turn. More general suggestions for improvement (for example, relating to perceived client experiences rather than their own experiences of supporting clients) will be addressed in Chapter 8.

Greater promotion

One suggestion was that FSP should be further promoted to make sure it reaches all those eligible for it. There was also a desire for promotion materials that could be shared with bereaved clients.

"Maybe having just a few fliers or leaflets that we could hand to people to explain about it or maybe a poster or two that we could display in the premises somewhere it might be useful."

Funeral director, smaller business, Aberdeenshire

Greater involvement of funeral directors

There was a view that funeral directors should be more involved in the development of FSP rather than being kept at 'arm's length'. They felt it was important that they had the latest information and fully understood how it works which, in turn could help to raise awarenss of FSP further.

"Better engagement from Social Security Scotland to the funeral directors in how to promote, how to do the applications could pay quite good benefits in the long run. Education, education, interaction, that is where the secret is, working in silos is never good."

Funeral director, larger business, West Lothian

Better communication from Social Security Scotland about the progress of claims

FSP could be expected to provide funeral directors with enhanced business security. However, this was limited by the fact they had experienced some difficulty accessing information about the progress of FSP claims and were therefore not always confident that that an application would be successful.

"It is fully understandable with data protection laws and so on, but there are occasions where we don't know what is happening with someone's application or we are having to chase things up if the family themselves don't know or if they are unsure what is happening, the FSP people that we call up can't tell us anything."

Funeral director, smaller business, Aberdeenshire

"There is a lack of communication. They don't indicate if the claim has been successful. We have to start doing the funeral without knowing if we'll get paid. […] It's taking a gamble."

Funeral director, larger business, Dundee

Views on payment method

Chapter 4 explored views of the payment method from the pespective of clients. The experieces of funeral directors regarding whether FSP is sent to clients or comes directly to them is a further consideration.

Funeral directors reported that they did not always receive the FSP money when it was sent to clients' bank accounts and there were those who believed that the FSP should always automatically be sent directly to funeral directors.

"Usually, it comes directly from FSP and that works well. As the payment is to help with funeral costs, we feel all payments should be sent directly to the funeral director and not be an option. Some families have received the payment and not passed it on which then leads to an unsavoury course of action where we need to chase them for the money causing them more distress and a real headache for us."

Funeral director, Dundee (feedback by email)

However, it is unclear how widespread an issue this is as there is no wider evidence of clients failing to send on the FSP money.

One potential issue raised by third sector organisations was that clients are offered a choice of payment method twice: once at the application stage, and then again by phone call ahead of the payment date to confirm that they have not changed their mind. They felt the second phone call could make it difficult for clients to keep to their initial decision of the money going to the funeral director, if they were facing more immediate financial adversity.

"I would say people would generally pay it to the funeral director because all they want is that funeral paid and that's all they can think about. But when a phone call comes in saying 'Are you sure you want this paid to the funeral director?' and there's a debt sitting on the table (or there's a threat of being evicted, or the kids can't get fed) – the temptation is there. At the end of the day, the funeral director will be left with that debt, and that's not fair, because they have done the funeral in good faith, and some of them without a deposit."

Third sector organisation

A compromise suggested was for clients to be offered the choice in the first instance, but that the later call was not necessary.



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