Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group minutes: January 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 31 January 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Ms Somerville, MSP (agenda item five only)
  • Lucy Carmichael, (Chair) Scottish Government (SG)
  • Andrew Burke, (SG)
  • Mark Cook, (SG)
  • Pam Forsyth, (SG)
  • Catherine McKenna, (SG)
  • Debbie Silver, (SG)
  • Francesca Deans, Social Security Scotland (SSS)
  • Yvonne Gallacher, (SSS)
  • Lyndsey Maricic, (SSS)
  • Rachel Degnan, (IBM)
  • Georgia Parker, (IBM)
  • Jim Brodie, Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
  • Donald Bulloch, Scottish Older People’s Assembly (SOPA)
  • Paul Cuthell, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • Simon Cox, Dignity
  • Rose Jackson, Scottish Pensioners Forum
  • Robert McGregor, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Jane Matheson, Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty
  • Richard Meade, Marie Curie
  • Ruth Mendel, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Caroline Pretty, NHS Lothian


  • Mark Willis, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
  • Karen Hurst, ABCUL
  • William Stanley, Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM)
  • John Birrel, Bereavement Consultant

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed attendees, asked for introductions and noted apologies.

Minutes from previous meeting and action tracker

The group agreed the minutes from the previous meeting with no comments.

The group reviewed the action tracker with no comments.

The Chair advised that the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss developments in the delivery of the Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA) benefit, as FEA gets into the final stages of development prior to launch.

Local delivery of Funeral Expense Assistance

Social Security Scotland local delivery colleagues outlined the work underway in preparation for FEA going live. This included working with external stakeholders to highlight who Social Security Scotland are, what devolved benefits they are currently delivering and which benefits they will deliver in future, such as FEA. Local Delivery advised that had also begun working with external stakeholders who can signpost potential FEA applicants to apply.

Social Security Scotland was also building a face-to-face presence to work alongside its online and telephony benefit delivery services. This service would not be in place for the start of FEA.

In discussion the following points were raised:

  • DWP staff would not help people to apply for FEA. However, DWP staff would be able to signpost applicants to FEA
  • the Social Security Scotland Local Delivery Team was planning to work with external stakeholders (funeral directors, CAS advisers etc.) to raise awareness of FEA and ensure that stakeholders have the information and materials they need to they understand the benefit and assist people to apply for FEA as required
  • the Local Delivery Team would also lead on external engagement events to raise awareness and promote uptake of FEA amongst external stakeholders with an interest

Key lines and communications around FEA

Social Security Scotland communications colleagues distributed draft posters to promote FEA. The posters were in the early stages of development and feedback was sought from the reference group to aid future development of communication products.

In discussion the following points were raised:

  • the posters should make it clear that not everyone would be eligible for support, to help manage the expectations of people applying. The group also thought that it would be important to state on the poster that the FEA payment would not cover all funeral costs. Social Security Scotland suggested using phrases such as ‘contribution’ or ‘part-payment’. The group agreed these were reasonable suggestions
  • it would be better to use less emotive language, avoiding terms such as “loved one” and “devastated”. It would also be important to carefully consider the images used in the posters and test these further. The group asked about marketing plans
  • Social Security Scotland advised that plans currently included; a launch announcement, social media promotion and a stakeholder toolkit which would include posters, leaflets and other communications products related to FEA for organisations and individuals that support bereaved people such as funeral directors, hospitals, and CABs
  • it was expected that communications material would be available at various roadshows that were planned to promote FEA prior to its launch
  • several reference group members said they would like to receive these materials as quickly as possible in order to train their staff about FEA in preparation for providing advice to applicants. Social Security Scotland said they would provide training materials and promotional material as far in advance of launch as possible
  • reference group members indicated that they would consider if there were any upcoming events planned that it might be possible for Social Security Scotland to attend to raise awareness of FEA
  • Social Security Scotland said language would be consistent across promotional materials, advisory materials and the language used by claim handlers

Action: Social Security Scotland to discuss potential roadshow events with members

[Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Ms Somerville MSP, arrived].

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People

The Cabinet Secretary thanked the reference group for all their hard work and contributions in developing FEA and the Funeral Costs Guidance.

In discussion the following points were raised:

  • it would not be possible to increase the £700 flat rate of the FEA payment at launch. The Scottish Government had already committed to around £2 million annually to widen eligibility for FEA. It was highlighted that the £700 flat rate element would be increased each year to take account the impact of inflation
  • relevant data would be gathered and statistics published to improve the delivery of FEA
  • in order to ensure people who are eligible apply for support, information would be provided to external stakeholders, to allow them to signpost the new benefit and to potentially assist people to apply for FEA.
  • a review of the Scottish Welfare Fund was underway and would consider the position on whether funeral costs should be eligible for support
  • the Scottish Government expected to recruit new experience panel members in 2019 with the hope that those who engage with Social Security Scotland would become members and provide feedback on their experiences
  • Social Security Scotland would not take a decision in principle for FEA as this could have a negative impact if an initial decision was subsequently reversed. However, the agency would deliver an improved service including a commitment to process completed applications in 10 working days with payment as soon as practicable thereafter; a streamlined application process; and better transparency on eligibility criteria and potential payment amount. For example, average burial and cremation costs for each local authority area would be published helping applicants to make more informed decisions based on their circumstances

[The Cabinet Secretary left the meeting].

Update on Funeral Costs Guidance

The Scottish Government updated the group that work was continuing on revising the draft guidance on funeral costs, taking into account consultation responses and views expressed at meetings with stakeholders.

The Scottish Government advised that an independent analysis of the consultation would be published on 8 February 2019.

The group discussed the draft guidance on funeral costs and fed back several points. There was general agreement that pricing information should not only be available online but available in other formats also, such as over the phone or printed format. The group was supportive of the inclusion of a definition of a simple funeral in the guidance, and there was also general support for the principle that funeral directors should explain their processes for care of a deceased person if asked. The group also welcomed the measures in the guidance relating to improving transparency of changes in local authority charges. However, there were split views over the proposed standard cremation definition, with some group members suggesting that this definition should exclude the use of a service room, and some members arguing that a full breakdown of charges would better achieve pricing transparency.

Update on FEA design

The Scottish Government advised the reference group the beta phase of service design for FEA was beginning, with work progressing well to further develop the systems that would allow FEA to be delivered. This included work on measuring the 10 day processing target. The Scottish Government indicated that the 10 working day processing would begin when Social Security Scotland received a completed application and all necessary evidence. Work to confirm what evidence would be required and how this could be submitted was ongoing.


The reference group was taken through the current version of the online application form for FEA.

[Simon Cox and Robert McGregor left the meeting].


The Scottish Government provided an update on development of the pilot incentivised funeral savings product (formerly known as funeral bond). Consumer research was planned with the target market for the product (people aged over 40 on lower-middle incomes). This would include qualitative research through focus groups and quantitative research through telephone and online surveys. The research would examine matters such as the extent of financial planning for funerals; what incentivises funeral savings; demand for incentivised savings schemes for funeral saving; reasons for not using existing products; and the extent of Credit Union membership amongst the intended target demographic. It would also investigate more detailed matters such as the format of the pilot and ways to promote it, order to try to ensure that it would be likely to be successful.



Back to top