When grieving the loss of a loved one, arranging a funeral is difficult. Some may find it further compounds the grief felt; and some may find that it helps with the grieving process. To help make arrangements at a difficult time and also for customary reasons, the vast majority of people in Scotland will turn to a funeral director.
As is now well established, the role of the funeral director is more than just arranging and delivering a funeral service. The funeral director, in the lead up to the day of the funeral, is expected to advise on a wide variety of statutory requirements and to take care of your loved one in a respectful and dignified manner. They are expected to handle the logistics and administration that arranging a funeral requires, and to orchestrate the farewell that your loved one planned for, or you did on their behalf.
Given the importance the funeral director holds in the process, there is a general expectation from the public that there is some form of regulation or statutory oversight with which funeral directors must comply. This assumption is reflected in both industry publications and in recent reports on the industry, such as by the Competition Markets Authority (CMA). Potentially surprising to many, this assumption is incorrect.
A statutory code of practice is the first step in setting out good standards of practice which funeral directors will be required to comply with. A code generally aims to increase transparency for a client and the public in general, and to set quality standards on the care of the deceased.
The Scottish Government wants to ensure there are standards in place which all funeral directors have to follow. We want to minimise the chance of mistakes being made, or instances of bad practice occurring across Scotland. And if they do occur, we want to make sure they are not repeated and lessons are learned.
The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 is the cornerstone in the regulation of the funeral industry. The 2016 Act changes the law relating to the funeral industry, and a part of that includes for the first time introducing a national, statutory funeral director code of practice.
The code of practice will be a key document in the eventual statutory inspection of funeral directors, who will be legally required to meet the standards the code of practice prescribes.
The code of practice has been developed with significant input from a range of funeral director businesses and representatives, including trade bodies and other membership organisations, and the Inspector of Funeral Directors, who has been out in the field undertaking voluntary inspections of funeral directors across Scotland since mid-2017.
Once it becomes law, the code of practice has the potential to introduce significant changes for funeral directors in Scotland, as such we want to hear from funeral directors, and, equally importantly we want to hear from members of the public who will use funeral directors’ services. Your comments will help us determine if the code of practice achieves its aims to increase transparency, and to set quality standards on the care of the deceased. I hope you will help us to identify how we can further strengthen and improve it.
Thank you for taking the time to give us your views.
Joe FitzPatrick MSP
Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing
This consultation paper considers a range of sensitive and emotive subjects. Some of the topics discussed take place at times of great distress and deal with difficult experiences. The language of the consultation paper is necessarily legalistic and technical, and it is necessary to discuss the subject matter in an objective and dispassionate way. This approach is essential to ensuring that a robust Funeral Director: Code of Practice (the Code) is developed which sets out appropriate standards that result in the dignified care of the deceased and support for the bereaved persons.