Publication - minutes

Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group minutes: January 2017

Published: 15 Dec 2017
Date of meeting: 31 Jan 2017
Minutes of the Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group held on 31 January 2017.
Published:
15 Dec 2017
Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group minutes: January 2017

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Dorothy Ogle, Low Income Benefits Unit, Scottish Government – Chair
  • John Birrell, Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty
  • Lucy Carmichael, Low Income Benefits Unit, Scottish Government
  • Eileen Cawley, Scottish Pensioners Forum
  • Simon Cox, Royal London
  • Paul Cuthell, NAFD
  • Meg Fowler, Scottish Government
  • Karen Hurst, Association of British Credit Unions Ltd
  • Bryan Kerr, Church of Scotland
  • Graeme McAusland, Funeral Planning Authority
  • Cath McKenna, Low Income Benefits Unit, Scottish Government
  • Kirsteen Macleod, Low Income Benefits Unit, Scottish Government
  • Richard Meade, Marie Curie
  • Jane Moffat, Head of Low Income Benefits Unit, Scottish Government
  • Bill Stanley, ICCM
  • Fraser Sutherland, CAS
  • Garrick Smyth, COSLA
  • Glenda Watt, SOPA
  • Mark Willis, CPAG
  • Caroline Pretty, NHS Lothian

Apologies

  • Fr Jeremy Bath, Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Edinburgh
  • Salah Beltagui, Muslim Council of Scotland
  • Jim Brodie, SAIF
  • David Hilferty, Money Advice Scotland
  • Colin Hunter, Renfrewshire Council
  • Heather Kennedy, Quaker Social Action
  • Claire Tucker, NHS Health Scotland
  • Stewart Wilson, CRUSE

Items and actions

Chair - Welcome & introductions

1. Dorothy Ogle welcomed the Eileen Cawley from the Scottish Pensioners Forum to the Reference Group.

2. It was noted that Dorothy Ogle will move on to a new post within the Scottish Government and that Lucy Carmichael will now take the work on the Funeral Payment forward.

Minute of Previous meetings

3. The Minutes of the 26 April 2016 meeting and Roundtable discussions held in September/October 2016 were agreed. The Reference Group and the Round Table discussions were expected to be published on the Scottish Government website.

Action 1: A link to the notes will be circulated with the group once published – Scottish Government

Social Security Consultation

4. Lucy Carmichael provided an overview of responses to the Funeral Payment section of the recent Social Security Bill Consultation. There were over 500 responses to the Social Security Bill Consultation with around 150 of these responding to the Funeral Payment Section. Where permission had been given to do so, the responses had been published onto the Scottish Government website and the Scottish Governments response was expected to be published shortly.

5. It was highlighted that some of the main themes that came out of the consultation included matters related to underlying principles (such as support for dignity and respect), the payment (for example attaching eligibility to the deceased) and process (such as a more streamlined application).

6. It was confirmed that the next steps would be to undertake analysis on various policy options, including and work on a feasibility study to assess what their impact might be in practice and identify any potential barriers to delivery. It was noted that it was vital to ensure a safe and secure transition. Once further work on options was complete this would enable Ministerial decisions to be taken on the Funeral Payment.

7. It was confirmed that the commitment in relation to processing applications within 10 working days and making payments as soon as possible thereafter was expected to begin on the day a completed application was submitted. Consideration of what evidence / information that would be required in order to submit an application was ongoing as part of the feasibility study.

Action 2: A link to the Analysis Report and Scottish Government consultation response will be circulated with the group once published – Scottish Government

Action 3: Business Analysts will undertake modelling on various policy options as part of the Funeral Payment feasibility study. Further details on this process will be provided, as appropriate - Scottish Government

Effective Targeting of the Funeral Payment – Eligibility Discussion

8. We discussed the possibility of basing entitlement to the benefit to the situation of the deceased rather than that of the applicant. The following matters were raised:

  • Need to consider carefully those who would no longer qualify for the benefit if eligibility was attached to the deceased. It was also noted that linking eligibility to the deceased could have an impact on the ability to focus the payment on those most in need of support, for example some families on higher incomes might benefit if this change was to be taken forward.

  • The possibility of tiered eligibility was suggested, looking at the deceased first and then the family. It was noted that this was likely to be a more complex process that at present, which was not likely to be in line with the aim to simplify the benefit to make it more certain at the outset who was eligible. A tiered system was also likely to take more time to process applications and, importantly, might not meet the aim of targeting those most in need of support.

  • If the deceased was entitled to a benefit but not in receipt/had not applied then this could cause issues as there would be no scope to apply for a qualifying benefit after death. This could cause difficulties in terms of fewer people being eligible for the benefit or, alternatively, a more complex application and assessment process.

  • It was noted that there was a general pressure on public finances and therefore choices would have to be made on how best to target the benefit based on a limited budget.

  • Funeral Directors (FDs) could support using an online resource, this would help speed up the process and give FDs more confidence about receiving payment, this process could reach those who need it without being intrusive.

  • There would be implications for the National Assistance Funeral. If the deceased was on a qualifying benefit but had no family to take responsibility for the funeral, who would be responsible – would the Scottish Social Security Agency pay a contribution towards a Local Assistance Funeral? The funeral payment support and Local Assistance Funerals need to be clearly defined and separate.

  • There is a limited budget for the Funeral Payment an option would be to explore capping the amount payable to Local Authorities, this would allow more people who need support to benefit from the limited budget.

  • We would need more robust data on the implications of attaching to the deceased and the planned feasibility study might provide an opportunity to gather this.

9. We discussed how the current Funeral Payment could be improved. Points raised were:

  • There needs to be more proportionate investigation on who is responsible for the funeral. Data available, although limited and difficult to extrapolate from, indicates that families might be stepping back from their responsibilities and instead turning to a local authority for support, this could be due to financial issues, accessibility issues, or family relationships.

  • There are increasing incidents of Local Authorities only taking on funerals when the deceased has no relatives to take on the responsibility.

  • Knowing why individuals are having their applications rejected could inform how the Funeral Payment could be developed.

  • An online and phone application process could help with accessibility and speed up the process.

Funeral Poverty Conference Follow Up

10. Dorothy Ogle noted that feedback from the National Conference on Funeral Poverty held in November 2016 indicated that, in general, attendees felt that it had been a worthwhile event and provided an opportunity for different sectors to get together and talk about the issues in a constructive way. It was noted that there were not enough spaces available for all those who wanted to attend and that this point would be captured in the lessons learned from the event.

Funeral Cost Plan and Customer Journey

11. Dorothy Ogle introduced the paper. The National Conference on Funeral Poverty considered different scenarios that people organising a funeral may find themselves in. This fell into 3 main sections – Before Death, At the point of Death and the Funeral, Post-Funeral. The outline structure of the Funeral Cost Plan mirrored this structure, as did paper 5, Customer Journey, that was tabled on the day of the meeting. It was noted that the structure contained quite a significant volume of material in the first two sections but much less in Post-Funeral. It was noted that this might be appropriate or it may be that further consideration of this section would be required, to see whether there is more that should be added.

12. It was agreed that the structure of the Plan appeared appropriate. In discussion, a number of potential gaps were identified:

  • Addiction and substance abuse;
  • Employment issues;
  • Communication of all support available to bereaved families, including reserved benefits;
  • Planning ahead – Education, savings mechanisms, funeral plans, insurance, price comparison, conversations about death and dying;
  • Funeral Bond – Where it was noted that this work was being progressed but that the format of the bond was not expected to be agreed in time for publication of the Plan. However, it was expected that further detail on the direction of travel would be included.
  • Post Funeral – Impact on young people/children, faith groups, disposal of assets, expenditure relating to an estate.
  • Evaluation – need to be clear what data we require from whom and how we are using the information – suggested we look at Local Authority Funerals, are they reducing as a result, price comparison websites – how many hits and how many funerals booked as a result. Is the increase in funeral costs pushing people towards direct cremations?

13. In relation to determining a measurement framework, it was highlighted that much of the data available to inform the Funeral Cost Plan was anecdotal and the Scottish Government would be grateful if the Reference Group could share data sources that they are aware of or provide suggestions on how we can collect robust data to inform the Plan and development of a Funeral Poverty Measurement Framework. In order to move this work forward the data would need to be provided by end March.
14. Paul Cuthell indicated that NAFD would be happy to collate the figures on different funeral types and would liaise with SAIF on this before providing information.

15. Simon Cox indicated that Dignity held some data on the monies that they receive from DWP for the funerals that they carry out and would to share this.

Action 4 NAFD to provide data on Direct Cremation and Direct to the Crematorium funerals – Paul Cuthell

Action 5 Dignity to provide data on the monies that received from DWP for the funerals that they carry out for people in receipt of the Funeral Payment – Simon Cox

Action 6 Carolyn Pretty indicated that she could provide data from the NHS and also bereavement co-coordinator contacts to inform this work.

Action 7 Fraser Sutherland to speak to SAFA to see if they have any data on charitable grant applications to help pay for funerals.

16. Once the Funeral Cost Plan structure had been refined it would be submitted to Ministers to ensure it was in line with their expectations. More detail would then be collected though engagement with organisations to help develop the Plan.

Action 8 Scottish Government to circulate electronic version of draft user journey paper that was tabled at the meeting.

Action 9 By end March 2017, members of the Reference Group to feedback any further views on the Funeral Cost Plan not raised at the meeting to the Scottish Government. For example, on the structure of the plan, key points that are missing from the scenarios and any thoughts on data required for a measurement framework and where this can be accessed.

Citizens Advice Scotland – update:

Funding for training & eLearning modules

17. Dorothy Ogle noted that the Scottish Government had provided funding to CAS to support the development of two products.

18. An eLearning module will be developed with advisers to support applicants for the Funeral Payment, this will be completed within this financial year. The learning will be available on CAS eLearning system and also CPAG’s system and will be widely available to other agencies.

19. Training will be developed for advisers on introducing the discussion on planning ahead for their own funeral at other points in their life. This could be through retirement from work courses, registration of births/marriages.

20. In discussion it was noted that the training was welcomed as without it people can default to their own experience and this is not always helpful. Funeral Directors will be involved in the delivery of the training so that both the advisor and client will be supported.

Action 10 Updates on CAS eLearning/training will be provided at appropriate points as this progresses – Fraser Sutherland

Take up Campaign

21. The group discussed how to encourage take up and what sort of support might be put in place.

22. We identified that CAS, Funeral Directors, Registrars, and Palliative Care (Marie Curie) have networks which are natural points of contact and services in hospitals would be key in disseminating information. We also discussed how this should be done.

23. We identified that support across a range of mediums would be helpful, for example a phone number, a leaflet that could be handed out and, in the longer term, potentially an app.

Action 11: Richard Meade agreed to support the dissemination of leaflets.

24.It was noted that it was important to be mindful of putting pressure CAS services and its capacity to respond to additional inquiries. It was confirmed that the Scottish Government is conscious that this could become an issue and would continue to monitor this and respond, as appropriate.

Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty Draft Toolkit

25. John Birrell said that the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty (SWGFP) has been developing a Funeral Wishes toolkit which will be provided to the Scottish Government once agreed by members of the group. The SWGFP has considered what is already available when producing the draft leaflet to avoid duplication.

26. We discussed how this leaflet could be disseminated. Suggestions included:

  • Funeral Directors;
  • NHS; and
  • Retirement conversations thought employers

Action 12 John Birrell agreed to circulate the leaflet for comment once this had been considered by the SWGFP on 2 February 2017.

Any other business

27. There was a discussion about using common badging to show that all sectors are working together. It was agreed that this could be challenging but something that we could look into.

Actions:

1. A link to the notes will be circulated with the group once published – Scottish Government

2. A link to the Analysis Report and Scottish Government consultation response will be circulated with the group once published. – Scottish Government

3. Business Analysts will undertake modelling on various policy options as part of the Funeral Payment feasibility study. Further details on this process will be provided, as appropriate - Scottish Government

4. NAFD to provide data on Direct Cremation and Direct to the Crematorium funerals. – Paul Cuthell

5. Dignity to provide data on the monies that received from DWP for the funerals that they carry out for people in receipt of the Funeral Payment. – Simon Cox

6. Carolyn Pretty indicated that she could provide data from the NHS and also bereavement co-coordinator contacts to inform this work.

7. Fraser Sutherland to speak to SAFA to see if they have any data on charitable grant applications to help pay for funerals.

8. Scottish Government to circulate electronic version of draft user journey paper that was tabled at the meeting.

9. By end March 2017, members of the Reference Group to feedback any further views on the Funeral Cost Plan not raised at the meeting to the Scottish Government. For example, on the structure of the plan, key points that are missing from the scenarios and any thoughts on data required for a measurement framework and where this can be accessed.

10. Updates on CAS eLearning/training will be provided at appropriate points as this progresses – Fraser Sutherland

11. Richard Meade agreed to support the dissemination of leaflets.

12. Draft Toolkit will be circulated for comments after it has been discussed by the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty on 2 February 2017. – John Birrell

Next Meeting

A meeting with Credit Unions was planned for late February.

Appropriate timing of meeting with specific sectors was currently being considered, for example:
Funeral Directors
Local Authorities
Third Sector