Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group minutes: June 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 11 June 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Simon Cox, Dignity
  • Paul Cuthell, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • Karen Hurst, ABCUL
  • Bryan Kerr, Church of Scotland
  • Robert MacGregor, COSLA
  • Jane Matheson, Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty
  • Richard Meade, Marie Curie
  • Ruth Mendell, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Joseph Murren, SAIF
  • Mark Willis, CPAG

Scottish Government attendees

  • Lucy Carmichael, Chair
  • Sohel Ahmed
  • Andrew Burke
  • Kate Dickenson
  • Pam Forsyth
  • Catherine McKenna
  • Debbie Silver
  • Beth Shea
  • Anne McRobbie

Social Security Scotland attendees

  • Francesca Deans
  • Yvonne Gallacher
  • Dominika Korzekwa
  • Tahira Sharif
  • William Vandal


  • Maureen Gardiner, Scottish Pensioners Forum
  • John Birrell, Bereavement Consultant
  • Donald Bullock, Scottish Older People’s Assembly

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed attendees, particularly the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) new representative Joe Murren. The Chair thanked both previous representatives from SAIF, Jim Brodie, and the Scottish Older People’s Assembly, Don Bullock, for their contribution to the reference group.

Minutes from previous meeting

Action one: It was agreed to amend the following by adding the italicize text to the following two items in the previous minutes.

Section nine at first bullet point on the issue that FEA payment “would, in most circumstances, not cover all funeral costs. Social Security Scotland suggested using phrases such as of a ‘contribution’ or ‘part-payment’ ”

Section eleven at the fourth bullet point on the issue of the Scottish Welfare Fund. The group agreed to amend the following text “The annual review of the Scottish Welfare Fund statutory guidance was underway and would consider the position on whether funeral costs should be eligible for support.”

The SG updated the group on the outcome of the review advising that funeral costs will remain outwith the scope the Scottish Welfare Fund. It was also noted that COSLA is now calling for a review of the Scottish Welfare Fund funding.

Incentivised Funeral Savings Scheme (IFSS) update 

The Incentivised Funeral Savings Scheme (IFSS) was formly known as Funeral Bond.

Members noted the consumer research on the IFSS now been completed and published. Key findings were shared with the reference group included the attitudes towards funeral savings, credit unions; and specifically if the target market would want to take out the product.

Funeral Support Payment (FSP) Policy and launch plan update

Members were informed that the Funeral Expense Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 2019 have been passed by the Scottish Parliament. The re-branding name change to Funeral Support Payment for marketing purposes has no impacted upon this. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have also prepared regulations to switch off their Funeral Expense Payment in Scotland when our Funeral Support Payment switches on.

The group noted that the Cabinet Secretary will announce the launch date for the benefit later this summer. Work is currently progressing on training, guidance, and communications for the benefit. Bereavement support payment will continue to be administered by DWP. Planning Your Own Funeral leaflet will be updated to reflect the new benefit and a limited print run of paper copies will sit alongside the revised online version .

Members were also advised that the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on Support for the bereaved is currently ongoing. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Ms Somerville, MSP correspondence to the Chair of the committee the Rt Hon Frank Field MP has been published on the committee’s website. The correspondence mentions training for advisors, incentivised savings, and guidance on funeral costs which includes a definition of simple funeral.

 The new SAIF representative sought further clarification on the previous discussions around who the Funeral Support Payment will be paid to, i.e. the client or the funeral director? The Scottish Government confirmed their position is based on existing DWP practice of only making payment to the funeral director where the client has agreed to this, and that this position is set out in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 which makes provision for the Funeral Support Payment to be paid to the client, unless the client agrees for the payment to be made to the funeral director. Citizens Advice Scotland explained their support for this proposal as set out in their consultation response, i.e. ensures the clients are treated with the principles of dignity and respect by giving people the choice. The SG also made it clear that if the client agrees for Social Security Scotland to contact the funeral director on their behalf then this will not only make it easier for the client to evidence their application and speed up the processing, but it will also allow the payment to be made to funeral directors.

Funeral Support Payment evaluation plans

The group received an update on the initial evaluation plans for the benefit, i.e. that the benefit delivery and policy will be monitored against stated policy aims; and key principles of the Social Security Charter. This will be measured via agency client information, and survey data. We hope evaluating the policy sometime after launch will yield client insights and whether short and medium term goals are being met.

The group noted the Funeral Support Payment take up strategy has learned lessons from the implementation of the Best Start Grant benefit. The Scottish Fiscal Commission’s Economic and Fiscal Forecasts May 2019 has also revised estimated figures to include a slight increase in take up. Funeral directors and advice service providers etc. will continue to be asked to help promote Funeral Support Payment take up by informing their clients that they might be eligible for the benefit. Action three: SG to send the group the link to the publication, link attached.

The group also noted the limitations on data that can be collected for monitoring purposes as a result of both the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Social Security Scotland principles of dignity and respect to make applications as simple as possible.

Member also noted the work on-going with the measurement framework group which includes analysts, statisticians, and stakeholders.

Action four: SG to arrange for future meeting to discuss: 

  • ethical considerations around the measurement data
  • evaluation of dignity and respect

The group noted that DWP do not offer face to face support for clients unlike the planned Social Security Scotland advice service that will be rolled out by mid 2020. Social Security Scotland expect the main interaction on Funeral Support Payment to be predominantly telephony based via the helpline, or online. However, if a client is experiencing exceptional circumstances, e.g. arranging multiple funerals and having to apply for multiple Funeral Support Payments then face to face support will be available if requested.

Service design update

Progress since last meeting included the completion of system development, and currently going through vigorous testing. User research is also establishing that end users are able to process applications quickly. It was also highlighted that further development of the online system would be progressed after launch.

Members noted that award or deny letters to clients will show break down of any award amount with clear explanation of how the amount was calculated; and clear reasons given in denial letters of what eligibility criteria was not met.

It was highlighted that user testing included ensuring the online application and it’s accessibility functions work across a range of online platforms, e.g. apple & android style mobile phones; tablets; laptops; and older style computers with different web browsers etc.

It was noted that interpretation services will be available with translators, or British Sign Language service if required. The best avenue is to call Social Security Scotland in the first instance in these circumstances.

Learning and development

Social Security Scotland advised the group on how they were developing their training material for client advisors, and how the training will be delivered. This training package is being tested with agency staff to ensure it is fit for purpose. The training will equip staffs with specific soft skills and technical skills to deal with the bereaved applicants. Training will encompass presentations, case studies, workshops to ensure learning is suitable for all styles and needs.

Social Security Scotland assured the group that client advisors’ mental health was a priority. Steps to support staffs include training for managers to recognise stress points and allow staffs to have time outs after difficult calls.

Plans for roadshows update

The Engagement plan to promote FSP prior to the launch includes 10 roadshows, two teleconferences and possibly a webinar. Advertising will take place shortly. Action five: SG to share dates for roadshows. Action seven: reference group members to advise of dates that is suitable for them to participate in the webinar.

Communications update

The group discussed and provided feedback on the example communications toolkit, e.g. poster, leaflet, social media graphics, and factsheet. Action seven: Social Security Scotland to share the communications toolkit with reference group members.





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