Local Authority Measures to Reduce Funeral Poverty
Strategies to reduce funeral poverty
62. Recognising that funeral costs can contribute to poverty, the draft guidance suggested that local authority strategies for poverty reduction should, where possible, include measures aimed at addressing funeral poverty. It also included a measure to link burial and cremation charge setting to broader strategies and duties aimed at reducing poverty and inequality, such as those adopted under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 and, where appropriate, the new Fairer Scotland Duty (as set out in Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010).
63. The consultation asked for views on whether the guidance should encourage local authorities to link burial and cremation charge setting to broader strategies and duties aimed at reducing poverty.
64. Although the majority of respondents (31, 63%) agreed with this proposal, just under a third either did not agree or were undecided. Three people did not respond to this question. A concern was raised about how linking charges to broader poverty reduction strategies might be achieved in practice, as local authorities review their charges as part of their annual budget setting process. However, comments were broadly supportive of this measure, and some respondents highlighted local authority strategies and schemes already in place to help alleviate funeral poverty.
65. Given the overall level of support for this proposal, the Scottish Government has decided that it should remain in the guidance. It will continue to be a matter for local authorities to consider how they can link burial and cremation charge setting to broader strategies and duties aimed at reducing poverty in their area and the level of resource needed to enable them to do so.
Supporting individuals who are struggling with funeral costs
66. Where it has not been possible to save for a funeral or purchase it in advance, many people struggle with the costs. The consultation asked whether local authorities should be encouraged to take action to support individuals who are struggling with the costs of a funeral.
67. The majority of respondents (40, 82%) agreed with this proposed measure, and only five said that they did not. Some local authority responses provided examples of actions they are taking or planning to take, while others argued that detailed guidance is required on what measures local authorities might take. Some responses also expressed concern about potential resourcing implications for local authorities.
68. Some responses to this question and the previous question raised concerns that any extension of local authority responsibility beyond support with costs (for example, to provide funeral services directly to the public) could have a significant detrimental effect on the viability of local funeral directors and their suppliers.
69. This part of the guidance has been deliberately drafted in a way which allows local discretion and the adoption of solutions based on local circumstances. Given the overall level of support for this proposal the Scottish Government has decided that it should remain in the guidance. It will continue to be a matter for local authorities to consider what support it is appropriate for them to provide in their area and what level of resource is needed to enable them to do so.