6. Stakeholder dialogue – working in collaboration to develop the way forward
During the reporting period, I have been invited to speak at a number of wider stakeholder meetings including the Scottish Executive meetings for the two main trade organisations – the National Association of Funeral Directors ( NAFD) and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors ( SAIF), in Glasgow and Inverness. I also attended the June 2018 Cremation Society and Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities ( FBCA) - Cremation and Burial Communication and Education Event in Newcastle to present and update on my work, and as a result of these engagement sessions have met over 90 further funeral directors.
Again, a very positive response in relation to the desire for dialogue on the regulation of funeral directors from attendees, with a clear desire to understand expectations and to ensure good practice.
These session were helpful in setting out some suggested solutions to some of the issues which regulations may bring, so for example what level of training and experience should be required to work as a funeral director, how to ensure unlicensed premises don’t operate if licensing is to be introduced. It was good to hear from those who carry out this work on a daily basis how they feel improvement could be made in overall professional practice.
In addition, I have presented to both the Parliamentary Cross Party Working Group and the Scottish Funeral Poverty Working Group to present an update on the inspection programme and my findings thus far, and to hear the views of politicians and other stakeholders as to the work of the sector and how we might regulate in the future. I have attended and presented to the Scottish Bereavement Benchmarking Group, attended the Dundee Funeral Poverty Action Group, have met with a range of political and third sector parties, and liaised with press and media colleagues on a range of different matters around my work.
It is also interesting for me to hear of, and see, the changing face of the profession, with colleagues highlighting thoughts on how their business might develop moving forward, the need for investment to do this and gaining an understanding of the differing business models which are being created and launched either by them, or being known to them.
In discussing this, it is clear that any future landscape recognises that the customer choice may not necessarily always be about what would once have been described a traditional funeral, that there needs to be a place moving forward for a full spectrum of arrangements to be made.
It is also important to recognise that the bereaved family may wish to tailor those arrangements and that support, and in hearing from charitable groups such as Pushing up the Daisies to recognise that an environment of informed choice is vital at such a difficult time. In visiting the Masjid-E-Khazra Mosque in Glasgow to discuss faith support arrangements, with a further visit planned to the Glasgow Mosque and in dialogue with Humanist Society of Scotland and the Caledonian Humanist Association, it is also important that secular and non-secular views influence thinking on the future of funeral services in Scotland.