1. The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 is a potent platform for change, with significant and fundamental opportunities for public reassurance and calibration of the operating landscape of the work of Funeral Directors in Scotland. In setting out provisions for the introduction of three independently appointed Inspectors for Cremation, Burial and Funeral Directors, Scottish Ministers set a direction for proportionate scrutiny and accountability in areas of work which are less well understood or visible to the wider public and consumers of these services.
2. The work of the Inspector of Crematoria has allowed greater understanding of operational practices in Scotland, improved practice in relation to infant cremation such that the recovery of ashes is consistently reported to National Committee for Burial and Cremation at 100% and a greater opportunity for sharing of good practice. In taking account of this excellent work, the focus for the programme of activity for the Inspector of Funeral Directors in this first eighteen months has initially been to gain an understanding of the granular operational activity across Scotland, to understand the nature and scale of the work, the business models and investment approaches, the culture and leadership within businesses, transformation programmes and the areas of good and less desirable practice. In addition, the Inspector has gained insight from wider stakeholder engagement, complaint investigation and responses to whistle-blowing reports.
3. It is also recognised that this has been a period of significant introspection for those working in this area, coupled with unprecedented external public and political scrutiny with business leaders and key stakeholders managing within an environment of considerable uncertainty. It is recognised also that collaborative and cross sectoral work to develop appropriate responses to funeral poverty and affordability challenges is on-going, service design for the devolved Social Security Funeral Expenses Assistance and formal reviews by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and HM Treasury have been announced and are in the early stages of development, with a recent interim report from the CMA published on 29th November 2018.
4. These competing and often complimentary agendas necessitate a considerable and concerted response from the sector which should be recognised and acknowledged. In developing the approach to quality standards through the introduction of a statutory Code of Practice, a regulatory framework through inspection and enforcement, and dialogue as to the challenges, opportunities, risks and outcomes from a licensing framework, the consistency and quality of participation and engagement from the sector is to be commended.