Regulatory model including Progressive Licensing scheme for Funeral Directors: report to Scottish Ministers

Report on the introduction of a regulatory model including Progressive Licensing scheme for Funeral Directors in Scotland.

Engagement with Stakeholders

19. To ensure a fair and accurate understanding of the strategic approach and operational practice of the sector, and to aid understanding of the intended outcomes from a legislative perspective, significant resource and capacity on all sides has been focussed on ensuring open and transparent dialogue between the Inspector, Government and those working in funeral business or trade bodies. This has taken the form of formal deliberative processes, conference attendance and presentations, presentations to Executive meetings for trade organisations, Short Life Working Group participation and collaboration, and a variety of formal and informal meetings and discussions. The Inspector has also undertaken a series of Inspection visits over the course of the last 18 months to better understand the operational reality of funeral businesses in different parts of the country. 

20. There has also been a number of focussed meetings in later months with the specific intent to engage with colleagues and practitioners as to the potential impacts, opportunities and challenges which the introduction of a licensing provision might produce. 

21. Details of these formal sessions are set out for reference:

September 2018 - SAIF Charter Annual General Meeting/Golden Charter 

October 2018 - meeting with the Chief Executive of National SAIF Terry Tennens, along with colleagues from the Executive of Scottish SAIF 

October 2018NAFD Scottish Executive meeting (open to SAIF members) inaugural UK meeting for new Chief Executive Officer for NAFD

November 2018 - meeting with the newly incumbent Chief Executive of NAFD, Jon Levett and team at NAFD offices

November 2018 - Scottish SAIF Executive meeting (open to NAFD members) 

November 2018 -  Westminster Roundtable: ‘Opportunities to improve funeral director standards for consumers’

22. Lengthy and informal meetings were also held in November 2018 with senior managers with two of the largest company providers in Scotland to understand existing controls, views and potential consequences of different licensing models to be recommended to Ministers. A further meeting was held with a medium sized Co-operative in December 2018 to discuss opportunities and challenges of a licensing provision being introduced. A further meeting with a larger established urban independent was also held in December 2018 to discuss regulation and licensing impacts. As the Inspector is cognisant of operational consequences of any recommendations, and the need for any implementation to be accommodated by services providers, these have been valuable opportunities to gain insight and to test thinking. The Inspector acknowledges and thanks all those who have participated in these sessions. 

23. As a result of these discussions, it is clear that many stakeholders in the sector accept and support an additional mechanism for compliance and application of standards. Many accept that it is understandable and necessary for the Scottish Government and the Inspector to seek to better understand who is operating in Scotland and in order to inform an appropriate and proportionate risk based model for inspection and enforcement, that greater visibility and information on business activity is required.  

24. Further, a position paper from one of the main trade organisations Scottish SAIF has been presented and is provided as an annex to this report for information and reference (Annex B). The aforementioned NAFD member survey (Annex A) seeks to understand members views on the introduction of a regulatory framework and the results from this will likely be used to determine a formal position by the newly appointed Chief Executive and its Board. 

25. Mapping of controls and risks and a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis helpfully informed discussions with colleagues from Co-operative Funeralcare as the practical application of a model of licensing was considered. In addition, details of corporate internal personnel control requirements with regard to ‘fit and proper checks’ were shared to inform thinking and to allow understanding of cost implications. Similarly, descriptions of impacts, risks and opportunities were provided by senior colleagues within Dignity, and interesting case studies explored as to the practical application and consequences of any model of checks and balances being introduced.

26. As the introduction of any licensing provision, if determined to be necessary by Scottish Ministers, would be subject to a super affirmative Parliamentary process, it is understood that a series of formal dialogue and political and public scrutiny would take place. Cognisant of that, the Inspector was however keen to form initial recommendations to be presented to Ministers which were based on a detailed understanding of strategic and operational consequences. 



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