Funeral Director - Code of Practice: consultation analysis

Analysis of the consultation carried out between June and September 2019 on the proposed Funeral Director: Code of Practice.

4. Timeframes: Questions 10 and 12

Question 10

The Scottish Government proposes that 18 months is a reasonable amount of time for funeral directors to meet the requirements of the Code before it comes into force. What do you consider to be a reasonable timeframe for funeral directors to meet the requirements of the Code before it comes into force?

Seventy-nine of the 86 total consultation respondents answered Question 10.The most frequently selected option for what is a reasonable amount of time for funeral directors to meet the requirements of the Code was '18 months' (aligned with the Scottish Government's own proposal).

Table 17: Responses to Question 10.
Answer Number
12 months 15
18 months 33
24 months 25
25 months or more 6
Total 79

Respondents who selected the shortest timeframe of 12 months tended to express the greatest support for the draft Code in their comments. Many of these respondents stated they were already, or close to, compliant with the draft Code. Comments include that the proposed requirements were 'basic', or 'the minimum'; that they expected funeral directors should already have all or most of the proposed requirements in place already; and/or that the Scottish Government should make requirements stricter.

Most of the respondents who selected the 18 month timeframe (the Scottish Government's proposal) were funeral director organisations, individual funeral directors, or local governments. Of this group of respondents, approximately half gave comments suggesting this was a reasonable/proportionate amount of time for all funeral directors to become compliant with the Code. For example:

"As most good funeral directors will not need to make many adjustments to become compliant this seems reasonable. For those companies needing to make major changes there is some urgency as families are receiving substandard care from them at present." (Individual)

However, certain respondents who selected 18 months also acknowledged the significant investment that would be needed by some funeral directors to become compliant within this timeframe.

Eight respondents stated that the proposed 18 months would not be enough time to allow all funeral directors to become properly trained/qualified and some felt a longer period may be more appropriate:

"We believe that a period of 24 months should be given to allow senior management and staff sufficient time to achieve the standards for training as detailed in our responses above. Which is in line with the timescales allowed for BIE training." (Local government)

While the draft Code requires all funeral directors be 'trained', the Scottish Government is currently unable to require Scotland's funeral directors to achieve a particular level of training or qualification. This is because the infrastructure is not yet in place to deliver widespread accredited training and qualifications to Scotland's funeral directors and funeral arrangers/administrators or funeral service operatives/assistants/drivers/bearers (see Annex A for more information about accreditation). Additionally, Scottish Ministers are unable to specify a training course, or qualification; they are able to specify a SCQF level requirement only. This issue is discussed further in Section 9 of this report.

In general, respondents who selected a longer timeframe from the options provided (e.g. 24 months or 25 months or more) tended to also submit open-ended comments that were generally unsupportive of the draft Code. For instance:

"If the Scottish Government insist on dismantling arrangements and practices that have been in place for hundreds of years as much time as possible to implement would be necessary." (Funeral director organisation)

A number of other key issues were raised in the comments. Consistent with earlier sections in this report, respondents highlighted the need to consider how timeframes for implementing the draft Code may disproportionately impact SMEs/rural funeral directors. In particular, the issue of the investment SMEs/rural funeral directors may need to make in order to comply with some sections of the Code was noted. For example:

"Some of the larger companies will be able to achieve the desired level more quickly but the rural and remote areas should not be disadvantaged by these regulatory requirements." (Health body)

"We believe that we have all that will be required of us in place but there are much smaller businesses who will need time and money to comply - there may also be the issue of external providers not being able to cope with demand for equipment or training." (Funeral director organisation)

Finally, a point was raised regarding external factor(s) that may influence how soon funeral directors would be able to become compliant with the Code, such as the impact on equipment supply lines if a no-deal Brexit occurs:

"Companies that supply mortuary equipment are specialist so if there is a big demand for equipment then this may delay implementation. Brexit may impact on suppliers being able to meet demand for some items." (Individual)

Question 12

The Code stipulates that records should be kept in certain circumstances. In your view, how long should the Code require funeral directors to keep these records? (For reference, the Cremation (Scotland) Regulations 2019 place a duty on all cremation authorities to keep records relating to a cremation for 50 years.)

Seventy-five of the 86 total consultation respondents answered Question 12. Respondents most frequently selected the option of keeping records for 50 years (aligned with the Scottish Government's proposal). The majority of respondents who selected 50 years were (non-funeral director) individuals, closely followed by funeral director organisations. Of the respondents who selected 5 years or 25 years, most were funeral directors (organisations and individuals).

Table 18: Responses to Question 12.
Answer Number
5 years 17
25 years 15
50 years 39
75 years 3
More than 100 years 1
Total 75

Many comments suggested it was sensible to keep the record keeping requirements in the Code the same as the requirements placed on cremation authorities by the Cremation (Scotland) Regulations 2019 (which dictates 50 years for a cremation authority to keep records relating to a cremation).

Respondents who selected the shorter-term (5 and 25 years) timeframes generally indicated a preference to only keep records for practical/business purposes (e.g. one generation to allow a family access to the service information of a relative), and/or for reasons of storage costs/space. Two respondents who had selected the 5 years timeframe cited existing requirements on cremation and burial authorities as reasons for making their selection. For example:

"If cremation and burial authorities keep records and the Registrars have a register of death there is no legal reason for us to duplicate this information." (Individual)

However, others noted that records are useful to refer back to when providing further services to families:

"We keep records indefinitely, these are kept and stored in compliance with [General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)]. Often when families approach us to arrange a funeral they may request that the funeral is similar to that of another family member in the past…This can also be useful when it comes to looking up information on a family lair at the cemetery..." (Funeral director organisation)

Concerns regarding balancing usefulness of retaining records for longer periods with their GDPR obligations were also evident in the comments. For example:

"Whatever retention period the Scottish Government arrives at, we would urge it think carefully about the need to balance the desirability of being able to access historic records with the privacy rights of individuals. Although deceased people do not have a legal right to privacy, their families do and it will not always be practicable to separate their personal information from the records relating to the deceased person."(Funeral industry trade body)

While storage costs and space were cited by some respondents as a reason for selecting lower timeframes for keeping records, others noted this may not be problematic given records are now often 'paperless' (digital). Finally, there was a suggestion that the Scottish Government or a trade body could consider offering a centralised storage solution for all funeral directors, for reasons of mitigating the risk of records being lost in the event a funeral director business closing, or to help ensure funeral directors are meeting certain requirements of the Code.



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