5. Barriers: Questions 13 – 15
Do you think the standards set out in the Code will raise barriers for people considering entering work in the funeral director industry for the first time?
Seventy-nine of the 86 total consultation respondents answered Question 13.Just over half (41) of those who responded to Question 13 answered 'yes', indicating they thought the standards set out in the Code will raise barriers for people considering entering work in the funeral director industry for the first time. Twenty-nine answered 'no', indicating they did not think the Code would raise barriers, and nine selected 'don't know'
Most open-ended comments seemed to support the introduction of standards set out in the Code, regardless of potential barriers. Many felt that they would be beneficial to the industry, increasing the overall competency of all of Scotland's funeral directors and building public trust.
Some respondents stated that new businesses should be knowledgeable before they begin providing these services, and that the minimum standards set in the Code would help discourage 'for profit only' new entrants:
"This is a good thing - Funeral Directors should have a set standard to ensure that bereaved persons have a positive experience. If people wanting to enter the industry are unable to meet basic requirements, they should not be offering funeral services." (Individual)
"Absolutely and so they should. If your stated purpose is to "ensure good standards" there must be some minimum standards. The current situation where anyone with a vehicle and a spare room, no facilities, no training or knowledge or accountability can set up as a funeral director overnight cannot be right. This is overdue in an industry where operators can operate outside any code of practice." (Individual funeral director)
Others felt that these standards may bring greater legitimacy to the profession for potential entrants, as well as increasing interest from younger people and people from minority ethnic communities.
In contrast, certain comments expressed that there would be barriers to entry to funeral directing as a result of the Code and these would be negative for the industry. For example, that any future training/qualification requirement(s) would be a barrier to entry, especially if these was expensive or took a long time to achieve. Others highlighted the increased financial implications of starting a new business as a result of introducing standards. These included issues discussed previously in this report, such as refrigeration. For example:
"A requirement for funeral directors to have access to sufficient refrigeration facilities will serve as a barrier to new businesses… Similarly, a requirement for businesses to be able to facilitate viewing will necessitate investment in care of the deceased processes and maintaining suitable viewing areas. This may be a barrier to market entry for some businesses but we would question whether it is in the public interest for them to be permitted to operate in such a way." (Funeral industry trade body)
Do you think the standards set out in the Code will have a negative impact on funeral director businesses plans for expansion?
Seventy-nine of the 86 total consultation respondents answered Question 14. A majority (52) answered 'no', indicating they thought the standards set out in the Code would not impact a funeral director's expansion plans. Only 10 answered 'yes', indicating a perception that the standards would impact expansion plans.
Most respondents that provided open-ended comments also indicated the Code's standards would not have a negative impact on a funeral director's plans for expansion. Many comments indicated they perceived standards as a necessity. Others explicitly stated that standards would have a positive impact on expansion plans:
"These are all requirements which should be in place, and any competent and efficient Funeral Director will have no issue integrating them into their current business and plans for expansion." (Individual)
"The standards set out in the code will be necessary to ensure any expansion of a funeral director business is carried out appropriately." (Individual)
"We believe that standards set out will enhance business opportunities rather than an negative impact." (Local government)
In contrast, a relative minority of comments highlighted that the Code's standards may be a barrier to expansion, for instance because they might impact on funeral director costs related to improving facilities or licensing. A small minority of comments indicated regulation was unnecessary in general.
Finally, a small number of comments specifically cited the impact that standards may have on SMEs/rural funeral directors (and the subsequent consequences for their clients). Similar to previous sections of this report, these stated that implementing all requirements of the Code may be challenging for small firms. For example:
"As a smaller company we would find increased Scottish Government driven requirements for facilities and regulations would increase our costs at a time when the same Scottish Government is asking the funeral sector to charge less for our services." (Funeral director organisation)
Do you think the standards set out in the Code will have a negative impact on innovation and experimentation in the funeral industry?
Seventy-eight of the 86 total consultation respondents answered Question 15. Overall, a majority (49) selected 'no', indicating they thought the standards set out in the Code would not have an impact on innovation and experimentation in the funeral industry. Fourteen respondents selected 'yes', indicating standards would have an impact and 15 selected 'don't know'.
Most open-ended comments also indicated that the standards the Code would not have a negative impact on a funeral director's plans to innovate or experiment. For example:
"We can see no reason why funeral businesses would not continue to innovate to compete in the market. The standards proposed are a proportionate and appropriate minimum for any funeral director offering this crucial service. They leave flexibility in how they are met and scope for funeral directors who wish to provide excellent service to invest and innovate to go beyond these." (Funeral director organisation)
"[Name redacted] does not believe the standards set out in the Code will have a negative impact on innovation and experimentation. On the contrary, we believe a set of clear mandatory standards requirements will encourage positive innovation as businesses compete to attract custom without being able to compromise on minimum standards in 'back of house' areas that the consumer often never sees." (Funeral industry trade body)
In contrast, relatively fewer comments indicated the Code would have a negative impact on innovation and experimentation. This included stating that the Code would set boundaries which funeral directors could not cross to meet families' requests. Examples of what this type of boundary might entail were not provided.
Three other issues were raised within the open-ended comments, each expressed in a minority of comments, and which are largely consistent with other sections in this report. First, comments suggested that the impact of the Code on innovation may depend on the cost(s) of meeting the Code's requirements (although this impact may be temporary). For example:
"It will inhibit innovation, as more financial investment required and failure costly. However over time this should correct itself." (Funeral industry trade body)
Second, a concern was raised that the most significant impact would be felt by SMEs/rural funeral directors:
"Overly restrictive legislative requirements, particularly those requiring large injections of capital into businesses may have the reverse effect of that hoped for by the Scottish Government as it may drive small to medium firms out of business leaving the field to the large groups and the very small firms that lack proper facilities but are supported by SLAs with companies far from their geographical location. This would reduce consumer choice and ultimately drive up prices for the public." (Funeral director organisation)
Finally, there were contrasting views about whether the Code's requirements would reinforce the traditional funeral approach in Scotland's funeral industry, or otherwise restrict non-traditional approaches:
"It [the Code] has the potential to emphasise the status quo. And it does assume that some practices are a 'must' rather than an option which suggests a cultural conserve favouring tradition for tradition's sake." (Funeral director organisation)
"The funeral industry has been changing significantly, particularly in the more recent past, with people moving away from the traditional funeral and instead opting to arrange a more personalised, fitting tribute to their loved one. I can't see the code having any negative impact on this, funeral directors will always adapt to ensure they are doing the very best for the families they serve." (Funeral director organisation)