6. Impacts on the People of Scotland: Question 16
How would the Code impact on the people of Scotland with respect to age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, ethnicity, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic disadvantage?
Sixty-two of the 86 total consultation respondents answered Question 16. There was no quantitative component to Question 16; respondents were only asked to provide open-ended comments.
For the purposes of this analysis, an impact is defined as a deliberate or accidental effect or significant change in people's lives brought about by a policy decision. Respondents' comments could be categorised as indicating either no impact or some impact on the people of Scotland. Certain respondents stated that they 'didn't know', or were otherwise not able to answer the question.
Comments most frequently suggested there would be no impact on the people of Scotland with respect to the equalities considerations; often simply stating for example, 'no impact', or 'unlikely to impact'. Other respondents provided slightly more information, for example:
"this code does not seem to particularly impact any of these groups of people" (Funeral director organisation)
"There are no new consequences arising from the Code of Practice that are not already faced and dealt with by the funeral sector currently." (Funeral director organisation)
Comments which discussed positive impacts suggested that the Code promotes equality of opportunity and good relations between different groups and communities, leading to better outcomes. For example:
"I don't believe the code will have any negative effect; it should reassure the Scottish public that we, as an industry are working towards a more transparent, regulated way of working. With prices being made public, in most cases, families can have a clearer view of what services are going to cost, allowing them to make more informed choices and hopefully reducing the amount of debt that many families can find themselves in when arranging a funeral." (Funeral director organisation)
Comments which expressed that the Code would have a negative impact were most often concerned with increased funeral costs that may result from introducing new standards, and that these may particularly impact people on low incomes. There was a similar comment that the introduction of training might be a barrier for some people wishing to enter the industry.
"I do believe that the Code could impact on those from a socioeconomic disadvantage. With smaller companies potentially having to invest in mortuary facilities or upgrading them, I envision prices having to rise in order to cover the cost. Should business owners who have no formal qualifications be forced to obtain one, again, these costs would have to be met by clients in order to pay for such a qualification. Therefore price rises would ensue and therefore this would completely impact on the cost to those already struggling with rising funeral costs anyway." (Funeral director organisation)
Other comments related to each protected characteristic are now described. These often simply expressed an observation or opinion by the respondent, and did not necessarily indicate if there would be any actual impact on the people of Scotland.
Four comments related to sex, gender, and sexual orientation. These included an observation that existing cremation forms have only male and female options to identify gender. Two comments were received regarding LGBTI groups, and noted the importance of recognising LGBTI relationships. One respondent noted that women who have suffered domestic violence may not wish to be touched by a male funeral director. No comments were received regarding gender reassignment.
Two comments were received regarding pregnancy and maternity. One noted that pregnancy is already handled regularly and appropriately by the industry. The second stated:
"…deceased pregnant women and infants should have special protection. After the scandal of Mortonhall Crem[atorium], the disposal of infants and even foetuses should be done sensitively." (Individual)
Comments on disability highlighted a need to ensure any requirements for qualifications allowed for inclusivity, and health and safety considerations. Regarding inclusivity, one comment highlighted the need for any future qualifications to be vocational rather than academic (or otherwise inclusive and accessible) to ensure no disadvantage of employment for people with learning disabilities.
One comment was received which noted Scotland's funeral directors' race disparity, and appeared to suggest the Code would help bring attention to this:
"in my opinion it would only benefit the country going forward as at present there are no [minority ethnic community] funeral directors in Scotland this is an area that should be explored having statistics will help to bring this aspect to the 'agenda'". (Faith based organisation)
Regarding religion and belief, a comment received earlier in the consultation noted the importance of the quick transfer of the deceased people into the faith/religion based funeral director's care, e.g. to meet the requirements of a Muslim burial. In response to Question 16, nine respondents identified themselves as members or representatives of the Church of Scotland, and seven of them provided responses with minor variations on the same issue – that the Code should require funeral directors to signpost their clients to the Church of Scotland's free support and celebrant services:
"Religion or belief is a protected characteristic. We think that it is important that Funeral Directors should be required to treat the religion or belief of the deceased is a relevant and important matter when providing funeral services, as there are certain rituals and important spiritual practices associated with death within most religions. Given that approximately 30% of funerals in Scotland are conducted by Church of Scotland ministers alone, even without taking into account the large number of funerals conducted by other clergy or representatives of other faiths, it is apparent that a failure to make specific provision in the Code for the respecting of the religion of the deceased will have a disproportionate impact on people sharing this protected characteristic." (Faith/religion based organisation)
One comment was received regarding age, with respect to funeral industry employees. It expressed that it should be left to individuals "to assess themselves and their own capabilities of carrying out their role safely for them and their colleagues". (to undertake their role) themselves." (Funeral industry trade body)
Finally, a small number of comments suggested the Code should incorporate explicit mention of equalities or the Equality Act 2010. For example:
"It would be useful if the Code made specific reference to Equalities and the importance of recognising and respecting different cultural norms, LGBT+ relationships and that rites of passage should be designed to support and reflect values, beliefs and philosophies of the individual" (Non-funeral director organisation)