8. Question 18: Other Comments
Do you have any other comments on any aspects of the Code not covered by the questions in this consultation?
Question 18 invited respondents to submit further comments on the Code. Fifty-three of the 86 total consultation respondents did so.
Where possible and relevant, responses to this question were collated with responses elsewhere in this report (for example, noting that the issue of training and qualifications may require further consideration). The remaining comments have been analysed here.
Certain comments received in answer to Question 18 expressed general satisfaction with the Code, for example noting that it was 'long overdue' and feels 'comprehensive'. To illustrate:
"I believe the funeral profession must be internally but especially externally monitored to ensure security and peace of mind for the bereaved and this is a fantastic start." (Funeral director organisation)
However, most comments indicated that the Code could be improved. A number of these reiterated themes which have arisen across this consultation analysis report. For example, comments highlighted the need for greater clarity around terms used across the entire Code (e.g. "client", "first offices", "invasive procedures", or "funeral director", as well as what comprises an appropriate "vehicle").
The comments also highlighted the need to consider the disparity between large/metropolitan and SMEs/rural funeral directors, and making allowances such as extending the time needed to meet compliance for the latter. These comments aligned with those made across the consultation analysis.
Additionally, some respondents raised the issue of ensuring the wishes of the deceased were respected, particularly if they requested a religious service:
"Where a religious service has been requested by the deceased or next-of-kin funeral directors should contact the relevant parish minister or minister/priest of the religious body with which the deceased was associated. Too often funeral directors have given up trying to contact the parish minister after only one attempt, in order to be able to book a slot at crematoria etc. As a result the wishes of the deceased and/or next-of-kin are overridden for unsound commercial reasons." (Individual)
Comments also highlighted additional issues in the Code, including transparency-related requirements; first contact requirements; obligation to check the deceased every 24 hours; details about procedures and protocols; cost; role of volunteers; and funeral director wellbeing. These are described below.
A number of comments indicated the Code should include more transparency-related requirements, for example that funeral directors should clearly display the name of their corporate company owner, if applicable. Further, that the Code could signpost to more third parties (e.g. that the Code should include a requirement for funeral directors to signpost clients to the Scottish Government's Funeral Support Payment). Other comments highlighted a concern about the need to provide information on alternative funeral services which might be available elsewhere.
Comments also suggested a need to further consider the first contact requirements. For example, it was noted that some details in the Code listed as minimum requirements may not be required at first contact if the death occurred in a hospital or it may not always be possible to attach an identification tag directly to all bodies.
A number of comments raised concerns around requiring checks every 24 hours on the condition of deceased people in a funeral director's possession. Most highlighted that this needed to be reconsidered or greater detail provided about what would be required. Saying this, one trade body stressed their support of 24 hour checks and noted they would "strongly oppose" attempts to "downgrade" them.
Comments also noted that the Code could provide greater detail about appropriate procedures and protocols for funeral directors. This included: a protocol for clients to transfer to an alternative funeral director; how to engage a burial or cremation authority; and the requirement to obtain professional indemnity insurance cover. Another comment suggested the need to further consider complaints procedures in the Code, specifically where funeral services have been organised using a 'plan provider':
"[Redacted] recommends that the Scottish Government amend the draft code of practice to make explicit the right of customers and their families to raise a complaint directly with the plan provider if the funeral services are delivered via such a product and to ensure that plan providers handle such complaints in line with the principles set out in the draft code" (Non-funeral director organisation)
In relation to costs of funerals, a comment noted it may be difficult to keep costs down "with all of the extra record keeping we are going to be expected to do as proposed in the code of practice" (Funeral director organisation). Relatedly, one respondent stated it was "encouraging" that the draft Code requires funeral directors to make accurate, itemised and up to date price lists available to the client.Other respondents suggested these price lists should be specifically available online:
"The code in no way addresses the extreme vulnerability of bereaved people when arranging a funeral by demanding complete transparency of cost and service. Forcing funeral directors to list their prices online should be mandatory. Providing a printed price list and written estimate does not go far enough - it's already standard for trade association members to do that." (Funeral director organisation)
One comment suggested the Code needed to more deeply consider or account for the role of volunteers in the industry:
"…it seems clear that the Code does not apply where a person carries out the functions of a funeral director purely on a voluntary basis, for example in respect of family, friends or persons well known to them. We suggest this clarification could be embodied suitably in the Code to prevent unnecessary friction further down the line when the Code is activated by the Scottish Government." (Faith/religion based organisation)
Finally, a question was raised in the comments about whether funeral industry staff wellbeing and resilience could be considered.