The Funeral Services Consumer Standards Review (FSCSR) have launched the first phase of their consultation on "improving quality, standards and outcomes for funeral service consumers."
The report answers a lot of questions about regulating the funeral profession and presents the FSCSR's own recommendations for it.
The FSCSR's recommendations follow the introduction of similar proposals in Scotland. The report points out that 92% of British adults assume that funeral directors are already regulated in the same way as other caring professions.
The FSCSR is clearly sympathetic to the needs of the "richly diverse" funeral profession, ranging from large chains to small family businesses who have served their communities for generations. The report's main recommendation so far is the gradual introduction of independent regulation that lets funeral directors solve complaints themselves.
You can find a detailed summary of the FSCSR's main recommendations in this article, but it is only a consultation that, in the FSCSR's own words, is "not set in stone."
What are the FSCSR's recommendations for the funeral profession?
The FSCSR's main recommendation is the introduction of a "mandatory Code of Practice" for "all those involved in the sale and servicing of funerals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland'' enforced by a national regulator with statutory powers.
Funeral directors would be required to "self-assess" their adherence to the Code of Practice to the regulator so that it can focus on inspecting and, if necessary, intervening with "high-risk businesses".
The FSCSR does seem keen to avoid placing a burden on the funeral profession and explains that although the regulator should accept and monitor complaints from members of the public, the funeral director should be responsible for resolving them. It does expect, however, that bereaved families who have made a complaint should have "access to an independent complaint resolution scheme".
The FSCSR is aware that this is a long-term prospect and suggests that the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards should support the NAFD and SAIF to set up an "interim regulator" and monitor it until a permanent body is established.
What is the Draft FSCSR Code of Practice Guidance?
The FSCSR's draft Code of Practice is "principles-based" to avoid burdening funeral directors with unnecessary rules. The Code "requires funeral directors to ensure their clients are put in a position to make informed decisions about the services they need but leaves it to the business to determine exactly how this should be achieved."
A similar Scottish Code of Practice will be introduced north of the border in the near future.
Funeral directors must:
- Act in the best interests of each client, prospective client and customer
- Provide the best possible level of care to bereaved people, keeping in mind the specific needs of each client and family
- Respect and maintain the dignity of deceased people in their care at all times
- Act with honesty and integrity
- Provide clients will full and fair information about services, products and associated costs
- Behave in a way that promotes and maintains public trust in their business, the funeral directing profession and related industries
- Comply with all legal and regulatory obligations and deal with their regulators in an open, timely and cooperative manner
- Run their business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound risk management principles
- Run their business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity
- Run their business in a way that encourages a culture that values and welcomes complaints as a way of putting things right and improving service
How does the FSCSR define a funeral director?
One of the big questions for regulation of the funeral profession is who should be considered a funeral director? This is definitely a topic that would benefit from wider consultation, but the FSCSR has presented a draft list in its report:
- Funeral businesses, including sole traders and partnerships
- Funeral business owners
- Funeral business staff who routinely come into direct contact with bereaved families
- Funeral business staff responsible for arranging funerals
- Funeral business staff responsible for the care or transport of deceased people
- Managers of funeral business staff
- Funeral business managers
- Anyone who sells funerals
What happens after you read the FSCSR?
The FSCSR is inviting responses "from members of the public, funeral directing businesses, academics, religious groups, consumer interest groups, regulatory bodies and other stakeholder organisations."
The deadline for responding to the FSCSR recommendations is 1 March 2020 and both the NAFD and SAIF are encouraging all of their members to do so.
It is a good idea to read the FSCSR's full report before you respond to it.
Who are the FSCSR?
The FSCSR's steering committee represents all aspects of the funeral profession across the UK.
- Lewis Shand Smith, dispute resolution expert (Chair)
- Natalie McKail, Formerly HM Inspector of Funeral Directors (Scotland)
- Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute for Trading Standards
- James Daley, Chief Executive of Fairer Finance
- Jon Levett, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Funeral Directors
- Terry Tennens, Chief Executive Officer of the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
- Ed Gallois, Chief Executive Officer of Funeral Zone Ltd
- Carrie Weekes, A Natural Undertaking
- Paul Allcock, SAIF National Executive Member
- Andrew Judd, Director of Funeral Operations for Dignity plc
- Alison Close, Managing Director, Life, Planning, Risk & Regulation for Co-operative Group Funerals & Life Planning