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The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that everyone in Scotland receives the care, dignity and respect in death that they would wish in life.
Although there are no statutory regulations for funeral directors, or their businesses, in any part of the United Kingdom, we are working to change that in Scotland by introducing new statutory standards for funeral directors, underpinned by a licensing and inspection regime.
Earlier this year, I published the “Funeral Director: Code of Practice” for consultation. Once finalised, the code will set out statutory standards for funeral directors, which must be complied with. That will be a significant step forward in ensuring consistency of standards of care across Scotland. The analysis of the consultation responses will be available early next year and the code will be published later next year.
Following the recent reports of an alleged fraudulent scheme linked to a Fife funeral director business, which has impacted on a number of my constituents, can the cabinet secretary clarify whether the financial regulation for the industry is under consideration for inclusion as part of any future code of conduct?
The Scottish Government believes that the regulation of the pre-paid funeral plans market should be strengthened. As it is a reserved matter, we are urging the UK Government to take action to ensure that sufficient protection is in place for people who take out funeral plans. We will continue to call on the UK Government to take action in that area. The Scottish Government code of practice focuses on raising standards of transparency of the service that is offered by funeral directors, and standards of care of people who have died.
As the minister has said, the purpose of the draft statutory code of practice is to ensure that
“every person in Scotland has a dignified and respectful funeral”.
How will the newly developed funeral support payment ensure that that is the case, even for people who struggle to pay for funerals?
The funeral support payment is to help people on low-income benefits who might otherwise struggle to pay for a funeral. We have substantially widened eligibility for the payment compared with the eligibility for the former Department for Work and Pensions payment, and we will help 40 per cent more people each year. In total, around 5,000 people each year will receive support.
Moreover, we have developed the new funeral support payment in line with our social security principles to treat all clients with dignity, fairness and respect.