Funeral directors have welcomed the appointment of the first government-appointed Inspector of Funeral Directors in Scotland.
The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) said that Natalie McKail’s appointment to the role, which will see her conduct an 18-month review of the profession and advise on potential regulations, would help “shape the future” for funeral professionals and the members of the public they serve.
The NAFD’s chief executive Mandie Lavin said Ms McKail’s appointment would “help keep standards high and strengthen public confidence” in the profession.
Together with The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), the organisation said their members “overwhelmingly supported” the introduction of an inspector as being in the public interest.
Ms McKail will spend the first 18 months of her two-year appointment undertaking a review of the funeral profession, with a view to making recommendations to Scottish government ministers on how it should be regulated, including whether to introduce a licensing regime. It’s believed her findings could lay the groundwork for funeral regulations to be considered across the wider UK.
In a joint statement, the National Association of Funeral Directors and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors said: “The NAFD and SAIF warmly welcome Natalie to the role of Inspector of Funeral Directors, and look forward to working closely with her, as we have done with Government, to help shape the future of the profession in Scotland.”
Miss Lavin said: “We believe appointing an Inspector of Funeral Directors is in the public interest and believe Natalie’s appointment will help keep standards high in the profession, as well as strengthen public confidence, and we look forward to forming a close working relationship and bringing her up to speed with all the issues affecting the funeral profession.”
Scotland’s Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “The approach we’re taking will ensure that any regulatory scheme reflects the diverse nature of the funeral profession in Scotland and ensures that bereaved families receive the best possible care at a time when they are potentially very vulnerable.”
The NAFD’s members carry out 80% of funerals in the UK. The organisation already has its own Code of Practice, setting out the high standard of service that bereaved families can expect, including key requirements in respect of price information, estimates, final accounts and marketing.
SAIF, too, has its own stringent Code of Practice. Following a recent funeral directors conference held in Stirling by the NAFD and SAIF, SAIF’s former president Paul Allcock said that the potential licensing of funeral directors in Scotland would not be a concern for funeral homes delivering and maintaining good services for the bereaved.
He added that the profession would be keeping an eye on how any move to introduce licensing would affect funeral homes in the north of England, so that they could continue to support families on both sides of the border.
He also said that the profession would also be looking at how regulations, if introduced, would enable funeral directors to continue to provide the services needed by their communities.
He said: “A company in the Outer Hebrides, for example, is going to be very different from one that’s in the centre of Scotland’s major cities…there are issues to be ironed out as to whether there is the same legislation actually required across the board, or whether there is going to be some variance in the requirements of licensing.”
Ms McKail said: “It is my intention to listen carefully to the widest range of views, and to assess the current provision of funerals in Scotland over the next 18 months, before providing recommendations to the Minister on a regulatory framework for the future.”