The Scottish Government has posted their draft statutory code of practice for funeral directors, which will come into effect later this year. The code of practice will be statutory regulation, meaning that anyone who works within the funeral profession will legally be responsible for maintaining the standards it sets out.
The main aim of the code of practice is to give everyone in Scotland confidence that they will have access to a dignified and respectful funeral assuring bereaved families that good standards of care will be provided.
This includes transparency of choice on goods and services, guaranteed standard levels of care for the person who has died, and a common understanding of what general good practice is, within the funeral profession.
Engaging a funeral director and the transferring of the person who has died
The statutory code of practice looks to ensure that when engaging a funeral director, the bereaved can be sure that these professionals are taking the utmost care in the first instance of taking charge of the person who has died.
This includes confirming the identity of the person who has died, obtaining signed authorisation and confirming the location of the person who has died with the bereaved, and any changes in that location. It also includes the detailing and tracking of their personal effects.
Care of the person who has died
The regulations laid out ensure that funeral directors are clear and sensitive when discussing the services available for the care of the person who has died.
They should not pressure or exploit the bereaved, and any advice given about care for their loved one should be delivered by experienced and/or trained staff in a clear manner, using plain language.
Care for the person who has died designed to make them look restful and at peace, otherwise known as first offices, should be carried out with their dignity in mind. If first offices have not taken place, the funeral director must keep records of the reason or reasons for this.
As described by the statutory code of practice, embalming is not a requirement for burial or cremation. If the bereaved do choose to have their loved one embalmed, funeral directors must obtain the client’s informed and written permission for it to take place.
Premises used by the funeral director
Funeral directors must have access to clean and appropriate refrigeration facilities, either on site or off. They must also be able to offer, and be able to facilitate, viewing of the person who has died in a clean and comfortable environment.
If a viewing is taking place, the funeral director must ensure that the identity of the person who has died is checked prior to viewing. They must also be sure that any requests made by the bereaved in relation to the viewing, such as make-up application, if the coffin is open or closed, and who can be permitted to view, are given due care and attention.
If a funeral director gives advice against a viewing, for whatever reason, they must keep clear and accurate records of this advice.
Planning of the funeral service
The draft statutory code of practice details the requirement that any staff member who might be assisting in the arranging of a funeral, is also able to assist the bereaved in making informed choices about the goods and services offered.
Funeral directors will be required to provide the bereaved with a clear and comprehensive description of their goods and services. They will also have to ensure that they make up to date, accurate and itemised price lists available to the bereaved, ensuring the fullest transparency in pricing possible.
Once the bereaved have made a decision on the goods and services they would like, the funeral director must provide recorded confirmation of these and provide the bereaved with an itemised final account that is comparable to any estimate provided.
Should there be any changes from estimate to final bill, they must be clearly described, with prior notification and agreement by the bereaved.
Delivery of the funeral
The funeral director must maintain responsibility for the delivery of any and all elements of the funeral they have organised with the bereaved. These include the booking of venues and celebrants, ensuring transport options are available and ready for the funeral, and any other funeral arrangements they have agreed to be responsible for.
It is also the responsibility of the funeral director to make sure that the bereaved have completed the required statutory forms, and that the forms are sent to the required statutory authorities in good time. Up to date records and documents must also be maintained, including comprehensive details of the bereaved’s requests for goods and services and any changes made.
Funeral directors must be sure to have a written ashes management policy in place, which sets out their business practices and policy for the management of ashes. These practices and policies must ensure careful and appropriate storage and recording of the dignified management of ashes.
Every funeral director must provide the means for proper written complaints to be made and recorded, and make that process readily available for the bereaved. This complaint procedure must provide clear and simple advice for the bereaved on how they might make a formal complaint, and what their timescale is for responses and assurances that any complaint resolution or answer will be provided in writing to the client.
The draft statutory code of practice is available to be viewed online now and engagement from interested parties both within the Scottish funeral profession and the wider public is encouraged.