We have previously reported on the direction of travel on Scottish funeral regulation. At its heart is the "Funeral Costs Plan" consisting of 10 action points. The Funeral Costs Plan is underpinned by the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) 2016 Act. It sets out the framework for a future of funeral regulation in Scotland.
Funeral Costs Plan: "We will publish guidance on funeral costs by December 2018"
Section 98 of the 2016 Act comes into force on 1 June 2018. This empowers Scottish Government to publish guidance on funeral costs. The guidance is number two in the Scottish Government's 10 point action plan. Bringing section 98 into force allows the formal process to publish this guidance and importantly to consult on the matter. With the August launch of the Funeral Costs Plan, there was a commitment from Scottish Government to continued engagement with industry and a recognition of professional association commitments on pricing transparency and an industry-led code of practice.
The guidance was originally slated to be published by December 2018.
Funeral Expense Assistance
Number one in the action plan is the new Funeral Expense Assistance ("FEA") which replaces the DWP Funeral Expenses Payment in summer 2019. The Scottish Government report than an extra 2000 people will benefit for financial support and processing times will reduce to 10 working days. While part of the Funeral Costs Plan and indicative of Scottish Government working through the action points, FEA technically sits within social security legislation and the new powers for Scottish Government in the now passed Social Security (Scotland) Bill 2018 following the devolution of further powers to Scotland.
The FEA will provide a one-off contribution to assist those on low income benefits to meet the costs of a funeral. The Scottish Governments wants to reduce the burden of questions associated with determining eligibility and will use the 'nearest relative' list from 2016 Act to determine eligibility. The FEA proposals will continue the principle that payment will be made direct to the funeral director where the bill remains outstanding and only make payment to the applicant where the funeral director's bill has already been settled.
The FEA payment will include the costs of burial or cremation and a contribution towards other expenses such as funeral director fees, a coffin and flowers.
A public consultation seeking views on the proposals was opened earlier this month and the deadline for responses is 23 August 2018.
What next on Scottish funeral regulation?
We will keep monitor and providing updates. Against that we would highlight four key action points from the Funeral Costs Plan:-.
"We will publish guidance on funeral costs by December 2018"
"We will seek to strengthen consumer protection in relation to pre-paid funeral plans"
"We will make people aware of the products credit unions offer, including those specifically for funerals"
"We will provide more options to help people save for their funeral by piloting a Scottish funeral bond"
*STOP PRESS* on wider pan-UK funeral sector regulation
It has been announced today that the UK government will consult on "tougher" regulation for the pre-paid funeral plan sector, and propose bringing the sector into the supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority.
In a sister announcement, the Competition and Markets Authority is reviewing the cost of funerals, "to ensure that people are not getting a bad deal".
We will report further on these reviews.
Brodies LLP has significant experience advising on funeral regulation matters.