All change at Education Day

This year’s SAIF Education Day, at Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road Stadium, was packed with speakers outlining the very latest in updates for the funeral profession.

From the increasing uptake of new technologies such as resomation to the newest legal and compliance issues for all funeral directors to consider, the focus was on the cutting edge throughout the day.


Following an introduction from Alun Tucker, Sandy Sullivan gave an update on resomation, summarising years of progress with the water-based cremation alternative.

He said: “Regulation has always been the challenge for new technology coming through,” pointing to wins at the Observer Ethical Award 2010 and the John Logie Baird Award as evidence of the process’ credentials.

“The UK Cremation Society and the Cremation Association of North America have now made rule changes to allow it. It is accepted now in 13 US states. And most recently, a Scottish law change in 2015 opens up the ability to regulate there. We can now definitively install and begin to regulate in Scotland.”

Sandy concluded: “Resomation is out there, it is tested, it is available, and you get white ash back at the end of the process.”


Also updating funeral directors on the latest developments in her field was Catherine Mason, HM Senior Coroner for Leicester City and South Leicestershire.

In a talk followed up by extensive questions from the funeral directors present, Mrs Mason referred to herself as “an advocate for the dead to safeguard the living”, and focused on many of the changes made to the coroner’s service in recent times, including changes implemented in 2013 aiming “to put the bereaved at the heart of the investigation”.


She said: “Coroners are moving from part-time to full-time jurisdictions, which avoids the delegation of responsibility – delegation which ultimately should not be happening. The Chief Coroner provides support and sets up a national framework; a difficult job, given that not everyone has the same provisions and facilities.

“Coroners are now accountable and don’t work behind closed doors in the way they may have in the past. If cases remain open beyond 12 months, they must be reported to the Chief Coroner, who can ultimately report to the Lord Chancellor.”

She went on to outline coroners’ powers and the actions they can take when a death is reported, and explained enquiries that can be made, what goes into the decision to hold a post-mortem, and what the law requires.

Mrs Mason also discussed post-mortem CT scanning (PMCT). She said: “I’m all for this, but if a family wants it they currently have to pay for the service themselves.

“I want a staged approach; currently we are too comfortable in what we know, and the advances in treating the living are not reflected in the dead.”


Alison Wilson, Director of Risk & Compliance at Golden Charter, took to the stage after lunch to talk through developments in her area. Particularly discussed were cash handling, data protection and mystery shopping.

Alison said: “Cash-handling rules are important as, looking at the demographics of who funeral plans go to, we know many of these people may want to deal in cash, and that requires real caution. That can involve various steps, like ensuring you have something to give them that acts as a receipt, or a rule like the one Golden Charter introduced to its sales staff to say that cash must be banked the same day it is received.”

Covering data protection, Alison also explained the role and powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and the rules that could affect Independents.

She said: “Individuals and organisations may need to register as data processors if they process any personal information.

The ICO website ( allows companies to perform a self-assessment to see whether that affects them.”

Alison closed by discussing the upcoming mystery shopping plans for Golden Charter’s different sales channels. More details about this will be available in Goldenews.

Health and safety

Also speaking was Simon Bloxham of Safety for Business, who covered another field which has seen change in recent years.

He said: “The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is now focusing a lot more on the health side of health and safety.”

Looking at the costs to workplaces from absence, and issues of sickness resulting from chemicals, he warned that funeral directors could be affected by this health focus. Simon continued: “Stress is also an issue, with 27.3 million days lost between the two issues of stress and manual handling.”

Another key piece of change Simon discussed was the “fee for intervention” system, which allows the HSE to fine companies for its work when a material breach is encountered during an inspection.



Simon Galley and Amy Bishop from Preston’s College covered the funeral apprenticeship recently discussed in SAIFInsight.

In outlining its progress, Simon said the goal was to “do things a little bit differently, see how we can adapt and make things work a little better”.

He outlined the upcoming Funeral Operative Apprenticeship, and noted that while after April 2017 apprenticeships would come with a fee, companies with under three million employees could only have to pay 10%.

Education Day ended with the presentation of IFD College awards to successful students.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,