Dignity, fairness and respect

words: Jim Auld, SAIF National President

Well September is upon us, where did summer go? I haven’t done any travelling for SAIF since the middle of July, but that all starts again with a bang next week.

I looked back on last month’s article, where I had hoped I would get a chance to enjoy time working in the garden. Instead, I have been barely able to cut the grass – unfortunately the west of Scotland has not been blessed with the same weather as the south. There have been no two dry days together and in fact, at one burial, I got the worst soaking I’ve had in many a year.

Last week, I had a meeting with the local manager for Social Security Scotland. Social security policy in Scotland has been devolved from Westminster to Holyrood. Now Funeral Expense Payments and processing of those in Scotland is due to be transferred from the Department for Work and Pensions this summer, but a date has not been confirmed as yet.

Rebranded Funeral Support Payments, it was one of the first devolved benefits, with the first payments due to commence by the ‘end of summer 2019’. Among the differences between the new Scottish benefit and its UK equivalent are:

  • The Scottish Government has linked Funeral Support Payments to the rate of inflation, with a £21 increase in the £700 ‘other expenses’ element of the benefit projected for 2020
  • Social Security Scotland has committed to processing applications within ten working days
  • The Scottish Government has widened eligibility, estimating that an additional 2,000 people each year will gain entitlement. This is primarily due to the decision to allow people on eligible benefits to apply for Funeral Support Payments, even if another family member on the same level of family hierarchy (for example, a sibling) is in full-time employment and considered able to pay for the funeral.

While there is no increase in what is being paid, the fact that the payments will rise by the rate of inflation is at least something, and the commitment to processing payments within ten working days will help alleviate a long period of uncertainty for families and funeral directors. Social Security Scotland’s motto is ‘Dignity, fairness, respect’, as the act recognises social security as a human right.

Staying in Scotland, members are reminded the consultation period on the draft code of practice closes on 20 September so if you haven’t already looked at the document and commented on you can do so here.

As the month continues, I look forward to attending the regional meeting in Essex and then on to London for the SAIFCharter AGM and Golden Charter Funeral Planner of the Year awards. I hope to see you there!

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