The call for regulation

“England, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow in Scotland’s footsteps and introduce regulation of the funeral profession”

The statement above is the position of SAIF and it makes SAIF the first significant funeral trade association in the UK to back statutory regulation of funeral directors.

SAIF has also urged its members with websites to display their prices online as soon as possible to help bereaved consumers better understand possible costs involved with a funeral.

It could also mean families get a better deal, with research consistently showing that independent funeral directors’ prices are consistently lower than large groups, like Co-op Funeralcare, Dignity and Funeral Partners.

SAIF’s position is in response to the positive and proportionate way in which regulation is being introduced in Scotland, and comes in the wake of a small number of worrying cases in which funeral directors have fallen short of standards to which trade association members subscribe.

Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, said it was high time all bereaved people across the UK were guaranteed a minimum set of standards from the professionals taking care of them at life’s most difficult time. He said: “Currently, anyone can set up a funeral directing business and there is no requirement for them to work to a minimum set of standards. Trade associations require their members to abide by a code of practice, but membership is voluntary and we are seeing too many cases of firms who don’t belong to an association operating in an unacceptable way.”

He added: “All other care industries are regulated, so there is no reason why funeral directors, to whom people turn in great distress, should not be subjected to similar rules. The vast majority of SAIF members share concerns about standards and support regulation of the funeral profession.”

In respect of online pricing, Terry said SAIF’s leadership was set to discuss a commonly agreed set of funeral elements that would appear on a price list, to better help consumers make like-for-like comparisons. A price list should also include options for a simple or basic funeral and a traditional funeral, along with additional items such as flowers and orders of service. This could eventually form part of the association’s code of practice.

According to SAIF, regulation of the funeral profession should be proportionate and informed by all stakeholders, with the views of independent funeral directors carrying as much weight in any process as those of the large corporates and co-operatives.

SAIF’s call for UK-wide regulation of the funeral profession comes ahead of the findings of a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) study of the funeral market.

A proportionate regulatory regime could address some of the transparency issues being examined by the CMA and ensure clients of all funeral directors are getting a good deal.

SAIF is to consult its members and the wider funeral profession on areas of focus for any possible regulatory regime which are likely to include:

  • Price transparency
  • Care facilities
  • Transparency of ownership
  • Financial stability
  • Record keeping
  • Regulation that works across jurisdictions

Following a consultation exercise, SAIF is to write to the Westminster Government, and Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, stating its position on regulation of the funeral profession across all jurisdictions.

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