The importance of continuous learning

words: Declan Maguire (Scottish SAIF and SAIF Digital)
Scottish education session

SAIF Scotland President James Morris and SAIF National President Jo Parker warmly welcomed more than 50 members and guests from across Scotland attended the first Scottish Funeral Education Sessions in the picturesque Dunblane Hydro.

Following on from the format of the Belfast Education Sessions earlier this year, the day-long session on 19 November focused on mental health, regulation, embalming as well as some fascinating presentations addressing the future of funerals and legal matters.

The day opened with an update on the David Fuller enquiry and the SAIF Quality Assurance (QA) programme, delivered by SAIF Chief Executive Terry Tennens. Terry provided much needed clarity on the process, timelines and potential outcomes.

James Morris, of Purves Funeral Directors, spoke passionately about the benefits of independent funeral directors working together co-operatively and commercially with some excellent examples drawn from his own experience. James highlighted the importance of the ‘A’ in SAIF – ‘Allied’ – and building partnerships of alliance with other SAIF members.

Members welcomed Matt Hamilton, President of the Retired Police Officers Association of Scotland (RPOAS), to address the session with an outline of the organisation and the value of the membership to the funeral profession. This was particularly evident during Covid when members of the RPOAS stepped forward to register as cover for funeral directors experiencing a shortfall of staff due to Covid.

Mental health has always been a key aspect of SAIF’s support to members and although Catherine Betley, of Professional Help, could not be present, she was able to provide a detailed outline of the importance of addressing mental health in a member’s business through video.

Continuing the mental health theme, Angela Maguire from De Exeter House presented on Addiction in the Workplace with a focus on how to identify the behaviours associated with addiction in the work environment and how to support the employee to gain the help they need.

Scottish members were understandably keen to hear an update on regulation and were delighted to welcome Katrina McNeill from the Scottish Government’s Burial and Cremation department.

Katrina provided an update on the latest progress, including some detail on potential outcomes from the ongoing consultation process. The following QA session provided members the opportunity to drill down further into the specific details.

Following the formation of the SAIF Mortuary Matters and Embalming Sub-committee, members heard from two highly experienced embalmers who both have the distinction of serving as President of the British Institute of Embalmers (BIE).

Barbara Fowley opened the session by outlining the importance of viewing as a part of the total funeral service offering. Barbara demonstrated what could be achieved through ongoing learning, good communication between the funeral director and embalmer, and the importance of extra time spent on the presentation of the deceased.

Craig Caldwell MazwWell Group CEO, continued the embalming theme by addressing a very poignant question: ‘Is there a place for embalming in a green funeral?’ Craig explained that thanks to innovations in the area of formaldehyde free products, embalming has a firm place in a green funeral.

Terry Tennens returned to the podium after lunch to meet a proposed topic, The Future of Funerals. Although a challenging and potentially controversial theme, Terry weaved together both a realistic view of the near future including the importance of digital marketing as well as a projection of funeral service in 100 years that provided much laughter and a potential acceptance of the concept of bearers from Mars.

The digital marketing presentation brought together Declan Maguire, from the SAIF Scotland Executive, and Malcolm Flanders, from Golden Charter, to update members on the progress of the SAIF Digital programme and highlight the importance of digital marketing. Declan’s key message from the session was: “Independent funeral directors insulate each other from corporate competition, it is vital that we collectively act on our Google Business profiles, SEO and social media.”

Tim Weir, of Weir Law, presented on funeral legal issues in Scotland and delved into some of the more complicated cases he has experienced, including disputes over the right to organise a funeral despite there being clarity in Scots Law.

The final session of the day focused on education, with Gavin Henshelwood presenting on the range of Independent Funeral Directors’ (IFD) College courses available to members.

The education portion of the day closed with a presentation of CPD certificates and a fundraising prize draw of an iPad, donated by SAIF National President Jo Parker, to support Papyrus, the President’s nominated charity for 2022-23. Members in Scotland generously supported the draw with more than £720 raised.

As darkness drew in over the Scottish countryside, members who remained came together for dinner where the topics of the day were discussed and dissected at length until the early hours.

On behalf of the Scottish SAIF Executive, we would like to thank our speakers, guests and sponsors for making the day such a success.

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