Members of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have given their backing to tighter regulation of the funeral profession.
This regulation is predicted to help funeral directors demonstrate the standards of care they offer to bereaved families and “root out bad practice” within the sector.
Almost 90%, from smallest independent family firms to large corporate businesses, told the NAFD they wanted to see tougher standards for inspections – with more than three quarters also wanting to see requirements placed on funeral directors to prove their fitness to practise, on a regular basis.
Two thirds said they want to see regulation having a form of government backing and all funeral firms were supportive of tougher standards.
NAFD chief executive, Jon Levett, said: “In spite of the many safeguards the NAFD has put in place to ensure the independence of its complaints, disciplinary and quality assurance procedures, there remains a perception that self-regulation alone no longer provides the level of robustness that is required to safeguard the needs of bereaved families.
“The poor practice of some of the small number of funeral directors, who are not inspected nor held to account by either the NAFD or fellow trade body SAIF, sullies the reputation of the profession as a whole. Regulation with statutory force would either pull those funeral directors into compliance with minimum standards, or force them out of business.”
The NAFD has supported government-led regulation in Scotland, working closely with the Scottish government and the Inspector of Funeral Directors, Natalie McKail, as the details of a regulatory system is developed there.
At a recent meeting of the Inspections Regulation Working Group in Scotland, it was confirmed that the work of the planned Inspectorate of Funeral Directors would be risk-based, and the NAFD said it believed this was a “sensible approach” but cautioned against the “unintended consequences of regulation”.
The NAFD also confirmed it would strongly oppose any form of price regulation, something that was mentioned in the interim report published by the CMA at the end of November.
Levett added: “In our view setting price caps will do nothing to assist funeral affordability for the poorest in society, and would be more likely to have the effect of increasing prices, rather than driving prices down.
“Instead, we believe continuing the current drive towards increased price transparency, both online and in funeral homes – together with better education about the decisions that need to be made by everyone for the end of life – would ensure consumers know and understand the costs of a funeral and can make informed choices.”