The QSA (Quality Services Association) Discussed Public Health Funerals at a Local Authority Event

Press Release: March 18, 2024

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The QSA (Quality Services Association) Discussed Public Health Funerals at a Local Authority Event
LONDON, UK, 18 March 2024 – During an event on February 1st, 2022, Lindesay Mace from Down to Earth presented the results of our 2021 research report on public health funerals to over 40 local authority representatives. Between 2020 and 2021, we conducted research by making anonymous phone calls to 27 local authorities and reviewing information on the public health funeral services provided by 40 local authority websites. Our research aimed to gain insight into people’s experiences when attempting to access public health funeral services through their local authorities. Local authorities must provide a public health funeral service “in any case where it appears to the authority that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being made” under The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

The results of our research were worrying:
  • A mystery shopping investigation was conducted on 27 local authorities. The results showed that 10 of them were not fulfilling their legal obligation regarding public health funerals. These authorities were denying people who couldn’t afford to pay for funerals and needed their council to take responsibility.
  • Our study of 40 local authority websites revealed that at least 65% did not adhere to the government’s guidelines concerning public health funerals. Among these, 14 websites provided no information on the topic. At the same time, 12 out of the 26 that did had omitted contact details for individuals who need to notify their local authority about a death that requires a public health funeral.
  • More than half of the websites containing information had incorrect or misleading data regarding public health funerals, with a third misrepresenting the circumstances under which someone can access such a funeral.
The Quality Services Association said: “We are happy to have received an invitation to speak at an event on Tuesday, February 1st. This is part of our ongoing efforts at QSA to raise awareness about the issues highlighted in our report and promote five key characteristics that we believe are crucial for ensuring appropriate access and treatment for individuals who require a public health funeral for their loved ones. The Churches’ Funeral Group has agreed upon these five characteristics as part of its minimum standards recommendations.”
  • It should be easy for the bereaved and those supporting them to learn about public health funerals, how to access them, and their contents.
  • The bereaved should be able to refer themselves for a public health funeral.
  • A funeral service should be organised, and the mourners should have unrestricted access to attend it.
  • The family of the deceased should have free access to their ashes after cremation.
  • Treating the bereaved with respect and compassion is important throughout their grieving process.
On Tuesday, the Bereavement Services Forum held a meeting facilitated by Estate Research. Local authority workers responsible for providing public health funerals nationwide attended the forum. During the meeting, Lindesay Mace from Down to Earth presented the findings of their report. She also shared that her team has collaborated with several local authorities to improve their public health funeral services and website information. As a result of this collaboration, some local authorities have created web pages where none existed before. The original publication can be read here.

After Lindesay’s presentation, the delegates discussed some of the issues raised. This included the need to follow government guidance on accepting self-referrals from members of the public and the challenges of providing public health funeral services with limited budgets.

Enhancing Transparency and Accessibility in Public Health Funeral Services
In light of the findings presented by the QSA, there is a clear need for enhanced transparency and accessibility in public health funeral services. This aligns with the broader trends and challenges identified in the sector.

The Need for Enhanced Transparency and Accessibility
The QSA’s research points to significant gaps in how information about public health funerals is presented and accessed. Bridging this information gap is crucial not only for complying with legal obligations but also for ensuring that bereaved individuals receive the support and respect they deserve.

Strategies for Enhancing Transparency
Developing clear guidelines and leveraging technology for better information dissemination are essential steps forward. For instance, creating dedicated online portals and digital resources can significantly enhance the accessibility of information, making it easier for individuals to navigate the system.

Improving Accessibility in Public Health Funeral Services
Enhancing accessibility also involves training staff to be more sensitive in their interactions with the bereaved. Expanding services to include more personalised elements could also significantly improve these services.

The challenges highlighted in the QSA’s report, such as the lack of clear information and accessibility issues, underscore the importance of these strategies. Adhering to legal obligations is not just about providing dignified and respectful services.

ENDS


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