The Funeral Expense Assistance (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2024: scrutiny report

The Scottish Commission on Social Security's scrutiny report on the draft Funeral Expense Assistance (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2024

5. Alkaline hydrolysis

Alkaline hydrolysis, sometimes called water cremation, is a new form of funeral, currently used in some European countries including Ireland. While it is not yet certain that alkaline hydrolysis will become available in Scotland, it appears very likely. The Scottish Government held a consultation on its introduction during 2023 and, following a generally favourable response, is working to develop the necessary regulations to make the process available. Alkaline hydrolysis involves a chemical process which breaks down body tissues and bones, leaving a powder.

The draft Regulations make a range of amendments to the principal Regulations to ensure that alkaline hydrolysis is recognised as a possible form of funeral eligible for support with a FSP.1Draft regulations 2(2) and 2(6)(a) to (c), (f) and (g). Regulations to specifically designate alkaline hydrolysis as a qualifying funeral method for FSP are necessary as the 2018 Act requires that regulations specify the types of funeral eligible for support.2Schedule 8 paragraph 1(2). There is therefore merit in amending the principal Regulations now so that funeral organisers with a low income can avail of it from its introduction. Contributors to the business and regulatory impact assessment have welcomed the amendment on this basis.

Organisers of funerals in countries where alkaline hydrolysis is already in use may benefit from the change immediately if they are entitled to FSP, subject to the issues noted in section 3.1 of this report around the issue of calculating eligible costs. The various draft Regulations to enable the payment of FSP in respect of funerals by way of alkaline hydrolysis appear to be clear and SCoSS considers them uncontroversial. In the context of a devolved social security system that is intended to be based on dignity, fairness and respect, the change will ensure that the FSP rules respect the choices bereaved families make about funeral methods, within the options available to them.

Observation 3: SCoSS welcomes the various amendments to enable awards of Funeral Support Payment in support of funerals by alkaline hydrolysis. The changes should help to prepare the principal Regulations for the likely future availability of the process in Scotland as well as immediately expanding the options available to organisers of funerals in some non-UK countries.

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