There are more than 90 regulatory bodies in the UK, and these cost the taxpayer around £4bn a year to run. The purpose of regulation, according to the National Audit Office, is to “protect and benefit people, businesses and the environment and to support economic growth”. This noble cause ensures that very many trades and professions, from street sweeping to dentistry, from vehicle immobilising to insolvency practitioning, come under the aegis of an independent regulator.

Whole industries are regulated. What you watch and what you read is subject to strict government-issued guidelines. Your utilities are overseen by statutory bodies. Even professional football is about to be regulated.

You will be surprised, however, that there is one aspect of business life, one that we will all one day have reason to encounter, which remains totally unregulated, and this directly relates to one of the most distressing and heart-rending domestic news stories of recent times.

Such as they are known, the facts relating to this story are irredeemably grim.

A funeral director in Hull was last week raided by police after calls from the public in relation to “the storage and management and processes of the deceased people”.

Some 35 bodies, now all identified, were removed from the site and two people have been arrested on suspicion of the prevention of a lawful and decent burial.

It bears no imagining what actually happened at Legacy Funeral Directors, but it’s safe to say that many, many families in the Hull area will have been anguished and horrified at the thought of what may have happened to their deceased loved ones. Humberside Police say that they’ve had 1,500 calls from concerned people who have used this company’s services.

Amid the hue and the cry and the hand-wringing and the gestures of support, one aspect of this news story has been shocking to discover. The business of funeral directing is completely unregulated. This significant and meaningful industry is basically a free-for-all. You or I could open as a funeral director tomorrow without any oversight, or benchmarking of standards or qualifications or indeed any professional scrutiny whatsoever, and take possession of someone’s remains.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it would be up to us how much dignity we are prepared to afford the deceased.

How can this be? Those who decide not to join one of the two industry bodies representing funeral directors will not even be subject to regular checks and inspections. There is no more emotive, upsetting and highly-charged sphere of business than the care of dead bodies, and yet it’s left to chance whether a funeral director fulfils recognised levels of service.

Of course, most funeral directors – many of whom will have been in the business for generations – discharge their duties to the highest standards, but, without any regulation, it is possible – even probable – that desperately unfortunate situations like the one in Hull will recur, and thus infect the reputation of the whole industry.

The MP for Hull West and Hessle, Emma Hardy, spoke for many of her constituents in saying: “I am now calling for the process of bringing all funeral directors under a regulatory system to begin without delay.”

It is interesting, too, that the National Association of Funeral Directors, unlike most similar trade bodies for whom self-regulation is an article of faith, has been leading the call for the imposition of statutory regulation for some time. “We would like to see all UK funeral businesses compelled to meet a uniform quality standard,” it says.

It is not, of course, a subject that most people like to dwell upon, but spare a thought for those poor grieving friends and relatives in Hull, who are coming to terms with the realisation that what they thought was a dignified end for their loved ones turned out, in fact, to be anything but.

There are no second chances to get a funeral right, and it is a terrible state of affairs with which they now have to live. Let there be no prevarication or obfuscation from the government: this is a situation that needs tackling, and an industry that needs regulating, now.

QOSHE - The funeral industry has a shocking secret - Simon Kelner
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The funeral industry has a shocking secret

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21.03.2024

There are more than 90 regulatory bodies in the UK, and these cost the taxpayer around £4bn a year to run. The purpose of regulation, according to the National Audit Office, is to “protect and benefit people, businesses and the environment and to support economic growth”. This noble cause ensures that very many trades and professions, from street sweeping to dentistry, from vehicle immobilising to insolvency practitioning, come under the aegis of an independent regulator.

Whole industries are regulated. What you watch and what you read is subject to strict government-issued guidelines. Your utilities are overseen by statutory bodies. Even professional football is about to be regulated.

You will be surprised, however, that there is one aspect of business life, one that we will all one day have reason to encounter, which remains totally unregulated, and this directly relates to one of the most distressing and heart-rending domestic news stories of recent times.

Such as they are known, the facts relating to this story are........

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