The Right Honourable David Heath CBE, former Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and Minister of State in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has been appointed Chair of the Independent Funeral Standards Organisation (IFSO) – the new independent regulatory body being set up by the National Association of Funeral Directors.
IFSO will take over all the Association’s current inspections, complaints and monitoring activities – providing a robust mechanism to monitor quality standards among funeral firms that, the NAFD believes, will satisfy the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) recommendations.
IFSO will operate completely independently from the NAFD and will also be open to non-member firms, ensuring all funeral homes have the options to demonstrate to the public that they are abiding by a common set of industry high standards.
Jon Levett, Chief Executive of the NAFD, said: “This is a bold step by the NAFD. We are seeking to create a truly independent regulatory body for the funeral sector and I am delighted that we have been able to attract an independent chair of David’s calibre to lead it. David brings with him extensive experience in regulatory issues – and in standards monitoring in other consumer-facing sectors – that will ensure IFSO can quickly build the respect of Government, the CMA, the funeral sector and, most importantly of all, bereaved people.”
David Heath explained what attracted him to the new role and his immediate priorities: “I am not an expert in the funeral sector and that’s important,” he began. “It’s essential that I am independent and bring an objective perspective on the way the profession carries out its work. I will bring in the point of view of the consumer, but will also be considering what regulators are looking for – and why – to ensure that IFSO supports delivery of those outcomes.
“I don’t underestimate the hugeness of the task ahead of us in establishing IFSO. We need to make sure it acts in a proportionate way and we avoid over-prescriptive rulebooks. And we must also make sure that it makes a difference to the people that we are seeking to protect. In this respect we aren’t starting from a blank canvas. We already have professional standards monitoring in the sector through the two main trade bodies. It will make sense for regulators to use structures already in place that work well and we now have to make sure IFSO becomes effective in driving up standards.”
Over the next few months, David Heath will oversee appointment of a director of regulation for IFSO, a board of directors and the creation of a constitution. Another priority will be getting out and about – even if mainly virtually in the first instance. He added: “I need to grow my understanding of the issues, so will be meeting with people from across the sector, as well as the CMA and Government, including in Scotland, so that we can seek to ensure that there is consistency across the four nations.
“I’m very much looking forward to this new role – both to demonstrating the value and importance of IFSO to consumers and to supporting the funeral directing community, through the monitoring of high standards, in the important work they do with both bereaved and deceased people.”
You can read more comments by the Rt Hon David Heath CBE, about his new role, in the May edition of Funeral Director Monthly.
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