THE rest of the UK should learn from Scotland and stop state "neglect" over preparation of death.

A new report from the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research says that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to "progressive policies" that support citizens’ end of life care which the rest of the UK would do well to emulate.

In a wide-ranging report, covering all aspects of death, dying and bereavement services, the report authors suggest that the UK overall is ill-prepared in facing up to the realities of its ageing population and the care and support its people will require.

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But it highlights advances that have been made north of the border when it comes to re-establishing a vision of the welfare state that properly supports its citizens ‘to the grave’.

It argues that Scotland has used powers and resources devolved to it through devolution to "grasp the nettle about the scale of the issue".

HeraldScotland: More than 10,000 a year dying without palliative care

The authors suggest more must be done to join-up policies and to share best practice.

Last year around 600,000 people died in the UK and is estimated to have directly affected over two million people.

But the report says that despite the scale of the issue, for too long sensitive issues surrounding death and dying have been "pushed into the long grass, not featuring prominently in policy or parliamentary debates, absent from the airwaves, and barely registering in the public debate".

That has meant insufficient access to palliative care, sack of support for families whose children are dying, inadequate and badly reformed bereavement benefits and what it described as "growing funeral poverty".

It suggests public policies on death have evolved "piecemeal over decades and in silos", leading to "significant variance in the quality and quantity of policy and guidance available throughout the country".

And the report suggests taking tips from Scotland which it says is" leading the way by setting ambitious end of life care targets" that includes universal palliative care by 2021.

Lead author, Dr Kate Woodthorpe, senior lecturer in sociology from the Centre for Death & Society at the University of Bath, said: "National and regional devolution is showing early indications that innovation and modernisation is possible, and Scotland is arguably leading the way with ambitious targets and re-organisation of key policy areas.


"It is up to the rest of the country as to whether they wait to see how well Scotland fairs, or whether they use this as an opportunity to review, consolidate and improve how they support dying, death and bereavement.

"One thing is for sure: people who are dying or bereaved need and deserve public policy and services that are transparent and simple to access.

"At such a time in life, individuals and their families should not be subject to extra burdens as a result of inadequate policy, legislative and policy vacuums, incoherence, poor planning and so on.

"We know that the death rate in the UK is going to rise, and we know that this means that more and more people will be facing their own and other’s deaths. As a matter of public interest, death can no longer be neglected as a policy issue."

The report, in pointing to Scotland's progressive policies highlights Holyrood's plan to provide more help with funeral costs under plans for a new national assistance scheme.

The Scottish Government unveiled a 10-point plan in August to improve the support already available, including a new benefit and the funeral expense assistance, to be launched by summer 2019. It came as the cost of burials and cremations has been on the rise. In 2016 a basic burial, on average, cost more than £1,300, excluding undertakers fees, while the average local authority cremation cost £670.

The report also acclaims the appointment of Scotland's first Inspector of Funeral Directors in April to maintain standards and who was to conduct a review of the funeral profession during her two-year term.

The role was created following the so-called "baby ashes" scandal at Scottish crematoria.

Dr Woodthorpe added: “For too long we have been complacent about death’s social and economic consequences, and our policy responses. Government can no longer ignore the many, many challenges outlined in this brief.

"Whether these be the result of incoherent policies, competing priorities, resourcing issues, inadequate evidence-gathering or simply poor foresight and planning, death does not conveniently go away. We are seeing growing signs that the current systems are not sustainable and given the predicted rise in the death rate in the next two decades, we need to act now. "