Natalie McKail, the former Inspector of Funeral Directors in Scotland, has been appointed to succeed the Rt Hon. David Heath CBE as chair of the Independent Funeral Standards Organisation.

Natalie’s appointment reflects a decision taken by the NAFD Governing Board, as sole IFSO member, to require prudent adjustments to IFSO’s operational structure, in response to the ongoing developments in the external policy environment which affect IFSO’s ability, in the short-to-medium term, to become a regulator for funeral firms beyond those already in NAFD membership.

Since it was launched last year, the Independent Funeral Standards Organisation has built a strong service and brand – designed to meet its objective of delivering independent and proportionate voluntary regulation for the UK funeral sector that boosts consumer trust in funeral home standards of care.

However, the announcement of licensing of funeral directors in Scotland, the inclusion of the funeral sector in the Fuller Inquiry into care of deceased people and the continuing absence of clear direction from the Ministry of Justice on their preferred regulatory model has necessitated these adjustments, which will ensure IFSO’s provision of independent standards monitoring remains unaffected, but pause growth plans until the policy direction is clearer.

Natalie will be supported by an independent board, who will provide oversight of the work of IFSO’s team of Quality, Risk and Compliance Managers, led by Nigel Cooper and ensure seamless continuity of IFSO’s independent standards monitoring service to the 4,100 UK funeral homes in NAFD membership.

Independent Chair of the NAFD Governing Board, Jonathan Rees, said: “We launched IFSO to become a regulator for the entire funeral sector.

“However, these recent policy developments have combined to change fundamentally IFSO’s operating environment and short-term growth potential and so the NAFD Governing Board took the decision to ensure that IFSO’s pace of growth and operating costs could adapt in response, while continuing to provide an independent quality assurance model.

“In Natalie, we benefit from her extensive regulatory experience of the funeral sector and understanding of both the Funeral Director Code and the Statutory Code in Scotland – and I am delighted that she has agreed to come on board. She was also the architect of what is now the IFSO inspection regime, having undertaken an independent review of how NAFD members were inspected in 2019.

“On behalf of the Governing Board, I would like to thank David Heath, Director of Regulation John Withington and the retiring IFSO Board members for their commitment and hard work in establishing IFSO as a credible independent standards monitoring regulator for the funeral sector, particularly in light of this rapidly evolving policy environment. They have established a strong foundation which Natalie, Nigel and the team will build upon.”

Added Natalie: “I would like to thank David,  John and the team for setting up an organisation with such strong foundations and I am very much looking forward to getting started.

“Significant work has already been undertaken, not only through the creation of IFSO but more broadly in the sector, to embrace regulation and  I look forward to bringing both my experience of the sector, but also over 20 years working in regulation, to lead IFSO into a proportionate and meaningful regulatory future.

“It is critical that we understand how the regulatory agendas of the Ministry of Justice, Scottish Government and CMA will intersect, and ensure IFSO is able to adapt its’ regulatory framework to response – as that will be key to maintaining consumer confidence in funeral directors and ensuring high standards of quality that consumers rightly expect when they arrange a funeral.”