When Fair Funerals launched the #BurytheDebt campaign, it was our simple aim that the funeral fund be raised so it covered the cost of a basic funeral. The funeral fund was set up in 1989 to cover the cost of a basic funeral for families who would be otherwise unable to afford one, but it now pays less than 40% of the cost of a basic funeral, pushing grieving families into serious poverty and debt.
It is disappointing that the Chancellor Philip Hammond has yet again ignored the calls of bereaved people who find themselves in funeral poverty. Carolyn Harris MP, who has first-hand experience of funeral poverty after her young son unexpectedly died, has repeatedly called for a child funeral fund. This has been costed to be a mere £10 million per year, meaning no grieving parents would be left in debt to pay for their child’s funeral. But in Prime Minister Questions last Wednesday, Theresa May dismissed the fund, to shouts of “shame” from other MPs in the gallery. Although Mrs May expressed “sympathy” for Carolyn, she has refused calls for a fund. Afterwards, Carolyn commented “grieving families need more from this government than sympathy”.
What would it cost?
We’ve worked out that it would cost the government £18.2m to raise to the funeral fund to cover the cost of a basic funeral. This is less than the £22m bill for subsidised meals at the House of Commons over the past 6 years.
What can we do?
Thanks to the hard work of our incredible supporters, and especially the incredible lobbying and letter-writing by supporters, the issue is at least firmly in the mind of the Chancellor. Fair Funerals received a response to a letter to Phillip Hammond from Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, saying that our call to action was being mulled over. This is not the concrete response we’d hoped for, but it’s a great step towards meaningful reform of the funeral fund, that wouldn’t have happened without the actions taken by our supporters.
The battle may have been lost, but the war is far from over. If we continue pushing for the funeral fund to be increased, making the undeniable case that it’s best for people and the country in the long-term, our calls to action will have to be heard. We just hope you’re still listening, Philip Hammond.
The Chancellor says we need “a Britain we can be proud of” and “a country fit for the future” but to get that we need a funeral fund that’s fit for purpose. Write to your MP and ask them to shape the messages to the Chancellor about this. See our guide here.