Our campaign to get funeral poverty on the political agenda took a major step forward this week. Following from this week’s Westminster Hall Debate, the Minister Justin Tomlinson MP announced a roundtable will be arranged to explore solutions to the issues raised.
Tuesday saw the first Westminster Hall Debate (13 October 2015) on funeral poverty, led by Blackpool MP Paul Maynard (@PaulMaynardMP).
Westminster Hall Debates allow individual MPs to raise serious issues prior to legislation in the House of Commons.
Calls for action
The debate was attended by an impressive number of MPs from right across the political spectrum. In his opening speech Maynard gave his support for several solutions developed by the Fair Funerals campaign including for a third party advocate scheme that supported people to find a funeral they can afford. He praised the Scottish Government for the inquiry the will be conducting into different aspects of funeral poverty and called on the Minister (Justin Tomlinson MP) to look very closely at this work.
Praise for QSA
In praise of our Fair Funerals pledge, Paul said:
Quaker Social Action runs its Fair Funerals Pledge, and many funeral directors are signing up to it, particularly from the younger end of the industry—the insurgents. That disruptive influence on the industry, focusing on what the consumers actually need, can only be a good thing.
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, who has been an active supporter of Fair Funerals and introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on funeral costs last year, stated “more than 100,000 people are living with funeral debt, while others struggle to meet the costs, end up selling their possessions, or turn to friends or family”.
The debate fostered cross party support. According to Patricia Gibson MP it had “inspired uncharacteristic consensus” across the hall.
Many MPs offered personal stories and surgery cases of problems with funeral directors and the Social Fund payments.
“I add my support for Quaker Social Action and the work it has done on the matter." -Stella Creasy, MP
The next step
Answering for the government was Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson. The Minister was most concerned about why so many applications to the Social Fund Funeral Payment were being rejected.
In all 11 MPs spoke in the debate include: Paul Maynard MP (Con), Karen Lumley (Con), Emma Lewell-Buck (Lab), Catherine West (Lab), Stella Creasy (Lab), Mark Pawsey (Con), Yvonne Fovargue (Lab), Jim Shannon (DUP), Philip Boswell (SNP), Patricia Gibson (SNP), Robert Jenrick (Con), Nick Thomas-Symonds (Lab). Also present was John Cryer (Lab).
Our Fair Funerals campaign is working with policy makers, the funeral industry and the wider public to tackle the root of the problem. Over 300 funeral directors have signed our Fair Funerals pledge.
This year QSA won a Third Sector award for our work on funeral poverty which includes our support service Down to Earth. Anyone in the UK on a low income contact us for free advocacy and advice to arrange an affordable and meaningful goodbye.