Funeral poverty is rising and the government are spending less than ever to help grieving people who can't afford a funeral. This is the news today from Royal London in their research report 'A False Dawn'.

The research reveals that:

  • People are taking on debts of, on average, £1,680 to be able to pay for a funeral
  • The government are spending less on the funeral fund than in ten years
  • The average funeral fund award is £1,429 compared to average funeral costs of £3,784
  • For customers struggling with costs, 40% of funeral directors didn't discuss the most affordable options

Heather Kennedy, Fair Funerals campaigns manager says:

“We welcome today’s report from Royal London which lays bare why so many grieving people are struggling with funeral costs. Royal London are entirely right to highlight the growing gulf between the Scottish Government and Westminster in their response to funeral poverty. Whilst Scotland have taken bold action to tackle funeral poverty and create a proper safety net for grieving people, the disappointing response from Westminster is letting people down.

As Royal London point out, the current review of the Social Fund Funeral Payment (the funeral fund) doesn’t address the fundamental problem with the fund; that its value has shrunk dramatically, to the point where it now covers less than half of a funeral. As the report explains, the gap between the funeral fund and funeral costs continues to widen. Through our work with grieving people on low incomes, we see the distress and financial hardship this creates. It leaves grieving families unable to raise the money to lay their loved one to rest. It leaves others shouldering crippling, unaffordable debts for years to come. It should be a matter of national concern that the cost of funeral poverty has increased from £150 million to £160 million in one year.

The Government is spending just £38.6 million on the funeral fund for people who can’t afford a funeral, the lowest figure for ten years. Worryingly, whilst the same number of people are applying for help every year, the awards being made by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are dropping significantly (27,000 awards were made in 2017 as compared to 41,000 in 2007). We would like the DWP to explain the reason for this decline in expenditure and awards.

We hope this report will help to raise awareness of the extreme variations in funeral directors costs, even within the same area. It’s very disappointing that so many funeral directors (40%) are still not discussing their most affordable options with people struggling financially. Grieving people need clear information about costs and options at a time when they’re unable to ask for them, so funeral directors have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible.

Funeral directors should think carefully about how best they can help people find a funeral within their means. Talking openly about money and displaying prices online should be part of the professional industry standards expected by trade bodies and the public. Often people feel too embarrassed to ask about costs. Funeral directors must lead the way by talking openly about money and showing that there is nothing to be ashamed of.”

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