The call for action on funeral poverty has been gaining political momentum over the last few years, most recently with the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into funeral poverty.
In December 2015 the Work and Pensions Select Committee announced an inquiry into funeral poverty, partly initiated by the efforts of Quaker Social Action and other members of the Funeral Poverty Alliance to highlight funeral poverty to the Committee. Click here to download our response to the inquiry.
The cross-party Committee of MPs called for radical reform of the benefits system for bereaved people, calling it "opaque" and "outdated". They also referred the funeral industry to the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate concerns that it is uncompetitive. And crucially, the Committee recommended that Social Fund Funeral Payments be increased to cover the cost of a basic or simple funeral. These payments have been devalued in recent years to the point where they now only cover around a third of an average funeral bill.
We're now waiting to hear back from the Department of Work and Pensions to see whether they will implement the recommendations made by the Committee. Clear here to read the Committee's full report and list of recommendations.
Brought by Conservative MP Paul Maynard, the Debate heard from MPs across all main parties, all speaking in favour of action to tackle funeral poverty. The Debate revealed, in the words of Patricia Gibson MP, “uncharacteristic consensus across the house.”
The Parliamentary Under Secretary Justin Tomlinson responded to the debate by confirming discussions would be followed up by meeting with the Minister of State for Pensions Ros Altmann.
Eleven MPs spoke in the debate including Stella Creasy (Labour), Mark Pawsey (Conservative), Karen Lumley (Conservative), Catherine West (Labour), Stella Creasy (Lab), Jim Shannon (DUP), Philip Boswell (SNP), Patricia Gibson (SNP), Robert Jenrick (Conservative) and Nick Thomas-Symonds (Labour).
Brought by Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck, the Bill passed its first reading which brought cross-party support from MPs including Caroline Lucas, Frank Field, Dianne Abbott and Peter Bottomley. The Bill called for an eligibility checker so people could quickly find out if they could get help from the Social Fund Funeral Payment and the requirement that all funeral directors provide a simple, affordable funeral service.
Click here to download the full wording of the Bill.