What is funeral poverty?

Funeral poverty is where the price of a funeral is beyond a person’s ability to pay. This problem is getting a lot worse because funerals are getting much more expensive at the same time as support from the government is drying up. Funeral poverty has increased by 50% in just three years.


The impact of funeral poverty can be financial, in the form of unmanageable debt, but it can also be emotional in the form of the distress, shame and the perceived stigma of not being able to provide a ‘decent send-off’ for someone we love. 


Valerie, 49 from Bow in East London experienced funeral poverty following the death of her father. She said:

“When I didn’t know how I was going to pay for the funeral I was tearing my hair out. It was all I could think about. I couldn’t even start saying bye to dad.”

Rising funeral costs

The cost of funerals has risen more than 112% over the last 13 years

The average price for a cremation now stands at £3,596 and £4,561 for a burial. Prices are increasing at four times the rate of inflation and have risen above inflation for the past 35 years.

These costs are placing an unbearable burden on the already stretched finances of bereaved families, many of whom are getting into serious, unmanageable debt when they lose someone they love. In 2013 the most expensive transaction on credit cards was “Funeral Services”, with an average cost of £1,114. The situation is worse still for people who can’t access more affordable forms of credit and have to turn to high-interest lenders to cover funeral costs.


Vulnerable consumers

When we’re grieving we don’t act like savvy consumers. 

This is a big problem in an industry where there are such huge differences in what funeral directors charge for the same goods and services. And to make matters worse, it’s difficult to find clear, comparable information about what funerals really cost. 

Our online research originally found that 96% of funeral directors didn’t have prices on their websites. The National Association of Funeral Directors' own research shows that 85% of those who've purchased a funeral in the past five years want prices on sites. The Fair Funerals pledge means that a third of the industry now displays transparent, honest prices online.


Government support drying up

Funerals are getting much more expensive at the same time as support from the government is drying up. The Social Fund Funeral Payment is available to people on qualifying benefits when there is no money from the family or the estate of the deceased. It used to cover the cost of a basic funeral. It now only covers around 37% of the overall bill.

Making a claim can be a complex process and can leave people confused and frustrated at a very stressful and disorientating time.

Click here to download a briefing on funeral poverty.


NB All information on the Fair Funerals was last updated on 27th July 2018.