Social Justice

UK funeral poverty hits record high

New report reveals £160 million worth of debt among families struggling to pay for rising funeral costs

The UK stagnant economy may have flatlined, but the cost of a funeral continues to rise.

The latest Royal London National Funeral Cost Index report has found that costs have risen 3% in the past year to a whopping £3,784.

One in five people are now struggling to afford to pay for a loved one’s funeral, and the average debt amounts to £1,680.

It means the staggering cost of funeral poverty across the nation now sits at a record high of £160 million, up just over £10 million from last year.

Leading charities and funeral cost experts called on the Westminster government to follow the lead set by the Scottish Government, whose ministers recently outlined a 10-point plan to tackle funeral poverty.

The gap between the funeral fund and funeral costs continues to widen

The UK government is spending just £38.6 million a year on the Social Fund Funeral Payment, a hardship fund available to struggling families.

Heather Kennedy, the “fair funerals” campaign manager at Quaker Social Action campaigns manager at Fair Funerals, said payments have shrunk, and now cover less than half the cost of an average funeral.

“The gap between the funeral fund and funeral costs continues to widen,” said Kennedy. “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.”

Government action to tackle funeral poverty is long overdue

Quaker Social Action has urged funeral directors to be more proactive in discussing their most affordable options with people. “Talking openly about money and displaying prices online should be part of the professional industry standards expected by trade bodies and the public,” said Kennedy.

The average cost for a burial in the UK now stands at £4,257, while typical cremation costs are £3,311.

The Royal London report found evidence that private crematoriums charge higher fees and have increased their fees by more compared to local authority crematoriums.

“With thousands of bereaved people struggling to pay funeral costs and taking on nearly £1,700 in debt to ensure their loved one has a decent send-off, it is clear that government action to tackle funeral poverty is long overdue,” said Royal London expert Louise Eaton-Terry.

Photo: Don LaVange, licensed under Creative Commons.

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