In The News

MP warns of problems caused by funeral poverty

MP warns of problems caused by funeral poverty

AN MP has warned that some families are facing what she called ‘funeral poverty’ because of the costs involved in burying a relative.

Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck (pictured), who represents South Shields in the North of England, raised the issue in the House of Commons in a bid to get the Government to act on the issue.

The MP introduced 10-minute rule motion as a way of raising awareness of her concerns and to ask the Government to make funding available for poorer households.

Ms. Lewell-Buck told the Commons that some families were being forced to hold DIY funerals and even end up burying loved ones in gardens.  

The backbench MP also said that some families ended up having to sell possessions in a bid to meet the funeral costs. She said a report from Royal London Insurance company had suggested as many as 100,000 families bereaved each year struggled to afford the cost of a funeral with debt averaging £1,300.

Out of control

Ms. Lewell-Buck told MPs: “One woman from my area approached the Citizens Advice Bureau with unmanageable costs. She had been unable to get the money together to pay for a headstone for her brother’s grave. She ended up applying for a payday loan and the cost of repaying this debt had quickly got out of control. Sadly her story is not an isolated one.”

She said the problem could only get worse as funeral costs rise, adding that the average cost is already more than £3,500.

The MP said the high costs are resulting in some families having to make difficult decisions. “We’re also seeing people turn to alternatives to the traditional funeral,” she said, “Some are holding do-it-yourself funerals and even having to bury their relatives in their back garden.”

Help available

Some help is already available towards funeral costs.

In Northern Ireland, funeral payments can be paid from a Social Fund. People who are receiving benefits may be eligible to receive a payment. Get more information about Funeral Payments.

Following yesterday’s debate the Department of Work and Pensions issued the following statement: “Funeral payments provide important support for people on low incomes and certain benefits. The average payment is £1,225 and this has risen by more than 30% over the last decade.”

Public health funerals

In cases where there are no relatives to make arrangements the deceased person may be given a public health funeral. This is when responsibility is taken by a local authority or health authority to pay for the funeral and then to subsequently try to recoup the costs from the deceased’s estate.

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