Cost of dying prompts funeral poverty
PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 July 2015
FAMILIES are facing ‘inevitable funeral poverty’ as the cost of dying rises seven times faster than the cost of living – and experts warn even those who have saved will find their cash ‘won’t be enough’.
Statistics show the average cost of a funeral is around £3,200, which is an 80 per cent increase in 10 years.
But that cost does not include extras such as flowers, wreaths, catering and venue hire. This means the final price can rocket to more than £5,000.
Experts blame rising fees like crematorium costs, which in Weston have risen from £440 to £815 in just five years.
However, one cheaper option which could soon be available in Weston will be to share burial plots – with the town council now considering re-using some graves.
Heather Kennedy, funeral poverty campaigner at Quaker Social Action said: “No-one should have to go through the distress of not being able to afford a decent send-off for someone they love.
“But the fact is because of the price of funerals and the lack of state support, funeral poverty is inevitable for a lot of people.
“In the absence of statutory legislation of the funeral industry, we need the kind of consumer scrutiny that already exists for the other big purchases we make in our life like houses and cars. This simply doesn’t exist for funerals.
“We can’t be expected to behave like shrewd consumers when we’re struggling with grief.”
According to the research by insurance company SunLife, the cost of dying is rising seven times faster than the cost of living and charities such as Age UK are concerned the elderly are particularly at risk from rising fees.
Age UK Somerset chief executive Philip Dolan said: “Funeral costs have risen so sharply that they are a difficult thing for people to plan for.
“It is my experience that in later life people like to get all their arrangements sorted and have everything in order, and of course part of that is funeral costs.
“But what we are finding is that older people are either getting confused about the costs and what is covered in the costs, and also they might save money and think it is enough but unless they keep revisiting it, in four or five years it won’t be enough.”
Limited Government assistance is available to people receiving benefits, if they do not have any close relatives with sufficient savings, but that help is capped at around 35 per cent of the overall cost.
Recent increases, such as crematorium fees, have not been matched by a rise in Government help.
Weston Crematorium, for example, now costs up to £815 for a standard cremation and use of the chapel, almost double the £440 it charged when the facility was operated by North Somerset Council prior to 2010.
A burial in Milton Road Cemetery, run by Weston Town Council, costs up to £762.
Weston backing for fairer funerals campaign
STEEP fees facing the bereaved have prompted funeral directors across the UK to sign a pledge for fairer funerals.
The Quaker Social Action group has launched a nationwide campaign, asking firms to make costs fairer for the bereaved.
The pledge asks funeral directors to make their most affordable package visible and ensure there are no hidden costs.
Howard Goodman Funeral Home in the Boulevard, Weston, has signed up to the scheme.
Manager Gavin Burnett said: “It is about fair, honest and transparent pricing so things like funeral directors making sure the prices are published clearly and are displayed in the home, and people can simply understand they are not being charged for things they don’t need.
“People are ending up in funeral poverty, struggling to pay for things.
“Help is available from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but the benefit hasn’t risen very much while funeral costs have gone up 80 per cent. The cost of crematoria, cemeteries, things like that have gone up.
“It is really difficult and everybody is struggling, it is such a big expense at a difficult time – people do struggle to pay.”
Mr Burnett said even people who are eligible to make a claim can sometimes not hear back for several months, only to find out their claim may have been denied.
But Mark Mason, from Mason’s Funeral Directors, in Drove Road, believes funeral directors are doing all they can and it is time for Government intervention.
He said: “I don’t think there is much more funeral directors can do. I think what needs to be done is by the DWP.
“People on benefits can get help towards it but it has been the same price for 10 years or so, it doesn’t cover the cost of funerals at all. That needs to be changed.”