On Wednesday, 14 September MP for Belfast East Gavin Robinson tabled a debate in the House of Commons that addressed concerns around funeral poverty – in particular the current consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions on the Social Fund and the support available to low income families having to pay for funerals.
In response to the debate, Terry Tennens, chief executive of the National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), said:
“It was a very thoughtful and passionate discussion and I would like to thank Gavin Robinson for highlighting what is an incredibly important issue.
“Although burial and cremation costs continue to be met in full, there is no doubt that the £700 Social Fund payment for ‘non-discretionary’ third party items urgently needs reform. The figure has not increased since 2003 and is nowhere near enough to cover what many people would consider to be basic requirements – such as hiring a place of worship or the provision of an official to oversee the ceremony.
“Whilst the vast majority of SAIF members have only increased their prices in line with inflation, these third party costs have risen significantly – putting enormous strain on families at an incredibly difficult time. The average £1,347 payment from the Social Fund, which includes the cost of burial or cremation, leaves a 62% deficit, with the average cost of a funeral in the UK now at £3,700.
“Simplifying the application process and creating a Social Fund eligibility calculator so that families know if they can apply for funding before they incur any costs will also provide huge reassurance during what is obviously a very upsetting time.
“SAIF has long been campaigning for these changes and we have met with representatives from the DWP to advise on how they should be implemented.
“MPs also discussed the transparency of funeral costs and in particular a desire for funeral directors to clearly display all their prices upfront – including the offer of a simple, low cost funeral.
“SAIF members are already committed to this as part of our Code of Practice and we will look to develop this further moving forward.
“It is often easy to unfairly blame funeral directors for the growing cost of funerals and I was pleased to see that MPs recognised the help and support independent funeral directors provide to families in their time of need.
“We look forward to hearing the Government’s recommendations in due course and will continue to do all we can to ensure no family faces funereal poverty following the death of a loved one.”