The Government has responded to the recommendations made by a cross-party committee of MPs on the system of support they provide to bereaved people. Following the committee’s recommendation the Government has said it will consider undertaking a coordinated review of burials, cremations and funerals. The Government has also committed to work with stakeholders to agree the elements of a standard funeral and what a reasonable cost of this would be.
Heather Kennedy, Fair Funerals campaign manager, provided the following statement: “The government have finally recognised their support for bereaved people needs serious improvement. Hopefully today’s announcements will see the reform of a system the Work Pensions Select Committee has described as “outdated” and “opaque”.
“Following cross-party concerns, the government has agreed to reconsider the amount paid out by their funeral grant for people with no other means to pay for a dignified sent-off. The funeral grant used to cover the cost of a basic funeral but now only covers around a third of this cost. This shortfall leaves bereaved families in crippling, often unmanageable debt.
“The government will “consider” the cross-party recommendation that they follow the Scottish Government and carry out a systemic review into causes of funeral inflation. For the sake of everyone worried about high funeral costs, we urge them to take this up. The cost of an average funeral in the UK increased from £3,562 to £3,702 last year. This is an increase of 3.9%, almost four times higher than the rate of UK inflation. These steep increases are predicted to rise rapidly into the future. And as more people face later life without enough money to get by, funeral poverty, if ignored, is on course to become a national scandal.
“We were very surprised to hear the government say they already provide a telephone eligibility checker so people can find out if they can expect to receive state support. The grieving people we support through our Down to Earth are not offered this service. At the moment people need to wait until the funeral is over to find out if they’ll get any support at all. This is a particular problem for those whose faith requires them to be buried very quickly.
“The Select Committee’s inquiry has been ground breaking in forcing the long ignored issue of funeral poverty on the agenda and we hope their active involvement in this topic will continue.”