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Industry viewpoint – Social Funeral Fund / Funeral Poverty

Back in 2011/12 we wrote and received many letters from them the minister in charge of the DWP Iain Duncan Smith concerning payments for Social Fund Funerals.

For many years we never received the full amount of £700 plus cremation or burial fees and doctors fees for cremation, it was always approximately £150 short, also up to 13 weeks to receive payment.

The NAFD and SAIF did nothing whatsoever in over 20 years they stood back seeing funeral poverty growing and left it to the good nature of the Independent Funeral Directors to work with comparison sites, the Fair Funeral Pledge, Fair Price Charter.

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The charter is trying bring down funeral prices, and all the time the large groups were pumping prices up and these were members of the NAFD working to a code of practice ( well they do pay their subscription and have a window sticker).

During the time that letters were being sent back and forth with the DWP it transpired that the shortfall in payment was actually the DWP recovering overpayment on benefits of the deceased. This is because benefits are paid fortnightly if the person died in the first week or part way into the second week there would be an overpayment and it seemed that for many years no one questioned it therefore take it from the funeral payment.

I threatened that I would get as many funeral directors as I could to stop conducting funerals that are subject to claims from the DWP. In February 2013 I received a letter from the DWP stating that from April 2013 they would stop recovering overpayments from the funeral directors payment.

That left the other problem where if a claim is rejected and the claimant is not entitled to claim the DWP will not inform the funeral directors although they are aware that we are paying for the funeral on behalf of the claimant, and that they will be paying us directly they will not divulge if the claim has been submitted or rejected apparently data protection.

Over the years we have lost thousands of pounds in unpaid claims.

Last month I again wrote to Amber Rudd minister for the DWP with my concerns, I have had no reply.

I have now taken the decision that I will no longer conduct any funeral that is subject to a claim through the DWP.

It’s so many years since there has been an increase in the £700 payment, and because of the greed for profit it is impossible to conduct a funeral at that price, five years ago we could barely make a profit, again putting it on the shoulders and good will of the small independent. If there was enough funeral directors ready to make a stand we could demand a change.

Funeral Services Times reached out to the SAIF for comment, a statement said: “We would invite the person making these complaints to contact us directly to discuss their concerns.

“SAIF is committed to working across the funeral profession for the benefit of bereaved people. One area of significant focus for many years is the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment. We’ve petitioned the Government continuously for a range of reforms, including the amount of money available per funeral and the speed of settlement.”

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