The Scottish Government has announced it will match the ‘other expenses’ funeral benefit with the rest of the UK, increasing it from £700 to £1000 on 1 April 2020.
The “improved” benefit will provide greater financial support to thousands of families in need to help cover funeral costs at the time of bereavement, which include funeral director fees.
Funeral Support Payment covers burial and cremation fees in full, however, the ‘other expenses’ are a discretionary fund from which the recipient must cover several costs, including funeral director fees, celebrant’s fees, flowers and the cost of purchasing a coffin.
The ‘other expenses’ element has been capped at a maximum of £700 since 2003 and hasn’t increased since, although inflationary increases were scheduled to commence in Scotland from this year.
The £700 cap equates to over £1,100 in today’s prices, and since funeral costs have risen since 2003, the real value of the benefit for families in need has reduced by 35%.
The Scottish Government’s announcement follows a similar commitment from Westminster to increase the funeral benefit in England and Wales from £700 to £1000. However, the Scottish Government has gone one step further in stating that the increase will be uprated, which will see the value rise year-on-year to allow for inflating funeral costs.
Paul Stevenson, Scottish president of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), said: “Across the UK, poverty is forcing the hand of bereaved families, removing choices from them at their time of loss and, often, their sense of dignity.
“The funeral profession has been calling on the government to act for some years to improve financial support for at-need families and I welcome this announcement. In 2016, we calculated that the ‘other expenses’ benefit would need to increase to £1,500 to cover the costs incurred by the majority of Scottish families.”
He added: “This enhanced financial support will still make a significant difference to those families in the greatest need and allow them to provide their loved ones with a dignified and respectful send-off.”
It is anticipated that up to 5,000 Scottish families will benefit from this enhanced benefit each year.