South Shields MP bids to tackle ‘funeral poverty’

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is aiming to make it easier for people to pay for funerals.

She has won parliamentary time to propose a new Bill to tackle funeral poverty, which has seen hundreds of thousands of families get into debt because they can’t afford a funeral service for someone close to them.

On 9 December Mrs Lewell-Buck will propose the Funeral Services Bill which, if passed, would make changes to the Government support system known as Funeral Payments.

At the moment, families can apply for a payment to help with the cost of paying for a service but the process takes several weeks and, by the time most people find out if they qualify for help, they have already committed to costs.

The new Bill would introduce a new check to let people know whether they are eligible for funeral payments quickly by requiring funeral directors to provide a ‘simple funeral’ option to help customers understand what they can expect to pay for a standard service.

In addition, the Bill calls for a major review of funeral affordability to look at ways the rising cost of funerals can be brought under control.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said research shows that the cost of funerals has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Over 100,000 people in Britain now live with funeral debt, with the average amount owed being £1,305.

She said:

“I’m pleased to have the chance to raise this important issue in Parliament. People who have lost someone close to them have enough to deal with without worrying about getting into debt as well.

“Everyone has the right to a decent send-off, but funerals are becoming less and less affordable with each passing year. The Government needs to start paying attention to this issue now, and I hope MPs of all parties will back my Bill.”

Heather Kennedy, funeral poverty officer at Quaker Social Action said:

“As a charity that supports people in funeral poverty, we’re really pleased Emma is raising an issue which has been almost ignored by Government until now. We’re seeing more and more people come to us each month in need of help arranging and paying for a funeral.

“With the ageing population, rising funeral costs and the squeeze on incomes, this problem is set to get a lot worse. The Government need to tackle funeral poverty before it becomes a national scandal.“

Source –  Shields Gazette,  20 Nov 2014

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2 comments

  1. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mrs Lewell-Buck’s simple funeral option is a very good idea. I used to process the funeral payments when I worked at the Benefits Agency about twenty or so years ago. Funerals could be expensive even then, depending on the undertakers. Some could be extremely costly, especially if the deceased was being buried in Bath cemetery itself. Most funerals were below the £1,000 mark, but still nevertheless cost several hundred pounds, and I did see a few that were over a thousand in price. Most funerals were around £600-£700, but I did come across one that was about £1,500. It was a real worry to some people.

    I don’t know what the rules are now, but then the state paid for the cost of the funeral, a wreath, a decent but inexpensive coffin, and the hearse and one following limousine. I believe they also paid for two death certificates. I strongly advise anyone worried about funeral costs to check them for themselves, as I really don’t know how much has changed in the intervening years.

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