South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today sought to “set the issue straight” over a statement she made in Parliament saying some grieving relatives were being forced to bury loved ones’ in their gardens.
The MP found herself buried beneath a barrage of criticism after making the suggestion when proposing her Funeral Services Bill last month.
Some critics claimed there was no evidence to back the assertion – and even funeral directors in her own constituency dismissed it,
But Mrs Lewell-Buck says the comment was taken out of context from the bill as a whole.
And she said her central aim, to highlight escalating funeral costs, had been lost amid the debate.
The Labour MP, who is to stand at the General Election in May, said there was also no suggestion in her speech that people in South Shields had buried relatives in their gardens.
“I really wanted to just set the issue straight because I feel I was misrepresented as the result of one small sentence.
“That one comment was picked up on and was the only issue focused on in the national and local press and in comments on the Internet.
“That’s why I felt the need to speak out because one sentence has been hijacked.”
In her letter the MP writes:
“My Bill calls for a Government review of funeral affordability in the UK.
“It also proposes changes to improve the Funeral Payments system, and the creation of a ‘simple funeral’ where funeral directors would be required to provide information about the cost of a standard service to help people make a better-informed decision about the service they choose.
“A lot of the reports on the Bill focused on the issue of garden burials, and while that was only a very small part of my speech and such burials are not commonplace, it has created a national conversation about this emotive and taboo subject.
“I would also like to clarify that this Bill is national and at no stage in my speech did I say people in South Shields or even the North East have buried relatives in their gardens.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck said she was particularly eager to dismiss any inference that she had misled Parliament in any way.
“I am very proud to be a member of Parliament and would never do that. I was just eager to ensure that people did not get the wrong end of the stick and to make my position crystal clear.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 09 Jan 2015
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.
“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
Some of Britain’s poorest households are finding it increasingly more difficult to cover the costs of funerals, according to a report by the University of Bath .
The average cost of a funeral, including administration and burial or cremation, has increased by 80% since 2004 and now stands at an eye-watering £7,622.
Poorer households can obtain help from the Funeral Social Fund, but according to the report low-income families and those on benefits face an average shortfall of £1,227, which raises questions about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) funeral payment scheme.
Despite vast improvements in healthcare and people living longer, we all have to meet our maker one day, but for some of Britain’s poorest households dying is swiftly becoming an inevitable end of life event which could leave their loved ones with a very hefty bill.
Dr Kate Woodthorpe from Bath University’s Centre for Death and Society, told the Daily Mirror:
“As a result people are living longer, which requires larger incomes and pension pots to ensure these extra years can be afforded.
“At the same time, the younger generations have less ready cash to call on, so they cannot necessarily be relied on to pick up the bill either.
“We know that the long-term decline in death rates is about to reverse, with a projected rise in the number of deaths around 15 to 20% in the next two decades.
“We also know that right now, with some of the lowest death rates ever recorded, the safety nets provided by the state via the Social Fund Funeral Payment and local authority public health funerals are under pressure.
“Their sustainability into the future is debatable.”
A spokesperson for the DWP also told the Daily Mirror: “The Funeral Payment scheme continues to cover the necessary costs of burial or cremation in full, because we know that these costs may vary widely across the country.
“A significant contribution is also made towards the fee levied by funeral directors which is currently set at £700.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 21 Jan 2014