Tackling funeral poverty


Funeral poverty is an increasing issue in the UK.

In October, Sun Life publish their annual Cost of Dying Report. 

See December report in the Daily Record about the scale of funeral poverty in Scotland.

To help understand the issues, imagine this…

You’ve just lost the person you most love in life. You can’t sleep, can’t settle, can’t eat. You have to organise the funeral. You’ve never done that before.  You don’t know what savings your sister/lover/friend had or how to access them. You’ve no savings. You don’t know what they’d have wanted. Got enough on your plate yet? Now find out the average funeral costs over £7,000. That’s relaxing. And now, try accessing benefits. Hard work if you’re not good at paperwork or never claimed benefits. And not encouraging to learn half those who apply for benefits won’t get any help.

Funeral poverty starts here

Sun Life tell us over a quarter of people pay for a funeral using their savings, a quarter borrow money from a friend or relative, under a quarter put costs on a credit card, one in ten sell belongings to raise the money and the rest take out a loan.  It depends very much on lending rates whether borrowing money leads onto funeral poverty.

At Final Fling, the last thing we want to see is people falling foul of funeral poverty when they don’t need to. We encourage people to think about funeral costs pragmatically, early on, way before it’s an issue. And we encourage people to be sensible and only spend what they can afford.

5 steps to avoid funeral poverty

  1. Check out our information on rules and options and understand where there’s flexibility on funeral costs.
  2. Organise a direct cremation… no lavish service – just have the body cremated, pick up the ashes and do your own ceremony with them.
  3. Organise a home funeral and say your goodbyes at a life celebration at home.
  4. Ask friends to bring a dish for a funeral tea round the kitchen table. It can be much more meaningful and personal as well as much cheaper than going out to a hotel.
  5. Buy a basic wooden or cardboard coffin. It can save a fortune.

Funeral plans

If you’d rather go with a funeral director and plan ahead, you can take out a funeral plan. It won’t cover all the costs but you’ll know at least the basics are covered. See our flexible funeral plan.

Action on Funeral Poverty

The Natural Death Centre set up in 1991 to help people understand their rights and options. They recently held a workshop for celebrants, funeral professionals, the church and other interested parties to discuss the plight of ordinary folks in distress because of funeral poverty. As a result, Final Fling and a group of other like-minded souls decided to form Mind the Gap, an action group to try to challenge the status quo and help families facing funeral poverty. Watch this space for updates and ‘asks’ for your support. If you are interested in getting involved, contact us.

Get help with funeral poverty

We spoke to Emily Roff who heads up WestGAP, a Scottish action group supporting people facing poverty. “Just today I’ve been advising someone on funeral poverty. There’s a tricky loop where the DWP want to see paperwork confirming the funeral director’s costs and the funeral director wants evidence that the DWP will pick up some of the tab before they’ll take on the job. We’re here to help and advise with form-filling and where to get help.” Contact WestGAP.

See Sun Life’s Cost of Dying report.

Read the Centre for Death and Society’s report on the subject: I Can’t Afford to Die: Addressing Funeral Poverty.

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