Emma tabled a question on Funeral Payments, which are allocated to people receiving income-related benefits in order to help them afford the cost of a service for a deceased relative. However, as Emma pointed out many people on low incomes also struggle to cover the cost of funerals, but do not qualify for support.
Emma told the House:
“Almost one in five people struggle to pay the cost of a funeral service for a member of their family, and more and more are taking on debts so that they can afford to pay for a service for their loved ones. Will the Minister therefore consider adjusting the criteria so that families suffering emotional hardship need not experience financial hardship as well?”
The Pensions Minister Steve Webb replied: “I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. We have expanded the scope of the budgeting loans scheme to include funeral costs, which were not previously eligible. If someone is short of cash to meet funeral costs, they can borrow money through the social fund if they are eligible for a budgeting loan, as well as applying for the grant that we pay, which averages £1,200.”
The Minister did not indicate that the Government would look at expanding the number of people eligible for support.
Research by AXA shows that the cost of the average funeral rose by 71 per cent between 2004 and 2012. Funeral poverty in the UK grew from £85 million in 2010 to £117 million in 2012.
The Citizens Advice Bureau have shown that even those who receive Funeral Payments find that the support is not enough. The average amount awarded in 2011/12 was £1,241, less than 40 per cent of the average cost of a funeral (£3,284)
Speaking after Work and Pensions Questions, Emma said:
“Losing a loved one is an extremely harrowing experience, and the last thing people in that position need is the financial stress of trying to find thousands of pounds to cover funeral costs. Constituents of mine have been refused funeral payments even though they have no money for a service, and the only way they have been able to give their loved ones a dignified funeral has been to take on debt.
“It is obvious that the current system is not working, and I am disappointed that the Minister did not agree to look at extending the support available so that families are no longer put in this impossible position.”