Emma to propose new Bill to help with tragedy of funeral poverty

November 18, 2014

Emma Lewell-Buck 09 small

Emma has secured 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 Emma will propose the Funeral Services Bill, which if passed would make important changes to the Government support system known as Funeral Payments and stop people getting into debt.

At the moment households can apply for a Funeral 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. Emma’s Bill would introduce a new check to let households know whether they are eligible for funeral payments quickly. This will make it easier for people to plan their finances and reduce levels of funeral poverty.

The Bill would also require funeral directors to provide a ‘simple funeral’, to help customers understand what they can expect to pay for a standard service.

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

As Emma pointed out in her article for LabourList earlier this month, research by Royal London 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.

Emma 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 when it is proposed next month.” 

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. The fact is if you’re on a low income, funerals are just too expensive. People are getting into huge amounts of debt as a result which is stopping them for grieving properly.

“What 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.” 

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