MPs back Emma’s call for Funeral Poverty Bill

December 12, 2014

130904 - Emma Lewell Buck smallMPs have supported Emma’s call for a Bill to address funeral poverty in Britain, following a speech in the House of Commons earlier this week.

Emma spoke about the problem of rising funeral costs, which now mean one in five families struggle to afford the cost of a basic funeral service. Over 100,000 people are living with funeral debt, with some taking out payday loans to cover the price of a service.

Emma said:

“Losing a loved one can be one of the most devastating experiences we face. Everyone who loses someone close to them wants to give them a decent send-off, but sadly fewer and fewer people are now able to afford even a basic funeral.

“We do not hear a lot about this problem: because of its deeply personal nature, funeral poverty remains taboo. Today I am proposing measures to end that taboo and to ensure that no one has to endure the agony of worrying about funeral costs at the same time as grieving.”

A recent report shows that the average cost of a funeral is now £3,551, and that 46% of people who arrange a funeral find that the costs are more than they expect.

Emma also explained how the Funeral Payments available to help poor families are poorly designed, and can cause as many problems as they solve. Families have to commit to funeral costs before applying, and this can encourage some families to buy a more expensive service, only to find they do not qualify for help. This can leave them with significant debts to pay.

Emma’s Bill, the Funeral Services 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’. Funeral directors would be required to provide information about the cost of this standard service to help people make a better informed decision about the service they choose.

Although some of the media coverage of the motion has focused on the extreme example of individuals burying relatives in their back garden, this is a distraction from the much wider problem of funeral poverty.

Speaking after the debate, Emma said:

“I’m pleased that MPs have backed my bid to bring in a Bill on funeral poverty. This is a very important issue, but one that a lot of people feel uneasy talking about. It’s important that we break the silence on funeral poverty, and start a conversation about how we can bring funeral costs down so that bereaved people can give a proper send-off to those close to them.

“A lot of the reports on the motion have focused on the issue of garden burials, and whilst that was only a very small part of my speech it has created a national conversation about this emotive and taboo subject.  I have been overwhelmed by the amount of kind messages from people across the country who have shared their stories and thanked me for putting this issue out there.  I introduced the Bill because I want to help the one hundred thousand households a year who are having to get into debt to afford a funeral service for someone they care about and this is something I will continue to campaign for.”

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