Can’t Afford to Die

Millions Can’t Afford To Die in Britain.

According to academic research many are too poor to die in modern Britain.

Bath Universities specialist department studying longevity has been astonished to uncover the depth of the problems caused by the rising cost of funerals.  Yet again, funeral costs have risen by more than double the rate of inflation.

The report demands that Social Fund Funeral Payment is reviewed and updated to be in touch with the real world, where the average death in 2013/14 costs over £7,600 in funeral and estate administration.,

This year over 100,000 families will have problems paying for a funeral.

The report says over 100,000 people will find difficulty in paying funeral this year alone. We appreciate that not everyone can afford any sort of prepaid funeral plan, but many have savings earning well below the rate of inflation (if anything) when they could be transferred into a prepaid funeral plan and effectively be growing at the equivalent of over 7%.  And you can combine a deposit with monthly payments or just pay monthly if that is easier

Despite the lowest ever death rates, the cost of death has continually risen in recent years. Funeral costs increased by an unaffordable 80% from 2004 and 2013, and are expected to continue to increase over the next 5 years. So those who purchased a prepaid funeral plan just 9 years earlier have seen a brilliant “return” on their money.

The typical funeral in early 2014 is £3,456. Extras such as a memorial, flowers and catering add over £2,000.  Estate administration costs have increased substantially, to nearly £2,200.

The Social Fund Funeral Payment is supposed to help those who struggle to pay for a funeral. But with an average shortfall of £1,277, the report says ‘funeral poverty is 50% higher than it was as recently as 3 years ago.

Local Councils are finding increased in demand for “paupers funerals”  because families are unable or unwilling to organise or pay for the funeral.  If they do, and the Social Fund refuses the claim, that can be a disaster as the person who booked the funeral dirctor has to pay the lot.  And they may not realise until it is too late.

Dr Kate Woodthorpe explained: “Medical advancement has made significant improvements to death rates. As a result people are living longer, which requires larger incomes and pension pots to ensure these extra years can be afforded. Whether or not these will stretch to cover funeral costs is unclear. 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 15-20 per cent 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.”

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the ILC-UK said: “Modern medicine and advances in public health have led to falls in the number of deaths over many decades. But the pattern of falling death numbers is about to turn around and start to increase. This new University of Bath Institute for Policy Research report highlights that the social fund is not coping with the relatively small number of deaths we are facing today.

“With growing funeral costs, quite simply, growing numbers of people might find they can’t afford to die. Government must act now before the current issue of funeral poverty becomes an even more significant future crisis. As a society we don’t talk enough about dying. But nor do public policy makers. We must find a way to open a debate about dying early and ensure that we and our families are as prepared as we possibly can be.”

To access the policy briefing ‘Funeral poverty in the UK: issues for policy’ in advance see http://www.bath.ac.uk/ipr/our-publications/policy-briefs/funeral-poverty.html .