Category Archives: Paupers Funerals

Refused Bereavement Grant: Would You Qualify?

Grieving student nurse Refused Bereavement Grant.

Beccy Oxley is in thousands of pounds worth of debt after being refused government help for her dad’s funeral. She is a student nurse and as next of kin, she was asked to pay for the funeral which cost £3,500.  Unfortunately, the Department of Work and Pensions decided that the 30 hour a week unpaid placement she is required to do as part of her nursing course, according to the Liverpool Echo.

At just 24 and a fairly penniless student, you would have thought she would have been a prime candidate for DWP support.  But the rules seem to be set up to avoid payment if at all possible. On the face of it the Bereavement Grant should be there to support people such as Beccy. Instead, she will have a substantial debt to support whilst she continues her training as a nurse to help the rest of us.


In an ideal world, we would all have prepaid funeral plans rather than having to rely on either a paupers funeral or hoping to obtain a Bereavement Grant or plunge friends or relatives into debt.  In early 2017 the cost of a funeral is typically around the level of debt Beccy was saddled with.

Here are the contact details to apply for a  bereavement grant.

Call the Bereavement Service helpline.

  • Telephone: 0345 606 0265
  • Welsh language: 0345 606 0275
  • Textphone: 0345 606 0285
  • Welsh language: 0345 606 0295

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Bereavement and widows’ benefits if you’re abroad
Telephone: +44 191 21 87608
Find out about call charges

Or write to:
Department for Work and Pensions
Bereavement and widows’ benefits
International Pension Centre
Tyneview Park
NE98 1BA

You must include your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number

Low Cost Cremation Plans – The Way Forward?

Low Cost Cremation Plans – are they the way forward?

Leading bereavement expert says MPs’ Report On The State of Funeral Provision Is inaccurate. As British Funeral Culture Is Changing Rapidly. We at the Prepaid Funeral Review feel that there is some truth in that.  However, in the vast majority of cases, there will be significant emotional problems for at least some of those left behind. But that is just our view.  We have no problem organising great value low cost cremation plans for people who really understand them. Our concern is over the meaning of the word “direct” and the lack of understanding.

Direct Cremation and Low cost cremation: the answer to funeral poverty?

Following the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee’s damning report into the state of funeral provision for the poorer elements of society, a leading UK funeral expert believes the solutions to the problems already exist.

Maybe there is already a solution.    Simple out of normal hours cremation, and direct cremation plans where the deceased is cremated at a low cost crematorium. That crematorium may be hundreds of miles away.  Most do not allow the family to attend even if they could. There is a market for that, and some high profile celebrities like David Bowie have drawn greater attention to this as an option.

The Select Committee findings criticised the “opaque and outdated” state support arrangements for those unable to afford the cost of a funeral. Also the rigid definitions around whom the Government deems to have been “close” to the deceased. And fair game to be lumbered with the cost. Howard Hodgson, an innovative funeral director, agrees, pointing out that the provisions have not been reviewed for 13 years. However, he goes on to criticise its’ dated assessment of the market.  He says that there is no need for the intervention of the competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority.

Low cost cremation plans – why are they now acceptable to some?

Hodgson says the report fails to recognise that the market has changed dramatically to meet increased demand for low cost direct cremation.  Hodgson says there are two main drivers for this change:

  1. Financial considerations: fewer people are willing or able to afford funeral from normal cash reserves. Funeral poverty affects a significant proportion of the population.  Unless, of course, they have taken our advice and invested in a prepaid funeral plan!
  2. Less religious concerns for many of the population.

Reacting to the Select Committee’s report, Howard Hodgson said;

At Memoria it has become evident to us that there is an increasing desire by a growing section of the general public for a low cost direct cremation service. We do not believe that this will totally replace the traditional funeral but we do have significant evidence that it is increasing its market share at an impressive rate, signifying a distinct cultural change in the way people are approaching funerals.

Therefore, we believe that there is not only a moral need to supply this legitimate demand, but that such provision can also reduce the cost of a funeral by around 70%.  This must be good news for both the less well off and the public purse.

Just to ignore this trend is not in the interest of either the funeral industry or the Government. Indeed, no costly Government intervention is necessary because the market has found a solution to the problem as it usually does in a free enterprise economy.

We are now seeing a groundbreaking change as the baby boomers start to end their days. This generation changed the fashion of life and now it is changing the fashion of death. This is good news for families who want to select low cost direct cremation and yet does not impact at all on those who don’t.” 

Low Cost Cremation – Good, Bad, Indifferent?

Stephen Pett of the Prepaid Funeral Review said “Any financial preparation for a funeral has to be good for those left behind.  Direct Cremation Plans are increasingly an acceptable form of planning, but only in the right family context.  Why not contact us for advice?”

Clueless Funeral Arrangers: How Not To Mess Up A Funeral

Clueless Funeral Arrangers

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

Most family members or friends who end up with the job as funeral arrangers are clueless.  Not because they are daft or inexperienced (though they probably will be inexperienced!)  It will be because they don’t have a clue what the deceased actually wanted to happen.  Four in ten don’t even know if they wanted to be buried or cremated.   As to the type of ceremony (or none) or who should be invited – not the faintest idea.  That means they fall easy prey to less scrupulous target driven undertakers who guilt trip the funeral arranger into buying needlessly expensive coffins, flowers, memorials .  A £3,500 funeral fee could easily be doubled – and leave the family in needless debt. A few hundred pounds on a posher coffin, limos for the family, a coach and horses and that could add £2,000 to the bill in minutes.

Over one 20% of people funeral arrangers were totally clueless about the deceased persons wishes! Just one in a hundred were confident they knew exactly what the deceased wanted. That uncertainty leaves room for stress, worry, guilt and family arguments as to the rights and wrongs of every part of the arrangements.

The average funeral in early 2016 cost £3,897.  That was an increase rise of over £203 in a single year. Since Sun Life started tracking funeral prices in 2004 costs have more than doubled. (Except for those families who had invested in a sound prepaid funeral plan of course.)  On top of the basic cost of the funeral, the average cost of extras including flowers and the wake is very nearly another £2,000.

So what should you make sure that your family funeral arranger will know when the time comes?

1. What sort of funeral do you want?
What songs you would like played.   Whom you would like invited.   You may not care about a lot of things like coffins or flowers or donations.  But you may.  And one of the great advantages of prepaid funerals is that they give you the opportunity to consider what is important to you. At the same time you are reducing the burden on the final funeral arranger.  Even if you don’t care, a firm decision makes things easier for those left behind.  You can always update your wishes as the years go by and things change, but what you won’t know is when they will be needed, so advance planning is clearly rather important!   Whether you want a sound but economical funeral or a more elaborate one, make the choice early. And pay for it of you can.

2. Consider the cost.
Some of your decisions will have no bearing on cost, but if you want a large crowd and a horse-drawn hearse, they will be expensive. It’s worth talking to us about a the cost, so you can see how much your ideal funeral will cost. If this comes in as far more expensive than you had expected, then you can compromise. Or start off with a basic prepaid funeral plan and add to it later, rather than let the burden fall on your family.

3. How you will pay for it.
Insurance companies would have you take a stab in the dark and buy a fixed cash value policy, which may be worth half as much in 7 years and just a sixth of the value in 20 years.  Funeral cost inflation has been consistently high.  Not only that but with many policies you will lose
every penny if a couple of payments are missed.  And that is very likely to happen when you are older and finances are stretched.  Worse still you may end up paying in more than you get out.  Or with the “guarantee” that you will never pay out less than you have paid in. So in effect, you have lent them your money interest free for thirty years!

4. Talk to your family.
Once you have thought through your wishes, and what you can afford.   Then you can tell your family about your ideal funeral. It won’t always be an easy conversation, but it is an important one, and they will be the funeral organisers at the end of the day.  Good funeral plans are flexible though!

Funeral Plan Enquiry

Funeral arrangers – use our enquiry form to the right.

Cost of Dying Doubles in 10 Years

The cost of dying in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in the last decade.

Funeral costs in Northern Ireland

Funeral costs in Northern Ireland double

Northern Ireland funeral costs now exceed £3,000 on average, according to the Belfast Telegraph. That is a rise of 106% since 2004. Paupers’ funerals, carried out for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay, have also jumped alarmingly in recent years. Consequently families are being left struggling to cope with funeral costs.

The Telegraph article continues: “DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he knew of some families in his East Belfast constituency who are still saddled with debt nearly two years after burying loved ones.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

“I know one woman whose husband died at the end of 2014, and she is still struggling to meet the costs of the funeral,” he told their reporter.

“I am also aware of funeral directors who are struggling because they are carrying a significant amount of bad debt, where families are just unable to meet the bills that they have.”

On Wednesday Mr Robinson raised his concerns during a debate at Westminster, where he called for more help for hard-pressed families.

Northern Ireland Funeral Costs – a possible solution.

We at the Prepaid Funeral Review feel we have at least a partial solution in the Family Funeral Plan, specially designed to help families with at least a little spare income between them.

SunLife’s annual Cost Of Dying Report found the average funeral price in Norther Ireland to be £3,277. The 106% rise since 2004 is one of the biggest anywhere in the UK, though they are still relatively lower than the UK average.

The Belfast Telegraph continued “Death-related expenses are increasing faster than any cost of living bills such as rent, food or utilities. London remains the most expensive place to die, with the average funeral costing £5,529 – 42% above the national average of £3,897.”

Researchers for the annual Cost of Dying Report found that a significant number of those arranging  a funeral had to cut back on the arrangements for purely financial reasons. Cars for older family members, memorials and flowers all had to be left out. Payday loans or just selling belongings were other sources of finance.

“Citizens Advice Northern Ireland raised concerns about the support available for bereaved people with limited incomes. It said a Social Fund funeral payment – awarded to help meet essential costs – is inadequate. The charity noted the average award in 2014/15 was £1,048 – less than a third of the £3,277 average funeral bill.

Pol Callaghan from Citizens Advice Northern Ireland said: “The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for any family.  Unfortunately, for people on a low income it also brings a heavy financial burden. This compounds the trauma of bereavement with the stress of money worries and added debt. The diminished value of the Social Fund funeral payment only covers around one third of funeral costs. This is leaving people in real hardship.”

Citizens Advice is calling for a review of the payment.

Based on an article in the Belfast Telegraph on Northern Ireland Funeral Costs,



The funeral poverty debate raises many questions, and we present a useful solution for many families below.

Funeral poverty a partial solution

Funeral Poverty

These initial comments are from the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. Afterwards, we present at least a partial solution. “MP for Belfast East Gavin Robinson tabled a debate on 14th September 2016 in the House of Commons that addressed concerns around funeral poverty.  In particular, he raised the current consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions on the Social Fund and the support available to low income families having to pay for funerals.

In response to the debate, Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, said: “It was a very thoughtful and passionate discussion. I would like to thank Gavin Robinson for highlighting what is an incredibly important issue.  Although burial and cremation costs continue to be met in full, there is no doubt that the £700 Social Fund payment for ‘non-discretionary’ third party items urgently needs reform. The figure has not increased since 2003.  It is nowhere near enough to cover what many people would consider to be basic requirements – such as hiring a place of worship or the provision of an official to oversee the ceremony.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

“Whilst the vast majority of SAIF members have only increased their prices in line with inflation, third party costs have risen significantly. This is putting enormous strain on families at an incredibly difficult time. The average £1,347 payment from the Social Fund, which includes the cost of burial or cremation, leaves a 62% deficit. The average cost of a funeral in the UK now at £3,700.”

Stephen Pett, of the Prepaid Funeral Review team said “The importance of planning ahead is only emphasised by the appalling lack of benefits for the less well off.  We are actively recommending that families pool funds to get a Family Funeral Plan.  These can be used by the first member of the family to die. Clearly, they need to add extra plans as soon as they can

Funeral Plan Enquiry

Family Funeral Plan – use our enquiry form to the right.

afford to do so.  It is just the same process is that employed by the Roman Legions a couple of thousand years ago.  We believe that the majority of families can – between them – scrape together £20 or £30 a month.   That makes a good start.”