Government Funeral Payments

Government Funeral Payments

Parliamentary roundtable discusses Government funeral payments help for the vulnerable.

End of life experts from across the UK came together for a parliamentary roundtable chaired by Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North. The roundtable considered if the government’s Funeral Payments are fit for purpose.  The impact this may have on other forms of support for people on low incomes, such as Public Health Funerals.

Stephen Pett, of the Prepaid Funeral Review commented “There are many ways for families to give support of less well off family members, who are prone to trying to take on the burden of regular monthly payments in a vain attempt to provide for their own funerals.  They tend not to read the small print and only discover they lose every penny when they can no longer afford the regular payments.  With some prepaid funeral plans, you can give the plan to the deceased and not have to pay for the funeral unexpectedly.  Always remember that the person who thoughtfully books the undertaker is liable for their fees if the Social Fund won’t pay – which is often the case.”

Simon Cox, from Sun Life Direct, and Dr Kate Woodthorpe from the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath, authors of the ‘Cost of Dying Special Report into Social Fund Funeral Payments’, outlined key findings and recommendations from their report to attendees. They focused on the emotional and financial distress vulnerable families suffer when looking for support with funeral costs.

Joan Walley MP comments: “With almost half of the 69,000 claims for a funeral payment rejected, some claimants are forced into debt by committing to funeral costs before finding out if they will receive support from the state. Bringing together interested parties to discuss the issues highlighted in the report will help us better understand and plan for the policy changes needed to meet the costs of funerals.”

Dr Kate Woodthorpe said: “By combining robust research with open discussion in a multidisciplinary environment, we hope to discuss some of the key findings of the report. It highlighted the complexity of a system that neither recognises the importance of timing or the realities of today’s family structures.”

Also attending the round table were Teresa Perchard, Director of Policy, Citizens Advice Bureau. Experts at the national charity have written a leaflet building on the research findings. ‘Help yourself…to get a funeral payment’, is sponsored by Sun Life Direct, to raise awareness of the Social Fund Funeral Payment and which offers advice to those applying for the fund.

Teresa said: “The process of organising a funeral and claiming a Funeral Payment can be a confusing and daunting one at a time of great emotional distress. With funeral costs rising, people need to be aware of the support that is available and the practical simple steps to follow to make sure they are exploring all the options available to them.”

The next steps after the round table will be announced in due course.

Steve at the Prepaid Funeral Review adds:  “But if you or anyone else in the family can afford a proper prepaid funeral plan, contact us.  In many cases a prepaid plan purchased by one person can be donated to another.  But not everyone offers this, which is where our help in needed as Independent advisers.”