Paupers funerals Report Citizens Advice Bureau Bath and North East Somerset
(or more reasons to prepay funerals!)
Summary of findings from bureau evidence on Paupers Funerals:
A client’s brother had recently died. He applied for a Social Fund Funeral Payment and was awarded £700 plus crematorium fees. However, this fell short of the actual cost of the funeral and he was left with a £1200 debt. This was very distressing for the client who was in receipt of Pension Credit and was already struggling on a low income.
A client had recently lost her partner in tragic circumstances and was facing financial and other problems as a result of his death. She came to the bureau for help as the Funeral Payment she received failed to cover the cost of his funeral. To release the ashes the funeral directors demanded that she pay the outstanding £1200. The bureau eventually managed to raise sufficient funds to meet the shortfall by means of applications to a number of different charities.
A client’s partner had died. He and his daughter had already visited several funeral directors in Bath asking for quotes for a basic cremation. They were told by all the funeral directors that they would require £1000 deposit in advance. The lowest quote they were given was £2500. Both the client and his daughter were in receipt of Income Support and had no savings so, although the client was entitled to a Funeral Payment, they were unable to meet the cost of the deposit. As the Funeral Payment cannot be claimed until the funeral is arranged and he was unable to fund the deposit without a Funeral Payment, his wife’s body had to remain in the hospital morgue which caused him great distress. Eventually a relative paid the deposit so that the client could arrange the funeral and obtain a Funeral Payment.
It is not generally appreciated that a decision to take responsibility for a funeral will not necessarily be endorsed by the Social Fund decision maker. If it is possible to identify someone else who is deemed to be as or more responsible for the funeral and who is not entitled to a qualifying benefit, no Funeral Payment will be awarded.
The decision making process can be long and any DWP appeal is a very long winded process indeed.
Before the advent of the welfare state, the desire to avoid the humiliation of a ‘pauper’s funeral’ prompted the establishment of burial societies into which people on low incomes could make payments to cover the future cost of their funeral.
Unfortunately, the administration fees were high and the societies were not always secure with the result that many policies collapsed.
A client came to the bureau after she had paid the cost of her son’s funeral. Even though she had made the arrangements and was receiving one of the qualifying benefits, the Social Fund would not make an award. The decision maker said that, as her son was married, his wife was the person with responsibility for the funeral and she should apply. This is in line with the regulations. However, the client felt that her son’s wife was not taking the funeral arrangements seriously so she went ahead and made the arrangements herself. She appealed the decision but, because of the extended time scale for appeals, she felt that she had no other option than to take out a bank loan to pay the funeral directors.
A client’s father-in-law had recently died and his widow was in receipt of Pension Credit. She was told that she was entitled to a Funeral Payment of £1300 but that this would take up to 8 weeks to process. The client’s mother-in-law was very distressed that she would have to wait so long to arrange the funeral and that the amount would fall significantly short of the £2600 quote she was given for a basic funeral.
The full report can be viewed here.