Social Fund Funerals.
This article on Social Fund Funerals is based on an article on the Parliamentary website. There is a link to their report at the foot.
Payments from the Social Fund for funerals can be made to claimants of means-tested benefits and tax credits to help meet the costs. Payments are made from the regulated Social Fund and, as such, are not limited by budgetary constraints. Over 38,000 Social Fund funeral payments were made in Great Britain in 2011-12, at a total cost of £47 million.
Under the Social Fund Funerals scheme, full help may be given with certain funeral expenses including burial or cremation. Other expenses – such as funeral directors’ fees, the cost of a coffin, church fees and flowers – may be covered but only up to a maximum of £700. The adequacy of Funeral Payments, in light of actual funeral costs, has long been a source of complaint. The average award in 2011-12 was £1,241, less than 40% of the estimated average cost of a funeral. The current Government accepts that the £700 cap means that the costs associated with a funeral cannot always be met in full. They argue that the scheme nevertheless provides a “significant contribution towards the cost of a simple, low cost respectful funeral.” The rules governing access to Social Fund Budgeting Loans have now been changed to give more help to low income families facing funeral costs, although these are repayable.
In addition to concerns about the level of awards, a recent study by researchers at the University of Bath commissioned by Sun Life Direct identified further problems with the Funeral Payments scheme which, they argue, lacks coherence and has the potential for creating confusion and frustration as well as exacerbating emotional distress. This was due to a number of interwoven issues, including confusion about the rules on eligibility and the amount paid to successful claimants, the order in which funerals are organised and claims administered, and the way family relationships are assessed and decisions about responsibility for funeral costs are made.
For the full briefing note on Social Fund Funerals click here.