RIP – Rest in Poverty. The End of Life Time Bomb

RIP – Rest In Poverty is a Press Release from Sun Life.

Sun Life Direct outlines how much it costs when you die in the UK with its fifth annual report, RIP – Rest in Poverty.

– Cost of dying increases to £7,248, the equivalent of three months average UK wages (up 20% since 2007!)

– Almost 1 in 5 (100,000) people who are left to organise a funeral struggle with the costs, double that of 2009.

– The State safety net is stretched – demand for financial aid far outstrips supply.

Sun Life Direct, the expert in the cost of dying1, has today announced the results of its Annual Cost of Dying Report2.

Funeral Plan Quotes

Funeral Plan Quotes

The cost of dying (including death-related costs such as funerals, probate, headstones and flowers) has increased to an average of £7,248, representing a dramatic increase of 20% since 2007 and over £400 since last year. In addition, funeral costs have increased 61% over the past seven years, which Sun Life Direct believes will continue for the foreseeable future. The survey identifies that almost one in five people who are left to organise a funeral struggle with the costs, double that of 2009.

Despite these substantial costs, a quarter of the UK population haven’t made any plans for their end of lives, whether it be for funeral costs, estate administration, the preparation of legal documents such as wills, lasting power of attorney or for the provision for long term care. A large segment of the population think they have adequately planned for death when in fact all they have done is told someone, often a family member, who has long since forgotten. Additionally, 44% of people don’t plan for their funerals because they expect family and friends to organise and fund it.

Sun Life Direct’s research not only highlights confused attitudes around end of life planning but also feeds into a broader concern; that society is facing three interrelated later life issues. Firstly, the UK’s ageing baby-boomers means the volume of elderly people living longer will result in a progressive surge in demand on the State over the coming decades. Secondly, this and other recent reports (Dilnot) highlights that the population faces rising end of life costs and blurred ideas as to who is responsible. Thirdly, the Sun Life Direct Cost of Dying research shows that many people do not provide and plan for the end of their lives, whether it be for their funeral, the administration of their estate or for care at the end of their lives.

Simon Cox, head of life planning for Sun Life Direct, comments:

“Failure to plan properly for the end of your life not only results in a financial burden for families, but also an emotional one. We are ominously aware that State resources for funeral payments are severely stretched – 38,000 funeral awards were made by the Department for Work and Pensions administered Social Fund Funeral Payments Scheme in 2010/11 – 44% of applications were unsuccessful and average payouts were only £1,217 per applicant. Demand for financial aid far outstrips supply and those who are successful still have a significant strain on their wallet with the shortfall between the average £1,217 provided and the cost of a funeral.

“Action is needed to avert the sort of distress experienced by those who have had real problems paying for the funeral of a loved one, and action from those who have not made any end of life plans.”

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, lecturer in Sociology, University of Bath, concludes:

“A key concern for society is whether the current infrastructure established to support people at the end of their life is fit for purpose today. Currently the number of deaths each year in England and Wales is at an all time low, with 491,348 deaths registered in 2009. It is anticipated however, that the number of deaths will rise significantly and by 2030 there will be an additional 80,000 people dying a year. This equates to a rise of 17% in the death rate in less than 20 years.

“At the same time, people are living longer and as a result are using more resources, both their own and the State’s. Costs for social care are rising, living standard expectations are high, and there remains an expectation that wealth is passed through the generations. The relationship between the public, commercial and voluntary sectors in the resourcing and provision of care, information, advice, support and services in old age and in planning for death is open to debate.”

The complete report expands on the following findings:

  • This year’s headline figures and key changes from last year
  • The extent to which end of life planning takes place
  • Barriers to planning
  • Confused and contradictory attitudes towards the role of families, the State and ourselves in relation to planning
  • Who we turn to for advice and support on end of life matters
  • Suggestions on how the end of life time bomb might be defused