Coinciding with a week of BBC programming on death and bereavement, the Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into "funeral poverty", and the benefits available to people who lose someone they were financially dependent on.
Background of the inquiry
A recent FOI request by BBC local radio shows that the cost to local councils of so-called "paupers' funerals" has risen almost 30% to £1.7m in the past four years. The number of public health funerals, as they are properly known, which are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay, has also risen by 11%.
Committee Members have heard from constituents who were denied their relatives’ ashes because they were unable to pay for the funeral. The Government provides Social Fund payments to help people unable to pay for funerals, but these are paid in retrospect and do not necessarily cover the full costs.
The Widowed Parents Allowance, to help a parent left to raise a child or children alone, is only available to parents who were married, and people may be unaware that bereavement support is available.
Call for written submissions
The Work and Pensions Committee invites written submissions on:
the policies and processes which relate to the Social Funeral Fund Payment, Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parents Allowance and recommendations for improvement.
The Committee are particularly interested to hear about people's experiences of:
- What are the costs of a funeral, and how does this compare with payments from the Social Funeral Fund?
- Do funeral homes offer less expensive funeral options for people on low incomes?
- Could improvements be made to the application process for Social Funeral Fund payments?
- What is the impact on families and individuals when they cannot meet the cost of a funeral for a friend or relative?
- What is the impact on funeral homes and directors when the cost of a funeral cannot be met?
- What arrangements do Local Authorities have for Public Health Funerals? Have LAs seen an increase in Public Health Funerals and what is the cost to LAs?
- What is the level of awareness about bereavement benefits, amongst those who may be eligible to claim?
- Are bereavement benefits targeted at those who need them? Should eligibility criteria be reviewed?
- Are there any problems with how bereavement benefits will interact with Universal Credit?
- Is communication and guidance about bereavement benefits sufficient?
Send a written submission via the bereavement benefits inquiry page.
The deadline for written submissions is 5 January 2016.
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Committee Member, said:
"Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences we face in our lives. As the costs of funerals have risen out of pace with financial support, more and more people are faced with the prospect of funeral poverty. Over 100,000 people are living with average funeral debt of £1,318. The Committee will be looking at what can be done to better support people at times when they are particularly vulnerable."