In its report of 31 March 2016, the Committee found State bereavement support "opaque and outdated", and passed the evidence it had collected on the operation of the funeral industry to the Competition and Market Authority (CMA). The Committee maintains that the CMA should investigate the industry.
Government to consider review of burials, cremations and funerals
Following the Committee’s recommendation the Government has said it will consider undertaking a coordinated review of burials, cremations and funerals. The Government has also committed to work with stakeholders to agree the elements of a standard funeral and what a reasonable cost of this would be.
The Government has recognised that information for bereaved people could be improved and has said the Committee’s recommendations around communication will be considered as part of a holistic review.
Further looking into funeral costs required
The Committee will continue to press the Department for Work and Pensions for further details on the ongoing work into funeral costs.
The Committee welcomes the Government’s commitment to review the period the new Bereavement Support Payment is paid for, and was pleased to hear that the Government is sympathetic to the sensitivities around cessation of the payment on the anniversary of the death.
However, it is disappointing that the Government continues to ignore the needs of bereaved children of co-habiting couples. There is no reason for the Government to rule this issue out of scope if its own inquiry into bereavement benefits. The Committee does not accept that proving cohabitation is a 'lengthy complex process', as this is already done for other benefits.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"That the Government has agreed to look into the cost of funerals, and the support available to meet these costs, is very much welcome. I hope that the outcome of this initiative will be a radical reshaping of the system, so that our poorest constituents are able to pay for their loved ones to have a decent send-off.
But we are very disappointed by the Government’s refusal to pick up on our recommendation, as well as the court ruling in Northern Ireland, covering bereaved children of cohabiting couples. We might wish to revisit this particularly unjust feature of the system."