It is well publicised in the media that costs are increasing and many people in the UK are struggling to afford to pay their bills and put food on the table. Termed the cost-of-living crisis, there is also a crisis in the cost of dying. As the average price of a funeral in the UK has been steadily increasing, so has the rate of funeral poverty; this is the number of people that must take on debt, or simply cannot afford a funeral for their loves one.
How Much Does a Funeral Cost?
As with most things, the cost of a funeral can vary hugely depending on the type of funeral being held and the amount of added extras included. Recent Sunlife statistics suggest that the average cost of a funeral in the UK in 2022 was £3953. This is in fact a 2.5% decrease since 2021, however, it is still a large sum of money for most people to have spare. A burial is over three times the cost of direct cremation with the actual figures represented in the table below.
However, these figures do not account for the other costs of dying such as professional fees, and other added extras that include flowers, transport, food and drink, and memorial items that overall have increased the cost of dying by 3.8% to £9,200. In another blog article we considered ideas for cutting the cost of a funeral that you may be interested in reading.
What is Funeral Poverty?
As can be seen from the figures above a funeral represents a large amount of money, and without pre-planning the cost is prohibitive for many people. Faced with a sudden death, or the death of a relative with no savings or assets to cover the cost of a funeral, where does the money come from?
In the UK there is provision for people that cannot afford to pay for a funeral, this is a government fund for people on certain benefits that may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment in England and Wales, or a Funeral Support Payment in Scotland. However, this payment does not usually cover the full cost of a funeral leaving a shortfall that the family must pay themselves.
For those that are not eligible for government support, or who are struggling to pay the shortfall they may fall into debt covering the cost. Not being able to afford the full cost or having to take on a loan or other debt is funeral poverty. Unfortunately for those that are least able to pay the cost of debt is usually higher, and not always via reputable sources that can further exacerbate the longer-term problem of funeral poverty.
Effects of Funeral Poverty
Obviously getting into debt to ensure that a loved one has a funeral has a negative financial effect on those left to pay the bill. However, the effect of funeral poverty is often much further reaching. When dealing with bereavement there are many emotions tied into the grieving process.
A funeral should be a vital part of the grieving and healing process, an opportunity for loved ones to remember the person that has died, share memories and stories, and begin the journey of acceptance. Grief takes many forms and can include sadness, anger, guilt, and resentment. However, with the burden of debt these feelings can be further exacerbated.
A person that is struggling to pay for a funeral of a loved one, or that is in debt due to the funeral costs, may feel a huge range of heightened emotions that are linked to the death but with additional layers due to the financial burden. For example, guilt that they couldn’t give their loved one the funeral they deserved, or resentment at now being in debt.
Many people in this situation are opting for direct cremation. This is where there is no attended funeral, the deceased’s body is cremated in line with national and local law but there is no funeral service or dedicated opportunity for family and friends to gather, you can find out more here (https://celebrantsteve.life/steves-blog/direct-cremation/). This may be a cheaper option, but as a funeral service can be a vital part of the grieving process there may be negative consequences in terms of mental health and moving forward.
Avoiding Funeral Poverty
Unfortunately, funeral poverty is on the rise, and the current cost of living crisis will further exacerbate the problem. For many people they cannot afford to pay their everyday bills let alone pre-plan for a funeral. However, if you are fortunate enough to be able to you might want to consider pre-paying for your funeral and as many extras as possible, such as a memorial stone if required, to ensure that your family are not left with a financial burden. If you don’t want to pre-pay you could consider putting money into a savings account that family can use when the time comes.
For anyone that is facing funeral poverty, some funeral directors provide low-cost direct cremation options and may even offer affordable repayment plans. You could still enlist the services of an officiant such as Steve for a memorial service, this could even take place at home if required to allow you the opportunity of remembering your loved one and provide some closure. There are many ways to say goodbye, reflect on the life of the deceased, and pay your respect without a formal funeral if necessary. It is likely that your loved one would prefer for you not to be in debt if possible.