Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Funeral costs 'show increase of 6%'

The cost of a funeral has increased by six per cent over the past year

The cost of a funeral has risen by 6% on last year as almost a fifth of people struggle to pay for the event, a report has said.

The basic cost of a funeral is now £3,284, up 6.2% on last year and 71% on 2004, according to the annual Sun Life Direct Cost of Dying report.

Burial costs made up the largest increase this year (9.6%) while cremation costs were up 6.6% and funeral directors' fees rose by 5.3%. However the cost of dying, which includes probate, headstones and flowers in addition to the basic cost of a funeral, decreased by 1.9% to £7,114, primarily driven by shrinking estate administration costs.

The report found 17% of those paying for a funeral struggled with the cost, 20% put the outstanding balance on a credit card, 10% borrowed money from a loan provider and 9% sold belongings.

The Government's Social Fund Funeral Payment Scheme, designed to contribute to the cost of funerals for the most vulnerable, was also struggling to meet mounting demand, with the situation likely to deteriorate as costs increased, economic austerity continued and the population continued to age and grow, the report said.

But the study found discretionary spending had increased on items such as memorials (up 7%), flowers (up 7.6%) and limousines (up 7.1%).

Sun Life Direct spokesman Simon Cox said: "We must encourage people to look ahead and start planning in advance. The industry needs to ensure that suitable options are available for people to take financial responsibility for their own funerals.

"Debt, despair and distress are common hallmarks of arranging a funeral and there is no light at the end of the tunnel to suggest that funerals will become more affordable. Moreover, a difficult economic climate and increasing demand on public services make further state support unlikely. The vulnerable are too poor to die and we cannot let this situation continue."

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Bath, said: "There is still a sense in some quarters that their death is someone else's problem. As a forward-thinking nation we should encourage and help people to take responsibility for their own circumstances.

"National debate on social care in old age is focusing on the role of the individual in financial provision and the matter of funeral cover should not be left out of this conversation. The number of deaths each year is expected to rise by 17% over the next 15 years and the issue of funeral affordability deserves urgent attention if we are to give our loved ones the send-off they deserve."

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