Funeral costs soar by 106% in Northern Ireland to £3000 average
Families are struggling to afford to bury their dead because of soaring funeral bills, it has been claimed.
The cost of dying in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in the last decade.
The average funeral now costs over £3,000 - a rise of 106% since 2004.
Spending on so-called paupers' funerals, carried out for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay, has also jumped alarmingly in recent years.
It has led to warnings that some families are being left struggling to cope with funeral costs.
DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he knew of some families in his East Belfast constituency who are still saddled with debt nearly two years after burying loved ones.
"I know one woman whose husband died at the end of 2014, and she is still struggling to meet the costs of the funeral," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I am also aware of funeral directors who are struggling because they are carrying a significant amount of bad debt, where families are just unable to meet the bills that they have."
On Wednesday Mr Robinson raised his concerns during a debate at Westminster, where he called for more assistance for hard-pressed families.
It came as new figures revealed how the cost of funerals in Northern Ireland has soared.
SunLife's annual Cost Of Dying Report found the average funeral price here is £3,277. The 106% rise since 2004 is one of the biggest anywhere in the UK.
Death-related expenses are increasing much faster than any cost of living bills such as rent, food or utilities. London remains the most expensive place to die, with the average funeral costing £5,529 - 42% above the national average of £3,897.
Researchers found one in 12 people organising a funeral had to cut back or change some of the "send-off" costs they had planned.
This includes cutting back on limousines for immediate family, memorials and flowers.
Some people have even had to sell belongings or take out a loan to cover the cost of a funeral.
Citizens Advice Northern Ireland raised concerns about the support available for bereaved people with limited incomes. It said a Social Fund funeral payment - awarded to help meet essential costs - is inadequate.
The charity noted the average award in 2014/15 was £1,048 - less than a third of the £3,277 average funeral bill.
Pol Callaghan from Citizens Advice Northern Ireland said: "The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for any family.
"Unfortunately, for people on a low income it also brings a heavy financial burden. This compounds the trauma of bereavement with the stress of money worries and added debt.
"The diminished value of the Social Fund funeral payment only covers around one third of funeral costs. This is leaving people in real hardship."
Citizens Advice is calling for a review of the payment.
Mr Robinson said more and more families were struggling to bury their dead.
"The Social Fund is there as the Government's way of stepping in when families are on benefits and can ill-afford the cost of a funeral, and yet it simply does not meet the costs," he added.
"There is a massive deficit, and it is forcing people to organise payday loans and get themselves into huge levels of debt.
"Saddling someone in such desperate circumstances with further debt only compounds the problem."