Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Postcode lottery - burial plots in Northern Ireland cost from £261 to staggering £3,116

Variations spark calls for overhaul of system

By Claire O'Boyle

A postcode lottery on the cost of dying has been identified across Northern Ireland, with burial plots ranging from £261 to a staggering £3,116.

The cheapest plots are available to residents in Fermanagh and Omagh District, while Lisburn and Castlereagh charges £3,116 for the burial of non-residents.

The investigation, which examined the cost and causes of dying as well as the impact of changes in bereavement benefit payments, was carried out against a backdrop of austerity as well as rising funeral costs, with services last year 88% more expensive than they were in 2004.

Investigators also looked into the variations in charges for children's burials, with most councils offering discounts.

Belfast City Council, Mid Ulster District Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council do not, and there are variations across the others as to what is considered a child.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council set the limit at 12 months, with Ards and North Down Borough Council raising the limit to 18 years. The stark figures were among a number of findings unearthed in an investigation by Detail Data for online news organisation The Detail.

Investigators also found that in the five years to 2016/17 there were 18,219 applications for a Funeral Payment, which provides financial assistance for benefits claimants "towards a simple, respectful, low-cost funeral".

The average payment was £1,037 - leaving families on low incomes with a shortfall of around £2,000, according to figures from insurance company Sunlife.

The research has prompted calls for a full overhaul of Government financial support and regulation of the funeral industry.

Citizens Advice Northern Ireland, Marie Curie and the National Association of Funeral Directors believe a public health campaign is needed to address the issue.

Corrina Grimes of the Public Health Agency (PHA) said: "While it may not be something that we want to think about, the PHA would encourage everyone to think ahead to plan for the future in terms of their personal affairs and any wishes they may have for their care towards, and at the end, of life."

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