The National Association of Funeral Directors has today (16th October 2013) welcomed the 2014 Sun Life Cost of Dying Report as further evidence of the increasing financial strain being placed upon the bereaved, coupled with the inadequacy of Government support for those who are unable to afford the cost of even the most basic funeral. The Association today repeats its calls to Government to at the very least index link Social Fund funeral payments to cost of living increases as the first step to fairness.

The report shows that the costs of the funeral now represent less than half of the overall costs which follow a death (43%) with a 39% rise in estate administration costs, such as hiring a solicitor, driving the overall increase in the cost of dying. Funeral costs, in contrast, have only risen by 3.9% since 2013 – with much of this attributable to the rising cost of disbursements: the third party fees, such as the cost of a local authority burial or cremation, that are payable by bereaved families.

Alan Slater, Chief Executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors said:
“It seems that, increasingly, we have lawyers and local authorities to hold to account for the rising cost of dying. The National Association of Funeral Directors has already called upon the Government to examine the double digit increases levied by many local councils for a burial plot or cremation, but perhaps questions also need to be asked of the legal profession about whether they are taking unfair advantage of families when they are at their most vulnerable.

“Sun Life’s report also supports the NAFD’s own research which shows that an increasing number of people are falling into funeral poverty and that there is a huge shortfall between the Government’s Social Fund funeral payment and the cost of a basic funeral. Sadly this is often leading to the bereaved piling money on expensive credit cards, being forced into the arms of payday loan companies or, increasingly, failing to pay, which leaves funeral directors with unsustainable levels of debt.

“The NAFD has been working hard to try and secure the index linking of Social Fund payments as the first step to tackling funeral poverty. The average social fund funeral payment of £700, plus disbursements, has not increased since 2003 and less than half of those who apply are successful anyway. We have met with Steve Webb, Minister of State at the DWP, to press for reforms to the Social Fund and urge him to take Sun Life’s report as further evidence of the need for change.

“The NAFD advises people to make financial provision for their funeral and also to discuss, with their loved ones, what their funeral wishes would be – so that in the event of their death their bereaved family can be certain that the funeral reflects their wishes.”