The National Association of Funeral Directors responds to changes to Social Fund Funeral Payment

 The National Association of Funeral Directors has responded to the Department of Work and Pension’s proposed changes to the Social Fund Funeral Payment expressing extreme disappointment that the Government’s proposals avoid tackling some of the benefit’s biggest failings – leaving bereaved families and funeral directors to continue picking up the pieces.

Along with many other organisations, the NAFD responded to the DWP’s consultation on Funeral Payments over the summer and, while the Association is pleased to see some useful amendments to the detail of the process – such as extending the claim period from three to six months, the ability to submit evidence electronically and a shorter application form for children’s funerals – these do not address the fundamental shortcomings of the benefit.

In its response, the DWP has failed to address issues such as the uncertainty faced by families, having to arrange a funeral before they know whether they will receive an award; the thousands of people denied an award in the first place, suggesting both a lack of understanding and ability to easily check their eligibility; and the fact that the amount provided in the benefit to cover the main costs of a funeral hasn’t risen since 2003 – remaining at an inadequate £700.

These omissions from the Government are despite ample evidence to the contrary presented to not only the recent consultation, but consistently through the NAFD’s ministerial meetings spanning more than a decade and also the #BuryTheDebt campaign, organised by Fair Funerals and backed by many organisations that support families when someone dies (including the NAFD), to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond to at least bring the payment in line with funeral cost inflation.

Alison Crake, President of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said: “This announcement by the Government is the equivalent of putting a sticking plaster on a broken bone. The DWP’s proposals, which merely address individual points of friction within the system, do nothing to answer the fundamental failings of a Funeral Expenses Payment scheme which causes heartache for tens of thousands of people every year.

“The NAFD recognises the financial challenges faced by the Government, however this situation is simply not sustainable. The DWP needs to create a better system to screen applicants for their eligibility; reduce the waiting times for a decision; better inform, educate and signpost people to the benefit; and address the ridiculous inequality which sees them paying local authorities in full for burial and cremation fees, whilst expecting families to arrange absolutely everything else relating to the funeral of their loved one for £700.”