Buried in debt: Mourners borrow £1,700 to pay for loved ones' funerals

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Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager

Meera Khanna

Consumer PR Manager - Protection

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  • Funeral debt in the UK is at £131 million, with people taking on an average of £1,744 of debt to pay for a funeral – an all-time high
  • A funeral now costs an average of £3,757, which is a 6% increase over the last five years
  • Kensal Green, in London, is the most expensive location in the UK, with a burial now costing almost £12,000

New research from Royal London reveals the average cost of a funeral is £3,757, with costs having stabilised this year (£3,784 in 2017).

The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index, in its fifth year, shows that London has consistently been the most expensive region in the UK for a funeral, with the average funeral costing £4,838.

Kensal Green, in London, remains the most expensive location, with the average cost of a funeral at £7,489. Burial funerals in Kensal Green have also increased and now cost almost £12,000. Northern Ireland also remains the least expensive region, with a funeral in Belfast costing an average of £2,950.

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Funeral Debt

One in 10 (12%) took on debt to pay for a loved one’s funeral, with the average amount of debt taken on by individuals rising to an all-time high of £1,744. Of those who struggled with funeral costs, three in 10 (28%) people borrowed money from friends and family and one in five (21%) took on debt. Sadly, one in 10(9%) continue to sell possessions to give their loved ones a decent send-off.

Families struggling with funeral costs could be entitled to help from the Government to pay for necessary costs but the research found that the support offered is inadequate. Funeral director’s fees, a coffin, hearse and collection and care of the deceased are not seen as necessary costs by the Government and only up to £700 is offered to bereaved families to cover costs. This leaves bereaved families with an average shortfall of £1,500 if they use the services of a funeral director.

Five years of funerals

In the fifth year of Royal London’s research into funeral costs, the average cost of a UK funeral has risen by 6%, from £3,551 in 2014 to £3,757 in 2018.

Individual funeral debt has increased at a much higher rate - 34% - in the last five years, with people now taking on an average debt of £1,744, compared to £1,305 in 2014.

Royal London’s funeral cost expert, Louise Eaton-Terry, said:

“High funeral costs have left many families taking on a mountain of debt, with our research showing a huge increase in the amount being borrowed by the bereaved over the last five years. More support needs to be offered to families struggling to pay for funeral costs, and as a result being forced into debt.

“The funeral payment is seriously lacking, and it’s shocking that the government do not consider funeral director’s fees and a coffin to be a “necessary” cost. We want the social fund to cover the cost of a basic funeral, as no one should have to struggle to give their loved ones a decent send-off.”

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Director of Quaker Social Action, Judith Moran, said:

"Funeral costs have risen way out of line with incomes but, understandably, people will do all they can to provide a decent send-off for a loved one. Funeral-related debt is at an all-time high and the cost of providing a decent send-off for a loved one comes with a heavy financial – and emotional – burden.

"Funeral debt can hinder the grieving process, and for many people the debt they take on may take months or even years to pay off. Everyone wants to be able to provide a meaningful, dignified funeral for someone they love. In a fair society, everyone should have access to a respectful funeral."

Most expensive locations for a funeral in the UK.

Region
Average cost of a burial funeral
Average cost of a cremation funeral
Average funeral cost 2018
Kensal Green £11,857 £3,121 £7,489
Enfield £8,902 £3,384 £6,143
Beckenham £7,730 £3,541 £5,636
Southgate £7,307 £3,346 £5,327
Golders Green £7,215 £3,233 £5,224
Wandsworth £7,168 £3,070 £5,119
Morden £6,936 £3,041 £4,989
Manor Park (London) £6,696 £3,269 £4,982
Leatherhead £6,310 £3,541 £4,925
Islington £6,753 £3,081 £4,917
East Finchley £6,753 £3,081 £4,917

Least expensive locations for a funeral in the UK.

Region
Average cost of a burial funeral
Average cost of a cremation funeral
Average funeral cost 2018
Belfast £3,050

£2,851

£2,950
Paisley £3,245 £2,982 £3,114
Glasgow West £3,245 £3,007 £3,126
Alford £3,164 £3,106 £3,135
Bridgwater £3,017 £3,286 £3,152
Amersham £3,261 £3,066 £3,164
Burton on Trent £3,244 £3,151 £3,197
Abingdon £2,975 £3,421 £3,198
Wellingborough £3,055 £3,370 £3,213
Swindon £3,086 £3,351 £3,218

- ENDS -

For further information please contact:

Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager

Notes to editor

  1. Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index is an annual study. The 2018 Index is available here
  2. The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index is published in partnership with The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) – the organisation which represents professionals working in burial and cremation authorities and companies throughout the UK.
  3. Royal London commissioned two surveys from YouGov which took place between May and June 2018. The first was made up of 2,102 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+ who had organised a funeral within the past five years. The second was made up of a random sample of 1,011 UK adults aged 18+ who were asked about their funeral spending.
  4. The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) collected costs for 275 UK crematoriums and 550 burial costs for two cemeteries close to the crematoriums to allow us to analyse the comparative costs of cremation and burials. Fieldwork for ICCM took place between April and June. Fieldwork for ICCM took place between April and June 2018.
  5. Yourfuneralchoice.com provided data provided data on the most expensive, least expensive and average funeral directors’ costs at 275 locations across the UK. The data is based on mystery shopping of funeral directors to gather information and prices for a comparable ‘simple funeral’ to include collection/care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse, and to manage a simple service at a crematorium. Prices based on this research do not include third party costs which fall outside of the funeral directors immediate control or minister/celebrant fees.

About Royal London:

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with funds under management of £117 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 3,745 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2018.