09 January 2019

Government cuts force more bereaved families into poverty

7 min read

 
Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager

Meera Khanna

Consumer PR Manager - Protection

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· Local authorities in the UK spent almost £5.4 million on public health funerals in 2017/18.

 

· The cost of public health funerals has risen by 3.5% compared to the previous the financial year (2016/17).

 

· Of the 3,835 public health funerals carried out last year, nearly a third (31%) were as a result of bereaved families saying they were unable to afford the cost of a funeral.

 

 New data obtained by Royal London reveals nearly a third of public health funerals carried out were as a result of bereaved families being unable to afford the cost of a funeral.

A public health funeral is held by a local authority if the deceased has no family or the family are unable or unwilling to cover the cost of the funeral. The data is based on Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted by Royal London to 390 local authorities in the UK. 

The data shows nearly a third (31%) of families who turned to their local council for a public health funeral did so because they were unable to pay for the funeral. A basic funeral costs on average £3,757 according to Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index, which also found one in 10 (12%) went into debt to pay for a loved one’s funeral. Other reasons for public health funerals included the deceased having no family (31%) and families unwilling to pay for the funeral (10%).

Local authorities spent almost £5.4 million on public health funerals in the financial year 2017/18 which is a 3.5% increase on the previous year (2016/17). More than 3,800 public health funerals were carried out across the UK last year, costing councils an average of £1,403. Local councils in the West Midlands spent a staggering £1.3 million on public health funerals, followed by London councils, who spent more than £800,000 and carried out the highest number of funerals (654).

Birmingham City Council in West Midlands spent the most, with public health funerals costing them £990,437. Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in Northern Ireland had the lowest spend on funerals at £275.

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

“Local authorities are raising burial and cremation fees as they face cuts in funding from central Government.  This is one of the key drivers of funeral cost inflation and ultimately results in an increase in the number of public health funerals local councils have to perform, as bereaved families are unable to pay for their loved one’s send off. More support is needed to help those struggling with funeral costs and the Government needs to improve the funeral payment benefit to help tackle funeral poverty.”

Councils with highest total spend on public health funerals in 2017/18

Council

Total Cost

Birmingham City Council

£990,437

Manchester City Council

£242,178

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

£92,000

London Borough of Lambeth

£85,757

Richmond and Wandsworth

£83,982

Dudley Metropolitan Borough

£79,679

Bradford Metropolitan Council

£77,224

Coventry City Council

£76,519

Perth & Kinross Council

£74,248

Portsmouth City Council

£72,991

 

Councils with lowest total spend on public health funerals in 2017/18

Council

Total Cost

Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Borough   Council

£275

Eastleigh Borough Council

£310

Monmouthshire Council

£375

Newport Council

£480

Thurrock Council

£550

Newry and Mourne District Council

£600

Dartford Borough Council

£600

High Peak Borough

£700

City of London

£715

Lisburn & Castlereagh City   Council

£910

 

For further information please contact:

Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager

Notes to Editors

  1. A public health funeral is a no frills service provided by the local authority, which includes a coffin and the services of a funeral director. The funeral service does not include flowers, viewings, obituaries or transport for family members. The funeral director, date and time of a public health funeral are decided by the local authority. Family members are able to attend the funeral if they wish to attend.
  2. Comparisons made between the financial years of 2016/17 and 2017/18, including percentage changes, were based on the 255 councils that provided both sets of data for both financial years.
  3. The total cost of public health funerals across the UK in 2017/18 was £5,382,379.
  4. The cost of public health funerals to local councils includes any costs that were recovered by the council from the estate.

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.