Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index report 2020 reveals that three in five (60%) people who have arranged a funeral during lockdown found it difficult to grieve due to COVID-19.
Lockdown restrictions meant more than half (61%) of funeral arrangers had to scale back plans for their desired funeral. Nearly one in five (16%) said they were unable to hold a service and more than half (56%) were unable to have a wake or celebration of life for their loved one.
Plans are being put on hold for many grieving families with nearly one in five (19%) saying they had future plans to hold a wake, and nearly half (44%) saying they had plans to hold a celebration of life. A third (33%) had no further plans for the funeral they had arranged.
Funeral costs pre-COVID-19
Royal London’s report looked at funeral costs across the UK and found that the average cost of a funeral in 2020 is £3,837. A burial funeral costs more on average at £4,383, and a cremation funeral costs less on average at £3,290.
London has the highest funeral costs in the UK with the average funeral now standing at an all-time high of £5,032. Northern Ireland remains the least expensive region in the UK for a funeral with the average cost being £2,962.
Research shows that 9% of funeral arrangers struggled to meet the cost of the funeral, a decline from 12% in 2019. Of those, more than one in four (27%) took on debt, using a credit card, loan or overdraft, to pay for funeral costs.
The average amount of debt taken to pay for a funeral stands at £1,751, a drop from last year’s all-time high of £1,990. Total funeral debt, also known as funeral poverty, in the UK is at an all-time low of £82.7m, according to Royal London research.
Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, said:
“Arranging a funeral during the Covid-19 pandemic has made a distressing experience all the more difficult. With limited services available and, as a result of lockdown measures, restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend, arranging a funeral during the crisis has caused additional distress and impacted many families’ ability to grieve.
“Clearly funerals have looked very different over the last six months but pre-COVID-19 funeral costs rose marginally. Funeral poverty in the UK fell significantly pre-Covid-19, but this is unlikely to be a continuing trend. Unfortunately, we anticipate funeral poverty to rise as a result of the increased death rate and the financial impact the pandemic has had on people.”
Lindesay Mace, acting manager of Down to Earth, a project of UK charity Quaker Social Action, said:
“Funeral poverty has not gone away during the Covid-19 pandemic. While restrictions have led to simpler funerals in many cases, attended cremation services still easily equal at least £2,000-£3,000, with burials often even pricier. Councils across the UK have also continued to increase cremation prices.
“People contacting our funeral costs helpline increased by 75% during the height of the pandemic. We implemented a triage system operated by volunteers to manage the demand. In addition, we are seeing many people financially affected by lockdown, exacerbating already difficult circumstances and making paying for a funeral even more out of reach. As the recession continues, we expect to see more bereaved people coming to us for help.”
Iona Bain, Personal Finance Blogger – Young Money, said:
“Death should be far from the minds of young people but Covid-19 has not only made us more aware of it and willing to talk about it, but has shone a light on the sheer cost of planning a funeral even under new restrictions. Many young people have been forced to crowd-fund or solicit donations for a loved one's funeral. These young people are often on the margins of society, from low-income households and/or with difficult family situations, so they already face lots of financial disadvantages.”
“It's comforting to see that at least in these horribly difficult times, some people are finding the cost of Covid-secure funerals slightly cheaper than usual, given how expensive this whole area can be. Unfortunately, the small savings from funerals conducted under these restrictions will not make up for the trauma of being unable to grieve in-person with family, nor will they make a big difference to the overall expense of funerals.”