UK's funeral debt close to £150m

19 October 2016

More people are borrowing to pay for their loved ones’ funerals, according to research from Royal London, with the UK’s total funeral debt reaching £147m this year.

According to Royal London’s latest funeral index, the average funeral now costs £3,675 – although this has fallen from £3,702 in 2015.

This figure include minister’s fees, which average £143, doctors’ fees at £164, and funeral directors’ fees averaging £2,208.

Data from the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management shows that funeral costs are also something of a postcode lottery with bills varying according to where in the country you live.

For example a burial in Kensal Green, north London, will set you back £9,679, dropping to £2,917 for a burial in Belfast. Cremations are much cheaper averaging at £3,165 in Kensal Green and £2,879 in Belfast.

But worryingly, in order to meet these costs Royal London’s research reveals that more than 93,000 people are borrowing from friends, family, and the bank, with the average amount borrowed £1,601.

Royal London’s consumer spokesperson, Mona Patel, says: “When dealing with the loss of a loved one, the last thing that people need is financial stress as well. It is shocking that more than 90,000 people had to borrow an average of £1,600 simply to give their loved ones a decent send off.

“It is vital that the government tackles funeral poverty by addressing the flaws with the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment. This includes the length of time it takes to get a payment which then often falls far short of the cost of the funeral.”

This payment helps certain individuals who are on a low income to pay for a funeral they are responsible for organising.

She adds: “The funeral industry also needs to address consumer demand for a simpler and cheaper funeral option, by providing more access to direct cremation and direct burials.”

A direct burial or cremation involves no funeral service, hearse or procession. You do not choose when it will take place and people are not able to come and say their farewells. The Good Funeral Guide says you can expect to pay in the region of £1,000 for a direct cremation. You can arrange a separate memorial service or scatter the ashes should you so wish.

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