FOUR million people have suffered from financial hardship as a result of paying for a funeral for a loved one, a Commons debate heard last week.
The Labour MP for South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, said: “In austerity Britain, people are not just struggling to afford to live; they are also unable to afford to die.”
She told a Westminster Hall debate that, although she had tried, over the past four years, to put pressure on the Government to reform the way in which socially funded funeral payments work, no progress had been made.
The Prime Minister had said that it was “important to families and individuals to be able to give their loved one a proper funeral”; but, Mrs Lewell-Buck declared: “The reality is that, on her Government’s watch, more and more people are simply unable to do just that.”
The average cost of a funeral in the UK was £4561, the Labour MP for Coventry South, Jim Cunningham, said, yet the average social-fund funeral payment was £1427, which was only 35 per cent of the cost.
Mrs Lewell-Buck also told MPs: “An estimated 81 per cent of people have been unable to save for a funeral. . . Around a quarter of families that cannot afford funerals borrow from friends or relatives; a quarter put the costs on a credit card; and the rest take out loans, or work out an instalment plan with funeral directors.
“Some even sell their belongings. It has been revealed recently that people are increasingly turning to crowd-funding websites to raise money for funerals. JustGiving shows a 400-per-cent increase in people asking for money from friends, families, and strangers to fund funerals. I cannot imagine having to seek support from strangers on a faceless website to pay for a loved one’s funeral.”
Justin Tomlinson, a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, told MPs that the Competitions and Markets Authority had announced an investigation into the funeral industry, and that he was shocked to discover that at the moment it was not regulated.
“The investigation will be integral to our work in the future. . . We have already made some vital improvements.”