Funeral Poverty

Funeral poverty is an increasing reality for many people throughout the UK who find themselves in a position where the cost of a funeral outweighs their ability to pay.

The average cost of a funeral is £3,700. The Local Government Association has stated that there are thousands of people across the UK with no family or friends to arrange, attend, or pay for a funeral. There is an increasing number who have to rely on a national assistance funeral. A national assistance funeral is a statutory responsibility for local authorities, where no funds are available and no arrangements are being made (by the family) for the burial or cremation of the deceased. Recent research by Royal London shows that the cost to local authorities of national assistance funerals in 2017-18 was more than £5million. 

According to a Citizens Advice Scotland report in November 2017, the cost of a burial in West Lothian falls below the Scottish average. Year on year price increases for both burials and cremations in West Lothian between 2014 and 2017 fall below the Scottish average rates.

Help Towards the Cost of Funerals

Under the transfer of welfare provision to the devolved government, the Scottish Government is set to replace the current UK wide provision with the Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA) Benefit. This benefit is expected to support an additional 2000 families above the 4000 already supported by the current benefit and will cover the council's costs and a grant of £700 towards other fees, such as funeral directors and provision for transport costs.

West Lothian Council's Registration Service works with the Advice Shop to offer a referral for a full entitlement check to anyone who registers a death. The bereaved person is then contacted by a Welfare Rights Advisor to look into any entitlement to means tested benefits, help with funeral costs and to discuss other financial issues including budgeting and debt.

The Respectful Funeral - Costs and Duration

In establishing a cost for the provision of the service, council staff sought to bridge the gap between the funding offered by the new Funeral Expense Assistance, which supports those on welfare benefits, and the average costs of a funeral, which in Scotland currently stands at circa £3700, inclusive of disbursements such as lair purchase, interment or cremation, whilst seeking voluntary support from Funeral Directors in terms of the sustainability of the model and the potential impact on their core business.

Through discussion, a price of £1550 has been agreed with all five service providers for the services specified as the West Lothian Respectful Funeral Model.

All five Funeral Directors have agreed to hold this price for a period of two years from April 2019, at which point a review of sustainability, cost and continuation will be undertaken.

Help to Mitigate the Impact of Funeral Poverty

Potential Impact of the Scheme