Funeral costs surge 71% since 2004
Almost a fifth of people struggle to pay for loved ones' funerals, the report said, with many people using credit cards, taking out loans or selling their belongings to cover costs. Such costs include paying the funeral director, doctor's fees, fees for a religious or secular service, and burial or cremation fees. Burial costs accounted for the largest single increase, rising by 9.6%, while cremation costs rose by 6.6% and funeral directors' expenses by 5.3%.
The report claimed that the government's Social Fund Funeral Payment Scheme, designed to contribute to the cost of funerals for the most vulnerable, was also struggling to meet mounting demand, with the situation likely to deteriorate as costs increased, economic austerity continued and the aging population continued to grow.
Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition and the National Council for Palliative Care said: “Talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement is essential if we are to get our end of life wishes met and avoid leaving a mess for those close to us. Recent research for Dying Matters has shown that the majority of people agree that we are more likely to get wishes met if we all put our own house in order; the challenge now is to make this a reality and not leave it too late to make our future plans, including around our funeral wishes.”
Sun Life Direct spokesman Simon Cox said: "We must encourage people to look ahead and start planning in advance. The industry needs to ensure that suitable options are available for people to take financial responsibility for their own funerals.
"Debt, despair and distress are common hallmarks of arranging a funeral and there is no light at the end of the tunnel to suggest that funerals will become more affordable. Moreover, a difficult economic climate and increasing demand on public services make further state support unlikely. The vulnerable are too poor to die and we cannot let this situation continue."
Co-author of the report, Dr Kate Woodthorpe, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Bath, said: "National debate on social care in old age is focusing on the role of the individual in financial provision, and the matter of funeral cover should not be left out of this conversation. "The number of deaths each year is expected to rise by 17% over the next 15 years and the issue of funeral affordability deserves urgent attention if we are to give our loved-ones the send-off they deserve."
Website: Sun Life Direct - external link
News story: Brits paying the price for refusing to talk about death - published 14 May 2012
News story: 'Paupers' funerals set to rise - published 27 June 2012