QSA and 20 other members of the Funeral Poverty Alliance (FPA), supported by six other organisations and individuals, ask for a meeting with the Minister for Pensions.
In November QSA and signatories from 14 other organisations wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling for an increase to the capped element of the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment (FEP) to reflect rises in average funeral prices.*
At the end of March, we were pleased to receive a response from the Minister for Pensions, Laura Trott. Today we have sent a detailed response, coordinated by Lindesay Mace, QSA's co-manager for our Down to Earth project which is working to tackle funeral poverty across the UK. Points we highlighted include:
- The capped portion of the FEP pays up to £1,000 towards ‘other funeral expenses’, including funeral director fees.
- In January, the Competition and Markets Authority found that the average funeral director fees for a simple Attended Funeral were £2,331.
- People are often left with a significant shortfall, which can add extra stress during the grieving process and in some cases lead to devastating mental health impacts.
- Less expensive unattended funerals can be the right choice for some, but they should always be a choice. The denial of funeral rituals, like attending a loved one’s funeral, can lead to complex grief.
- The FEP is not available to everyone in receipt of a qualifying benefit or tax credit due to onerous ‘family tests’.
- Other bereavement-related benefits do not fill the gap left by the fact the FEP has risen only once since 2013.
- The ultimate safety-net of a public health funeral from the local council is frayed due to a lack of statutory minimum standards, reduced budgets and reports of increased need.
- Increasing the capped portion of the FEP would make a huge difference to bereaved people and relieve financial pressures on other areas of government, including by reducing demand for public health funerals.
QSA and the FPA hope to meet with the Minister to discuss these points and the significant impact that the inadequacy of the FEP has on bereaved individuals and families.
* The FEP pays for what the legislation deems as “necessary” costs, including the cemetery or crematorium fees, and the doctor’s certificate for cremation. It then pays up to £1,000 for “other funeral expenses”, such as the coffin, funeral director’s fees, an officiant and flowers.