Following the release of the latest funeral cost figures, we are calling on the Scottish Government to re-visit their financial support.
The latest Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2024 has found that the average cost of a basic funeral in Scotland – which doesn’t even include a wake or other send-off costs like funeral cars or flowers – has risen to £4,030*.
As a result, we are urging the Scottish Government to reconsider the average pay-out to those who are eligible.
Co-founder and chair John Halliday, explains why we are issuing this appeal:
“The Scottish Government has made real gains in increasing the take-up of the Funeral Support Payment – which contributes somewhat towards the main basic funeral costs.
However, the average pay-out to eligible residents in Scotland is £1,949,**. If someone is organising even a basic funeral, they are over £2,000 short. But then if you want flowers, sandwiches, a venue for a wake, transport, orders of service or a headstone that would all be additional costs.
The report also finds that the average cost of dying (a funeral plus professional fees and send-off costs) has reached a record high of £9,658*. So, the Funeral Support Payment has become a drop in the ocean for people when presented with the final bill.
We would ask the Government to consider that those who qualify for the payment are in receipt of benefits like Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support or Jobseekers’ Allowance. These people are also experiencing additional financial pressure due to the cost-of-living crisis. Indeed, nearly half of those surveyed in the report people say the cost-of-living crisis impacted on how they organised or paid for the funeral and worryingly 1 in 6 bereaved people said they had to cut back on essential items like food, bills or rent.
Many of those in receipt of the Funeral Support Payment will still struggle to pay the final bill and may resort to desperate measures, like using a credit card, taking out a loan or even selling belongings.
Our not-for-profit funeral director – Caledonia Cremation, does provide a direct cremation option which is fully covered by the benefit, with money left over for a follow-up event. However, that type of funeral isn’t what some people want, and we do our best to support everyone to make the choice that is right for them. It is becoming increasingly hard to do so when the cost keeps rising.”
One person who struggled despite receiving the payment is James, who lost his partner Rachelle in 2022. James was in receipt of Universal Credit, so was eligible for the Funeral Support Payment. However, he was still left with a massive bill, as he explains:
“Rochelle had contributed to a plan, so as a result I only received 99p from Social Security Scotland. The plan and that payment didn’t come close to covering the full cost of the funeral, and as a result I had to find £2,500.
The payment doesn’t consider the true cost of a typical funeral, which is high by anyone’s standards.
I also feel that the Government should consider the situation of those who are in receipt of the benefit. When you are on Universal Credit, £2,500 is a huge amount of money.”
As part of our campaign, we are hosting a free online summit at the end of the month.
John explains more:
“We are inviting those who work with recently bereaved people, or those who support people experiencing hardship, to an online discussion around the financial support available and what the long-term plan should be. We are hosting this event in partnership with The Poverty Alliance and Down to Earth. Those interested can sign up online at the funerals.scot website.”
*Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2024 https://www.sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs/
** Funeral Support Payment: high level statistics to 30 September 2023 https://www.socialsecurity.gov.scot/asset-storage/production/downloads/Funeral-Support-Payment-publication-to-September-2023-867995435674.pdf