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Government launches consultation on Funeral Payments

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The government has launched a consultation on changes to make it easier to claim a Funeral Expenses Payment.

At the moment, Funeral Payments are available to people who receive certain income-related benefits to help pay for the funeral of an immediate friend or relative. People can receive up to £700 for funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin. It can also help pay for burial or cremation fees, travel expenses and death certificates.

However, there have been problems with the payments. The Citizen’s Advice bureau said that there had been persistent problems with funeral payments failing to keep pace with the increasing cost of even a simple funeral and a lack of clarity over what the payment will cover.

The government said it wants to make it clearer who is eligible for a payment and make it easier for people to claim.

Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance Caroline Dinenage, said: “We understand what a distressing and difficult time it can be losing a loved one and we want to make the process of claiming a Funeral Payment as simple as possible. That’s why we have looked at a number of improvements to the process and are seeking people’s views on those.

The proposals include allowing recipients of a Funeral Expenses Payment to receive contributions from relatives, friends or charities without it being deducted from the payment; extending the claim period from three to six months from the date of the funeral; and allowing applicants to submit evidence electronically to speed up the processing of claims and get decisions to claimants sooner.

Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral expert at Royal London, said: “It’s good to see the government consulting to reform the Funeral Payment application process to make it easier for those who are eligible to make a claim. Our research shows that people are taking on an average debt of around £1,600 to pay for funeral expenses, so while the consultation is a step in the right direction, it fails to address the value of the award, which falls short of covering funeral costs.

“The decline in the number of successful Funeral Payment applications is also a concern, which the consultation doesn’t address. We want the government to go further and commit to increasing the value of the social fund funeral expenses payment and tackling funeral poverty.”

See’s How to cut the cost of a funeral and Why now could be the time to inflation-proof the cost of your funeral for more information.

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