Government to introduce changes to funeral payments in April
The government has announced plans to simplify the process for making claims under the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payments scheme.
The scheme makes a contribution to the costs of funerals being arranged by people on qualifying benefits. It allows them to receive up to £700 for funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, the coffin, flowers and travel.
However, critics have argued that these payments have failed to keep up with the increasing cost of funerals and concerns have been raised over a lack of clarity on eligibility criteria. The government launched a consultation on Funeral Payments this summer and revealed the results in November.
A number of changes will come into effect on 2 April, including enabling claimants to receive contributions from charities, relatives or friends without them being deducted from the overall sum payable toward funeral costs. Also, claimants will have six months from the funeral date in which to make an application for help with funeral costs instead of the current three months. They will also have the option of submitting any evidence needed in support of their claim electronically.
Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, said: “It’s good to see small changes being made to the Funeral Payment process, but the government has ignored the biggest issue. Funeral costs continue to increase above inflation year-on-year, with our research showing that bereaved families who qualify for the fund face a shortfall of more than £2,000 to cover the cost of a funeral. While these reforms are a step in the right direction, they fail to address the value of the award and we want the government to go further and commit to increasing the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment.”
According to the latest SunLife Cost of Dying report, the average funeral now costs £4,078. Funeral costs are up 4.7% in just a year, having risen more than 70% in the past decade, more than three and a half times the increase in house prices.