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Bereaved are burdened with record high funeral debt

Written by: Emma Lunn
Funeral costs are at an all-time high with a basic funeral costing an average of £3,785.

Bereaved families who struggle with funeral costs are taking on an average of £1,990 debt to pay for a funeral, according to the 2019 Royal London National Funeral Cost Index.

The index found the total amount of funeral debt in the UK has risen to £147m, a 12 per cent increase from last year, and that about 74,000 bereaved families have struggled to cover the cost of a funeral in the past year.

Of those who struggled, one in four (27 per cent) said they went into debt from credit cards, loans or overdrafts. One in five (20 per cent) borrowed money from family or friends and nearly one in eight (12 per cent) had to choose a cheaper funeral.

The amount spent on a funeral between income groups varies very little, as the research shows those with an income of less than £5,000 a year spend at least 65 per cent of their annual income on a funeral, compared to just 3 per cent at most for those on £150,000 or more a year. Yet state support for those on low income is inadequate as it only covers 39 per cent of the cost of a simple funeral.

Rising cost of funerals

Funeral costs have risen in the past year and are at an all-time high, with a basic funeral in the UK costing £3,785, an increase of £28 from last year. London remains the most expensive region with a funeral costing an average of £4,939, whilst Northern Ireland is the least expensive, with the average funeral costing £2,943.

Kensal Green in London is the most expensive location for a funeral with the average cost at £8,150. A burial in Kensal Green costs more than £13,000, according to the research.

Belfast in Northern Ireland is the least expensive location with the average funeral costing £2,943 and a typical burial £3,042. This means the difference between the most and least expensive locations in the UK is more than £10,000.

Dying wishes

A third (34 per cent) of people questioned said the funeral for their loved on cost more than they expected. Despite this, a quarter (25 per cent) of people went above and beyond the deceased’s funeral wishes, with 11 per cent of these saying they spent £1,000 more than previously discussed.

Louise Eaton-Terry, Royal London’s funeral cost expert, said: “As bereaved families continue to take on thousands of pounds of debt to pay for their loved ones’ funerals, support from the state remains woefully inadequate. The government have tinkered around the edges and made some improvements to the Funeral Expenses Payment benefit, but the fact remains that the fund does not cover the full cost of a simple funeral. The value of the fund is seriously lacking with no serious action being taken to increase it and help support the bereaved who are being crippled with funeral debt.”


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