/ Health, Money

The rising risk of funeral costs

Funeral director

For people on low incomes, the Social Fund provided by the government can be a lifeline. It pays for budgeting loans for people in debt, maternity grants, and cold weather and winter fuel payments.

But in recent years, it has come under growing criticism for failing to adequately help people meet the cost of a basic funeral, as the disparity between increasing funeral costs continues to outstrip payments from the scheme.

Stark figures published by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed that only 54% of the 66,000 applications made last year were successful in receiving a funeral payment from the Fund. But most worrying was that the average payment was just £1,225, which would meet just 35% of the cost of a basic funeral, leaving a shortfall of more than £2,000.

Cost of funeral director is the highest cost

The scheme also includes a cap of £700 towards funeral directors’ costs – generally the most expensive element – that has remained unchanged since 2003. Yet funeral costs have increased 80% over the same period.

In November 2012, Citizens Advice Bureau published a report replete with examples of people on low incomes falling into thousands of pounds of debt when faced with arranging a funeral. The report also highlighted other problems, such as a lack of information about funeral payments, speed of processing the payments and confusion around who is eligible for help from the Fund.

With funeral costs increasing by 7% annually – more than double the rate of inflation – there’s a real risk that future generations could be condemned to years of living with funeral poverty.


Here is a link to the CAB research which provides information on which the discussion is based:

I have a great respect for CAB and it is good to see some proper research into events which sooner or later will affect all of us. I do agree with most of the report particularly a standardised no frills low cost option. This would need to made a well-known fact rather than leaving the bereaved in the hands of people interested in up-selling to distressed relatives.

However if people wish for grander funerals that is entirely up to them and State subsidy should not be seen as a additional funds for a grander funeral. When looking at costs last year for my father I was much taken with this service where the total cost was just around £1200.

A memorial service or event , and a scattering of ashes can be arranged at a convenient later time and of course would be separate from the State aid.

Brian Wootton says:
10 November 2013

I can’t help thinking this is being tackled from the wrong direction. It wouldn’t cost much for our gardener to dig a hole in the back garden and some-one helping my wife to chuck me in. It wouldn’t cost a lot more to slide me into the sea off a boat, as in WWII. No doubt it’s all against the law!

Also I also think Funeral Services in general should be examined pretty closely, it’s strikes me that the people involved could be on ‘a nice little earner’.

Carole Ellis says:
10 November 2013

Yes I think something should be done perhaps there is room for a different type of funeral business as in more competitive. I for one think it is a disgrace. I would be quite happy in a cardboard box, I’m only going to be cremated, so what’s the point in buying an expensive coffin? (oh and I often wonder, do they actually burn that extortionately priced solid wood coffin or do they get you out first?) Relative’s of the deceased are on a bit of a guilt trip when arranging a funeral and want only the best. But it makes NO difference to the person who has died! Why can’t we be buried in the back garden or cremated without all the rigmarole. By the time the funeral comes around, usually at least 2 weeks, our spirits have moved on anyway.


Carole, cardboard printed with cheery messages could be good. The above coffin is oak veneered; I reckon I could make one of those for a third the price from oak-veneered mdf, let alone chipboard. Re-usable coffins (rent-a-box)? Why not?
This is not meant to sound irreverent.

raymond carlson says:
14 November 2013

This reminds me of a song from waay back . I;V GOT A NEVER ENDING JOB FOR YOU .


We need to know first of all why funeral costs have outstripped inflation.
Looking online, one website shows a simple funeral costs around £1200 + crematorium and doctor’s cost (no service), a basic funeral with these costs included around £1900, and a standard funeral with 2 vehicles £2600. Considerably less than the price shown in the introduction. If these figures are right, then the shortfall is around £700 for a basic funeral. Coffins look expensive (basic £350 – 400).
A difficult time when you probably want to do as little as possible other than hand it over to someone to organise it for you. Not a time to be shopping around, is it – you need trust in the funeral directors. Perhaps once again if the general breakdown of costs is shown we would have a better understanding of what should be paid.

Rachel says:
10 November 2013

The key would obviously be to oblige undertakers to make all customers aware of a standardised low cost option and to itemise the costs of all additional services. And to reduce the risk of price-fixing it might well be necessary to cap the price of the basic package. Notwithstanding, it’s important that everyone be aware of the duty on the local authority or hospital where the person died to provide a public health aka pauper’s funeral. There should never be a need for someone on a low income to go into debt in order to bury a loved one.


This was a statement on the website I looked at:
“The Funeral Director Industry associations require their members to offer a basic funeral (otherwise known as Simple Funeral or Direct Funeral) with a given specification as part of their code of practice. However it has been officially reported in a recent Which? survey, that in spite of this requirement, many choose not to offer this option, unless the client specifically asks for it.”
Perhaps it should be mandatory that this package is always offered.

E. C. E. says:
26 October 2014

I wholeheartedly agree, that when funeral untertakers hand out their information packs to inquiring customers the choice of a direct or basic funeral should be included.