Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Soaring funeral costs forcing low-income families into the arms of loan sharks

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Everyone wants to give their loved-ones a good send-off when their life comes to an end, but the ever-rising cost of funerals is forcing some families into taking desperate measures that can have a huge impact on their financial security for years to come.

An investigation by The Mirror reveals how the rising scourge of “funeral poverty” has resulted in some families turning to high-cost lenders, and in some cases even loan sharks, in order to afford funeral costs, with the growth in so-called “paupers funerals” seemingly fuelled by inadequate benefits support.

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Lindesay Mace, of the Down to Earth service, part of charity Quaker Social Action, told The Mirror: “A client, and this won’t be a solo case, went to a loan shark and as a result was facing having to pay back that money within two weeks or they would have to pay double what they had borrowed.”

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According to The Mirror, around one in eight say they cannot afford the cost of their loved-ones funeral and an estimated 90,000 families are taking out loans each year to help cover the bill.

Recent research by the insurance firm Sunlife found that funeral costs have rocketed by 62% in only a decade and more than double 2004 prices.

The Mirror reports that some council-run crematoriums continue to hike up prices. For example, Cardiff City Council have increased prices by eleven times the rate of inflation – an 14.3% rise in the last year alone.

Cardiff Council blamed “unprecedented cuts” to council funding and said it tries to keep price rises “to a minimum”.

The Church of England have expressed concern at the relentless rise in the numbers of people who are being pushed into debt.

Rev Andrew Dotchin said low-income households are being “punished for their poverty”, recalling the memory of one family who were prevented from witnessing their loved-ones funeral.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRB31ubDJaA&width=720&height=405&centervid=1[/embedyt]

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While those in receipt of benefits can get help with funeral costs, in the form of a Funeral Expenses Payment, it rarely if ever covers the full cost and payment delays have left some distraught families reeling.

Ms Mace said: “We had cases where the funeral has taken place six, nine months after the death.”

Father Simon Moss claims he had to turn to crowd-funding to help pay for his son Darren’s funeral, who died aged 29 in 2017.

“No one expects to arrange a funeral for their son”, he said. “We had to find £2,700 for a basic funeral.”

He continued: “We were lucky to be granted £1,300 from the DWP but had to crowdfund for £1,400. We got the last amount in the car to the wake.”

Left in serious financial distress, the 65-year-old from Sunderland was helped by the charity Christians Against Poverty.

Mum of four Lisa Reece had to raid her savings to pay the £2,500 cost a basic funeral for her husband Robert, who died of prostate cancer – aged just 45 year’s of age – last November (2019).

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“When you’ve got children and younger people you’re not expecting it”, she said. “You haven’t got the money for extortionate things.

She added: “It was a shock. Without the savings I would have had to rely on someone else until I paid it back.”

Kate Woodthorpe, of Bath University’s Centre for Death and Society, said funeral poverty is often “hidden” because most families somehow “find a way” to cope.

Meanwhile, the Competition and Markets Authority has threatened to to cap prices to prevent future rises from “hitting people at their most vulnerable”.

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DWP faces judicial review after mentally ill man found ‘starved to death’

Errol Graham starved to death in June 2018 after the DWP stopped his benefits.