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What happens when you can’t afford a funeral?

calendar28 June 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

What happens when you can’t afford a funeral?

No matter how much money you have in the bank, death comes to us all but with funeral costs rising by up to 80% in the last few years, many people struggle to pay for funeral costs. Death can happen at any time and often without warning, so it can be hard to find the average £3,700 it takes to say goodbye. For some, the costs of cremation, burial, funeral service, hearse and refreshments for guests can worsen existing debt problems or push people into debt all by itself.

Shop around

Like anything else when you’re living on a limited budget, it can be worth shopping around to find a funeral director that offers good value and works with you to get the best deal. You’re likely to be feeling fragile, so find a friend who is less immediately impacted by the death to go with you or do some immediate ringing round. There’s no shame in asking for a price list at the start, if you’re not offered one. This is a major purchase and you want to feel in control.

Some funeral directors offer loans for those who are unable to pay. Others will decline new customers who cannot offer a deposit up-front or show that they can pay for the cost of the funeral. If you choose to pay back in instalments, you need to make sure it’s a plan you’ll be able to keep up with. However, most funeral directors are kind enough to ensure you can actually afford to pay if you are honest with what you can afford. It’s a common misconception that a lower cost funeral is somehow disrespectful to the deceased. Most funeral directors will offer a simple, respectful service on their premises that’s a lot easier on your budget.

You may be able to cut down on funeral costs by doing some little bits yourself, for example driving your own cars, buying your own flowers or asking a relative to host the reception afterwards. As with buying anything, you can choose certain elements in favour of others. Does the coffin really need brass handles? You are about to bury it, after all.

Some people with the permission of the vicar, even decide to pass round a collection plate at the service to help pay for the costs, collectively.

When you’re going through the funeral process, vicars and other church leaders can be really good people to talk to. As they’re someone outside the system of funeral directors, and other people you know, it can be helpful to chat with them about any troubles you might be having. Brave it and be honest with them – you’ll be glad you did.

In special cases Church of England vicars even have the right to reduce or waive fees on the church building and the church service, potentially saving hundreds of pounds.

Charities and Government Authorities

There are also many charities that will able to help. For example, Quaker Social Action has set up free practical guidance on how to find an affordable funeral, save money on the cost and find the money to pay. Check it out here http://www.quakersocialaction.org.uk/worried-about-paying-for-a-funeral

When someone dies and there’s no way for their family to pay, the Government have set up a few ways they can help. If either you or the deceased were claiming benefits, you can apply to the DWP for a social fund award to help pay for the funeral. However, some people have experienced long delays and you might not find out if you will get any money for it until after the funeral which can cause a lot of stress. If you can cope with a possible wait, it’s worth giving it a try.

Public Health funerals are growing increasingly common. They can be carried out by the local authorities or the NHS. They apply when someone dies in debt and no one in the remaining family can afford the cost of the funeral either. Although it’s tragic that they’re getting more common, there shouldn’t be any stigma attached. They are still carried out with all the care and reverence you’d expect.

Christians Against Poverty is proud to be a member of the Funeral Poverty Alliance set up in September 2014 to campaign collectively against funeral poverty.

http://www.quakersocialaction.org.uk/funeral-poverty-alliance

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