Grieving families missing out on more than £1,000 – and reduced funeral costs

Most people don’t know the money is available – or that you can reduce the cost of a funeral by 75%

The bill for giving a loved one a fitting send-off is not cheap with an average funeral costing £4,184 last year according to reports.

But many could be unaware of financial support available to help keep bills at a minimum, as well as other benefits available after the loss of a partner or family member.

Howard Hodgson, CEO of leading funeral provider Memoria Low Cost Funerals, said it is important to consider all of the options available to avoid spiralling bills.

He said: “Arranging a funeral for a loved one can carry tremendous pressure to get it just right, but there is more choice than ever to find the most appropriate funeral and one that can meet the family budget.

“It is important to be aware of Government support available to bereaved families, which could make all the difference in avoiding financial pressure at what is such a difficult time already.

“In England and Wales, a Funeral Expenses Payment of up to £1,000 is available if you are in receipt of certain benefits, such as Income Support, Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.

“This figure is unlikely to increase any time soon, with the Covid pandemic placing such a huge strain on public finances, so it makes cheaper funeral options all the more important.

“While traditional funerals can run into thousands of pounds, it’s entirely possible to arrange a personalised and fitting funeral service that can save anything from 50 percent to 75 percent of the average cost.

“This can be done by eliminating many of the trappings associated with a traditional Victorian funeral. Many people deem these to be inappropriate today but don’t realise they DON’T have to have them unless they especially want to .

“Whether it’s choosing a more appropriate funeral package or applying for support from the Government, it’s vital to explore your options and not let funeral costs spiral out of control by buying things you don’t really want.”

According to UK-wide funeral costs helpline, Down to Earth, the Funeral Expenses Payment does not only pay up to £1,000, it pays reasonable burial or cremation fees plus up to £1,000 towards ‘other funeral expenses’ e.g. the funeral director’s fees, coffin, minister/celebrant, hearse etc.

It will also cover other items and services, such as doctor’s fees where necessary in the case of cremation, travel to and from the service/funeral director and death certificates or other relevant documents.

Funeral costs are sometimes covered by forward planning from the deceased individual, but they can also come as an unwelcome and often unexpected burden to a family following a sudden loss.

However, a number of costly items such as a hearse, limousines and floral tributes can be eliminated if not felt appropriate and thus thousands of pounds saved.

For example a Celebration of Life service, which would mean the coffin was already the crematorium chapel, with friends and family meeting there for a service that would include personal music, eulogies, photographic tributes and web streaming would be both wonderfully personal, appropriate and save as much as 50 percent of the cost of a traditional Victorian funeral.

Another Low Cost Funeral option, direct cremation, where there is no service only the cremation, is even cheaper and saves 75 percent of the cost of a traditional funeral.

The Funeral Expenses Payment of £1,000 is available to families in England and Wales who would otherwise struggle to afford a proper burial or cremation, but applicants must meet specific criteria.

It includes people who are eligible for benefits such as Income Support and Pension Credit, and the financial aid must be applied for within six months following the funeral.

The scheme is designed to help cover associated costs such as burial or cremation fees, travel to and from the service and death certificates or other relevant documents.

The payment is only available for certain people close to the deceased, such as their partner or a close relative or friend.

Successful applicants could be forced to return the payment if the deceased leaves an estate sizeable enough to cover the funeral costs.

In Scotland, a similar scheme exists called the Funeral Support Payment, while Northern Ireland has its own version called Funeral Payment.

Meanwhile, local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales do not charge fees for a standard burial or cremation if the deceased was aged below 18 years at their time of death.

Anyone who would like to apply for help with funeral costs should visit the Government’s website or speak to their local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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