Buried in debt: mourners borrow £1,700 to pay for loved ones’ funerals

05 Sep 2018  New research from Royal London reveals the average cost of a funeral is £3,757, with costs having stabilised this year (£3,784 in 2017).

The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index, in its fifth year, shows that London has consistently been the most expensive region in the UK for a funeral, with the average funeral costing £4,838.

Kensal Green, in London, remains the most expensive location, with the average cost of a funeral at £7,489. Burial funerals in Kensal Green have also increased and now cost almost £12,000. Northern Ireland also remains the least expensive region, with a funeral in Belfast costing an average of £2,950.

Funeral Debt

One in 10 took on debt to pay for a loved one’s funeral, with the average amount of debt taken on by individuals rising to an all-time high of £1,744. Of those who struggled with funeral costs, 28% of people borrowed money from friends and family and one in five took on debt. Sadly, one in 10(9%) continue to sell possessions to give their loved ones a decent send-off.

Families struggling with funeral costs could be entitled to help from the Government to pay for necessary costs but the research found that the support offered is inadequate. Funeral director’s fees, a coffin, hearse and collection and care of the deceased are not seen as necessary costs by the Government and only up to £700 is offered to bereaved families to cover costs. This leaves bereaved families with an average shortfall of £1,500 if they use the services of a funeral director.

Five years of funerals

In the fifth year of Royal London’s research into funeral costs, the average cost of a UK funeral has risen by 6%, from £3,551 in 2014 to £3,757 in 2018.

Individual funeral debt has increased at a much higher rate – 34% – in the last five years, with people now taking on an average debt of £1,744, compared to £1,305 in 2014.

Royal London’s funeral cost expert, Louise Eaton-Terry, said:

“High funeral costs have left many families taking on a mountain of debt, with our research showing a huge increase in the amount being borrowed by the bereaved over the last five years. More support needs to be offered to families struggling to pay for funeral costs, and as a result being forced into debt. 

“The funeral payment is seriously lacking, and it’s shocking that the government do not consider funeral director’s fees and a coffin to be a “necessary” cost. We want the social fund to cover the cost of a basic funeral, as no one should have to struggle to give their loved ones a decent send-off.”

Director of Quaker Social Action, Judith Moran, said:

“Funeral costs have risen way out of line with incomes but, understandably, people will do all they can to provide a decent send-off for a loved one. Funeral-related debt is at an all-time high and the cost of providing a decent send-off for a loved one comes with a heavy financial – and emotional – burden.

“Funeral debt can hinder the grieving process, and for many people the debt they take on may take months or even years to pay off. Everyone wants to be able to provide a meaningful, dignified funeral for someone they love. In a fair society, everyone should have access to a respectful funeral. “

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