Thatcher funeral: time to stop the travesty of funeral poverty
The cost of Thatcher’s funeral is an outrage, but it comes at a time when state funerals are needed much more often. Of course there’s a certain irony about someone whose aim was to privatise everything in sight receiving a publicly funded funeral. But there’s a more important point here. And that’s the growing issue of funeral poverty.
Councils are responsible for assisting those who can’t afford to bury their loved ones. As council tax is frozen local authorities have sought to raise charges for other services. This has resulted in a substantial increase in the cost of funerals. And a corresponding increase in funeral poverty.
And as the great recession that is Thatcher’s ultimate legacy enters its triple dip, so more and more people are struggling to afford the increasing cost of funerals.
Sun Life suggest that “in 2012, 17% of those arranging a funeral experienced a funding shortfall which on average was £1,246. With around 560,000 deaths in the UK each year, Funeral Poverty stands at a record level of £118 million, up from £85million in 2010.”
Last year the number of applicants to the Government’s Funeral Payment scheme, for those who cannot afford a burial, increased by 6.9%. This is likely to rise further as the death rate increases, Council’s find themselves even more strapped for cash and the economy continues to deteriorate.
At the same time the cost of a funeral and associated expenses has risen by 70% since 2004. It now costs on average £2,700 for a standard funeral. But often families will wish to spend more to remember a loved one.
Councils are reacting to the increase in demand for funeral assistance and growing cost of funerals by restricting eligibility. This has meant that in some cases the only funerals local authorities will fund are those of people with no resources, no family and no possible means of paying for a funeral. In England and Wales last year there were more than 3,000 ‘public health funerals’ paid for by local authorities.
For the £10m cost of the Thatcher funeral we could pay for around 900 funerals for those who can’t afford them. It’s time to act on funeral poverty, and by doing so add to a caring society that rejects Thatcher’s ‘greed is good’ philosophy.
Thanks for helpful piece. One error in math in last paragraph: £10,000,000/£2,700 = 3,704
So should read “For the £10m cost of the Thatcher funeral we could pay for around 3,700 [not 900] funerals for those who can’t afford them” (at the average cost).
A small measure that would help and be easy, and I think symbolically important, would be to abolish the fee for a medical cremation form. Currently two doctors have to countersign these, it takes about 15 minutes and they get paid £75 each – I think it must be a hangover to the pre-NHS days.
To avoid this I attach a note saying that I don’t want paid and ask that the undertaker not charge the family, but surely it would be easy enough to change the rule?
I’ll look into it.