William Eichler 31 August 2017

Funeral debt at ‘all-time high’, research reveals

Funeral debt has increased to an all-time high as funeral costs increase, research reveals.

Royal London National Funeral Cost Index 2017 has revealed that funeral poverty has reached an all-time high of £160m with those struggling to pay funeral costs taking on an average debt of £1,680.

It also found the average cost of a funeral has increased to £3,784.

One in six (16%) of those who took part in Royal London’s annual study said they struggled with funeral costs. Many people reported taking on an average debt of £1,680.

Among those who struggled, one in four said they borrowed money from family and friends (26%) and a further one in four (23%) went into debt by taking out a loan or going into their overdraft to pay funeral costs.

A record number of people were also selling their possessions to repay funeral debt, with one in 10 (10%) of those struggling with funeral payments taking this approach. 

For a second year, Kensal Green in London is the most expensive location in the UK for a funeral with an average cost of £6,516, an increase of 1% from 2016. Belfast retains its place as the cheapest location with the average cost of a funeral at £3,036.

The research found ‘no frills’ funerals are popular. Of all the cremation funerals held, 10% did not include a ceremony or service.

The combined spending on venue and catering for funerals has increased by 10% from £765 in 2014 to £840 in 2017.

‘The decline in funeral inflation we identified last year was a temporary respite, as our latest research shows funeral costs are on the rise again,’ said Royal London’s funeral cost expert, Louise Eaton-Terry.

‘With thousands of bereaved people struggling to pay funeral costs and taking on nearly £1,700 in debt to ensure their loved one has a decent send-off, it is clear that Government action to tackle funeral poverty is long overdue.’

Royal London called on policymakers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow Scotland’s lead and do away with the fees charged by doctors to bereaved families for certifying a death, currently around £164.

‘The Scottish government is leading the way with its commitment to providing help and guidance on funeral costs for consumers,’ continued Ms Eaton-Terry.

'We want Westminster to follow Scotland’s lead and do more to address the issue of rising funeral debt.’

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