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Funeral fund claims ‘confusing and frustrating’ says new report

 

The process for claiming government support for funeral costs in the form of Social Fund Funeral Payment (FP), administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, leaves individuals confused and frustrated says a new report released by Sun Life Direct.

  1. The process for claiming government support for funeral costs in the form of Social Fund Funeral Payment (FP), administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, leaves individuals confused and frustrated says a new report released by Sun Life Direct.

    The ’Cost of Dying Special Report: “Affording a funeral” Social Fund Funeral Payments’, which was conducted in collaboration with academics at the University of Bath, involved interviews with 64 people, including claimants and funeral directors. It reveals significant failings in the current system, which are discussed in more detail below.

    Eligibility and awareness

    One of the key findings of the report is the confusion surrounding the criteria for FP eligibility. Specifically, many respondents have an outdated understanding of the social security system and the difference between the FP and Bereavement Payment. This, in turn, has created false expectations and disappointment among claimants regarding both the success of claims and the amount awarded.

    It was also found that there is a general lack of awareness of eligibility among the majority of people who struggle with funeral costs as they are not aware of the scheme's existence.

    Ill-informed decisions

    Perhaps one of the biggest failings of the current system is that it requires people to make arrangements for a funeral without being in possession of a FP. This leads many people into taking on debts that they may not be able to afford to pay back.

    Stigma

    Confusion and frustration over FP only adds to the social stigma that exists within the UK for people who are unable to fund a funeral. The report classified the UK as part of a group of countries where welfare is considered to be an issue of dependency rather than entitlement and where there is a stigma attached to claiming for funeral funds.

     

    Funding doesn't go far enough

    Even in cases where a FP claim was successful, it was maintained that the amount awarded had not risen with inflation and therefore was not reflective of the true cost of a funeral. This meant that, in many cases, claimants were left with a shortfall to cover. One respondent commented on this by saying:

    “... it needs to be that it covers everything and you don’t have to pay extra. I think the amount that the Social Fund pays has to be increased to cover the cost of inflation because it doesn’t cover anywhere near what a funeral covers or costs anymore. It’s so out of date, it’s ridiculous.”

    Recommendations

    The report makes several recommendations to help claimants and funeral directors to overcome some of these problems.  These include:

    1. More accessible information – in the form of leaflets and coverage on the government's GOV.UK website.
    2. A quicker claims process – so that candidates can make funeral plans with full visibility of exactly how much they will be awarded.
    3. Education and training for funeral directors – it was revealed that many funeral directors are not in possession of all of the facts about FP, which means that they are unable to successfully advise their clients on making claims. Third party training courses would help remove this issue.
    4. Government endorsement of Self provision through funeral planning products such as funeral plans, general life insurance, over 50 life cover and other saving schemes.

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