£2m taxpayers' bill for families unable to afford funerals


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The Independent Online

Financially pressed families cannot afford to bury loved ones, and taxpayers increasingly have to foot the bill, a report has found.

Research by the Local Government Association found councils in England and Wales funded almost 3,000 funerals last year. Some 52 per cent of councils reported increases in families claiming not to have enough money to pay for funerals. Councils spent £2,110,000, with the average cost being £950.

David Rogers, chairman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said the Government's complex 25-page form stopped families from claiming grants. He said the process was slow and often failed families faced with having to pay costs up-front. "The last thing a grieving relative needs is extra stress over whether they're going to be able to pay for and organise the funeral of their loved one," Mr Rogers said.

"There is a specific grant available to alleviate that situation, but it is so outdated, complex and confusing that it often prevents people getting the support they are entitled to."

Mr Rogers said the funeral payment covered burial or cremation costs but only provided up to £700 for other expenses, including funeral director costs. He said this had not been updated since 2003.

Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, when someone dies outside of a hospital and there is no next of kin or anyone else to foot the bill, the funeral arrangements and costs fall on councils.