Taxpayers left covering costs of more funerals

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Financially pressed families cannot afford to bury loved ones, and often taxpayers have to foot the bills.

Research by the Local Government Association found that councils across England and Wales funded almost 3,000 funerals last year, largely because families could not afford burial costs.

The report said 52 per cent of councils reported more families claiming not to have enough money to pay for funerals. Councils spent £2,110,000 on funerals, with the average costing £950.

Most of the councils involved in the study blamed the Government’s “outdated” and “confusing” funeral payments service for letting families down.

Councillor 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 paying in advance.

“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 “There is a specific grant available to alleviate that situation, but it’s so outdated, complex and confusing that it often prevents people getting the support they’re entitled to.”

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

Legally, when someone dies outside hospital with no next of kin or anyone else to pay, the funeral arrangements and costs fall on councils.