Spiralling levels of funeral debt lead to calls for action

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Concerns have been raised about the growing number of families who have to take on a considerable debt burden in order to cover the costs of a funeral.

The financial challenges of laying a loved one to rest are unprecedented, with those who find it difficult to shoulder the burden and have to borrow to pay the bill ending up with an average debt of almost £1,700.

One in six of those who took part in a recent survey admitted that paying for a funeral – which can often cost well in excess of £3,000 – had been a challenge.

Around one in ten had sold possessions to repay the debt that had been incurred.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that prices vary dramatically across the different regions of the UK.

London’s Kensal Green is reckoned to be the most expensive location, with the average funeral costing in the region of £6,500. This is more than double the cost of making arrangements in Belfast – currently the cheapest place in Britain.

Leading charities have urged Westminster to follow the lead of the Scottish Government, which recently announced a ten-point plan to tackle funeral poverty and prevent people getting into financial difficulties while trying to give relations a decent send-off.

Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral costs spokesman at Royal London, which carried out the recent research, said: “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.”

Heather Kennedy, the ‘fair funerals’ campaign manager at Quaker Social Action, said: “The gap between the funeral fund and funeral costs continues to widen. We see the distress and financial hardship this creates.”

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