Funeral poverty: time for the churches to act

Preventing Poverty Beyond DeathPeople on low incomes are increasingly finding that the death of a loved one plunges them into serious and long-term debt. Our new report calls on the UK’s churches to use their unique opportunity to help tackle the growing problem of ‘funeral poverty’.

Preventing Poverty Beyond Death, published on 12 October, explains how rising funeral prices are leaving more and more bereaved people struggling to cover the costs of a funeral. It also introduces many examples of initiatives which help people to access more affordable funerals – and highlights how churches could do more to tackle the problem.

Funeral poverty cartoon by Dave Walker

Church Action on Poverty’s Director Niall Cooper commented:

“Last year, the cost of dying rose seven times faster than the cost of living. People on low incomes or benefits, who often have little or no savings, are hardest hit. Churches are still involved in almost half of all funerals that take place in the UK, so we have a unique opportunity to address the problem. If ministers can simply help bereaved people to access more affordable options, we can ensure that people are left with fond memories, not crushing debts.”

Funeral poverty church stats infographic

Preventing Poverty Beyond Death includes information about numerous Christian projects which tackle the problem – including Quaker Social Action’s ‘Down to Earth’ initiative and Fair Funerals Pledge, and the Anglican Diocese of Lichfield’s provision of funeral loans through their partnership with a local credit union.

CFuneral poverty cost of dying memehurch Action on Poverty is contacting all Christian denominations and dioceses, offering to work with them to ensure local ministers have the information they need to tackle funeral poverty through their pastoral work. The report also makes a number of other recommendations:

  • Churches and others could follow Quaker Social Action’s lead in establishing a ‘funeral brokerage’ scheme, to support bereaved families to access a dignified funeral, without getting into crippling debt.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury’s To Your Credit initiative should be more pro-active in encouraging credit unions to set up Emergency Funeral Loan schemes.
  • Funeral directors should sign up to the Fair Funerals Pledge, promising to make their most affordable funeral package visible to the public, communicate prices in initial conversations, and prominently display full price lists.
  • The Work and Pensions Select Committee should lead an inquiry into funeral and bereavement poverty, including in particular the inadequacy of the Social Fund Funeral Payments system.
  • Click here to read or download Preventing Poverty Beyond Death.
  • Take action – click here to contact leaders in your own denomination, and ask about their plans to address funeral poverty.

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