11:20pm Sunday 24 September 2017

Researchers investigate if state provides enough support for funeral costs

Academics from the Centre for Death & Society (CDAS) within the University’s Department of Social & Policy Science are examining the current Funeral Payment Scheme to find out if it is enough to cover the costs of a funeral.

The Funeral Payment Scheme is part of the Government’s Social Fund, which supports the poor and vulnerable who cannot afford the costs of some necessities.

To date, very little information has been collated and documented regarding the scheme, despite concerns being raised about the feasibility of other aspects of the Social Fund, such as winter fuel payments and maternity grants.

Now the researchers are building on this by investigating the processes and experiences of applying to the scheme from those who have been both successful and unsuccessful in their applications.

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, the project’s lead researcher, said: “The research is particularly timely bearing in mind the potential demographic time bomb the UK faces. Previous research by the National Audit Office found that by 2030 there will be an extra 100,000 people dying a year and that around 35 per cent of people in the UK have no will or savings.

“We want to speak to people about their experience so we can provide evidence to policy makers and stakeholders about the difficulties that people can face when it comes to paying for a funeral after a loved one has died.

“Changes are planned to the current Social Fund as part of the Welfare Reform Bill, currently working its way through the House of Lords, and it is our hope that this research can inform and guide local authorities when addressing these changes.”

People are being recruited from around the UK to take part in a series of interviews which will form the basis for part of the study and researchers are currently particularly interested in speaking to people from Scotland and Wales. Interviews can take place over the phone and will take approximately 30 minutes.

The team will also be talking to funeral directors and agencies including Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice Bureau, the Bereavement Advice Centre, Quaker Social Action and Age UK to understand how the system currently works for them, and how they would like to see things change.

A further part of the research will look at how other countries around the world manage and fund funerals for those on low incomes.

A full report will be launched in Dying Matters week, 14-18 May 2012. This project is being carried out in conjunction with Sun Life Direct.

To share your story please email the University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society or call 01225 396949.

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