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The UK has funeral debt close to £150m

Mike Wakeford

The total amount borrowed by people living in the UK to pay for funerals, has hit close to £147 million, as it is revealed almost 95,000 have been slapped with a huge and unexpected funeral bill, with no other choice but to simply borrow, in order to be able to afford it. It is a startling number that demonstrates how unbelievably out of hand the cost of funerals has become. 

According to Royal London’s latest funeral index, the average funeral costs £3,675 and currently we are borrowing around £1,601. Between 2007 and 2015 funeral costs increased by an average of 6.33% each year, if costs continue to rise at the same rate, it is estimated that the cost of the average funeral could reach nearly £6,107 by 2023.

Data from the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management shows that funeral costs are also something of a postcode lottery, with bills varying in accordance to different parts of the UK. A burial in Kensal Green, north London, will set you back £9,679, dropping to £2,917 for a burial in Belfast. Cremations are much cheaper averaging at £3,165 in Kensal Green and £2,879 in Belfast.

Royal London’s consumer spokesperson said that “When dealing with the loss of a loved one, the last thing that people need is financial stress as well. It is shocking that more than 90,000 people had to borrow an average of £1,600 simply to give their loved ones a decent send off.

It is vital that the government tackles funeral poverty by addressing the flaws with the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment. This includes the length of time it takes to get a payment which then often falls far short of the cost of the funeral.”

She adds: “The funeral industry also needs to address consumer demand for a simpler and cheaper funeral option, by providing more access to direct cremation and direct burials.”

Ten years ago very few people opted for funeral plan insurance, but that has changed dramatically with now over half a million people in the UK opting for funeral plan insurance. Funeral plans provide the opportunity for people to plan their funeral in as little or as much detail as they want, so that when the time does come, relatives are not left to pick up the pieces. 

A direct burial or cremation involves no funeral service, hearse or procession. You do not choose when it will take place and people are not able to come and say their farewells. The Good Funeral Guide says you can expect to pay in the region of £1,000 for a direct cremation. You can arrange a separate memorial service or scatter the ashes should you so wish.