Tackling Funeral Poverty: A Joint Approach
We recognise that a range of organisations and individuals need to work together to tackle funeral poverty.
A number of bodies are already active in relation to funeral poverty in Scotland, including the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty which formed in 2012. The group is chaired by John Birrell, an independent Bereavement Consultant.
At a UK level, in September 2014, Quaker Social Action formed the Funeral Poverty Alliance, a network of not-for-profit organisations to campaign collectively against funeral poverty.
Funeral Poverty in Scotland, a Review for Scottish Government was published in February 2016 alongside a Scottish Government Response. The review found that:
- The rise in funeral costs means that paying for a funeral is a significant financial shock and there is a substantial shortfall between the cost of a funeral and what people can afford;
- Local authority and funeral director costs vary widely and are consistently increasing;
- While insurance products and pre-paid funeral plans can contribute to a solution, there are concerns about transparency and security; and
- The reluctance to talk about death and dying contributes to the problem. People need a higher level of 'funeral literacy' to safely navigate the system.
Progress so far
The Scottish Government has already undertaken a number of actions, working with stakeholders, to address funeral poverty. This includes:
- March 2015: removal of £170 doctor's fee from cremation charges, resulting in parity between burial and cremation, and reducing the cost for members of the public choosing a cremation;
- October 2015: Scottish Government commissioned John Birrell and Citizens Advice Scotland to prepare a report on Funeral Poverty in Scotland;
- February 2016: Funeral Poverty in Scotland, a Review for Scottish Government was published alongside the Scottish Government's Response;
- March 2016: Funeral Expense Assistance and Funeral Poverty Reference Group established to support policy development of the benefit that will replace the current DWP Funeral Payment;
- April 2016: Burial & Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 received Royal Assent. This Act includes powers for the Scottish Government to issue guidance on funeral costs. It also requires local authority burial and cremation authorities to publish information on charges. These measures will improve transparency of pricing and help members of the public to more easily access charging information in advance of arranging a funeral;
- July - October 2016: Consultation on the Social Security Bill, including the Funeral Expense Assistance benefit;
- October 2016: Fairer Scotland Action Plan published. This outlines 50 actions to help tackle poverty, reduce inequality and build a fairer and more inclusive Scotland, including an action on tackling funeral poverty;
- Autumn 2016: Three round table discussions on funeral poverty hosted by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities with the funeral industry, local authorities, advice services and other third sector organisations;
- November 2016: National Conference on Funeral Poverty held to look at issues related to funeral poverty, build consensus and consider potential solutions;
- April 2017: Scottish Government funded e-learning course launched by Citizens Advice Scotland for advisors on the current DWP Funeral Payment;
- April 2017: Appointment of first Inspector of Funeral Directors. The Inspector will spend the first 18 months of their two-year appointment undertaking a review of the funeral profession, with a view to making recommendations to Scottish Ministers on how it should be regulated, including whether to introduce a licensing regime;
- June 2017: Social Security Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament; and
- August 2017: Publication of Funeral Costs Plan.