Arranging a funeral is something that many of us have little experience of but something we know is important as a mark of love and respect for the person who has died. Making decisions can be difficult. But if finding the money to pay for the funeral is a problem, then making arrangements can be even more challenging. That means it's really important that the support we provide to people who are struggling with funeral costs is easy to understand and access, and not something that makes the process of arranging a funeral even harder.
We have heard time and time again that the UK Government's Funeral Expenses Payment fails bereaved families in a number of ways. The Scottish Government is determined to make this support better when our Funeral Expense Assistance ( FEA) replaces the Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP) payment in Summer 2019, as one of eleven benefits being devolved to Scotland.
Delivery of FEA is central to our wider policy on funeral poverty, as set out in our Funeral Costs Plan [i] . The plan includes 10 actions that the Scottish Government will take across a range of areas to help tackle funeral poverty and make affordable funeral options available.
We have already announced a number of improvements we will incorporate in our FEA based on the significant level of engagement we have had with people with experience of the current DWP payment. We have listened to concerns about the impact of long processing times and have made a commitment to process applications within ten working days of receipt of a completed application; and make payments as soon as practicable thereafter.
We have widened eligibility so that around 2,000 additional people each year, who would receive nothing under the present system, will receive support. I am also pleased to have been able to commit to increasing the flat rate part of the payment each year to take account of the impact of inflation. This will ensure that the value of FEA is maintained. I would strongly urge the UK Government to make similar commitments so that bereaved families in the rest of the UK can also benefit from this improved support.
The Social Security (Scotland) Bill completed its Parliamentary process on 25 April 2018, marking a key step in our journey to deliver social security in Scotland, including FEA. We are now looking for your views through this consultation to inform our final policy for FEA. I encourage you to respond to the consultation, and thank you in advance for taking the time to give us your views.
Jeane Freeman MSP,
Minister for Social Security