Funeral Support Payment: evaluation - qualitative research

Qualitative research supporting the findings from the evaluation of the Funeral Support Payment.

This document is part of a collection

Chapter 6: Impact of FSP on clients' mental wellbeing and grieving process

Main findings

FSP had an impact on recipients' wellbeing in three main ways: minimising financial worries about paying for the funeral; alleviating concerns about letting down the person who had died by enabling clients to have greater choice around the funeral; and allowing clients to focus on grieving rather than their money worries. Clients recognised, however, that grieving was a difficult, long-term process regardless of financial circumstances, so there was a limit to how much FSP could help.

The positive impacts were again limited by: delays in receiving FSP; not knowing how much would be covered; and FSP not covering the full cost of the funeral.

This chapter will focus on the impact of FSP on the wellbeing and grieving process of recipients. It relates to the following research objective:

  • Whether and how FSP is helping people on low incomes progress through grief related to death, exploring:
    • Impact on grief, mental health and money-related stress

This chapter will first discuss the positive impact FSP has had in alleviating clients' money worries and their experiences of planning the funeral and grieving, before turning to the factors which limit this positive impact.

Impact of FSP on wellbeing and grief

FSP had an impact on recipients' wellbeing in three main ways:

  • Minimising financial worries about paying for the funeral
  • Alleviating concerns about letting down the person who had died by enabling clients to have greater choice around the funeral
  • Allowing clients to focus on grieving rather than their money worries

Financial worries

Clients commented that receiving FSP had helped minimise their money worries. They recalled feeling grateful and relieved when they received FSP. As discussed in the previous chapter, there were participants who had lost someone unexpectedly, had minimal or no savings to put towards a funeral, and whose relative had left nothing behind to help with funeral costs. In these cases, the positive impact of FSP on levels of financial stress was felt particularly strongly.

"It just took the pressure off. I was worried. I was really, really worried. I was in overdraft, no assets, had to pay for a funeral […]. Just knowing the FSP was on its way was a massive relief."

FSP client, 35-54, Dundee

Facilitating greater choice

There was also a view that FSP supported a healthy grieving process by allowing clients to have a funeral that better fitted their needs and avoid feeling like they were letting their relative down. As touched on in Chapter 3, there were clients whose choices were expanded by the fact they had this financial contribution towards the funeral. For example, clients expressed gratitude that FSP allowed them to bury someone in a grave they could visit later on in their grieving, rather than having to choose cremation because it costs less. One client recalled having previously claimed a similar benefit while planning a past funeral, and only being eligible for enough money to cremate their loved one, against their wishes. In contrast, FSP allowed her to choose the funeral she wanted, supporting her grieving process.

"They asked whether she was being buried or cremated. I really wanted her to be buried. But [I remembered that] when my dad had died, my mum wanted my dad buried, but because of the cost of opening a plot my mum couldn't afford to do that and the grant at the time didn't cover that. What happened [this time] was they paid for the plot, and […] it was an absolute blessing, because we got to do what we wanted to do, we wanted to bury her."

FSP client, 55+, Glasgow

FSP also allowed clients to feel they were taking financial responsibility for the death of the person they were close to, which they perceived to be more appropriate. For example, it might mean they were able to cover the costs of their partner's funeral themselves, rather than having to ask for help from more distant relatives or their children.

Being able to focus on grieving rather than financial worries

With the financial worry reduced, clients could focus on other considerations around planning the funeral and beginning to grieve.

"It was like the black clouds disappeared and there were big white ones up there somewhere. It was massive, it was absolutely massive. […]. Then I could get on with arranging a funeral rather than worrying, 'how am I going to pay for it?"

FSP client, 55+, South Ayrshire

"It doesn't make you less sad but relieves stress – you don't need extra stress when grieving, not to think about the financial problems."

FSP client, 35-54, North Ayrshire

The fact that FSP could expedite payment of the funeral bill for some clients was also considered positive. There were suggestions that it was easier to achieve closure and move on with the grieving process once the funeral bill was paid. Therefore, where FSP helped this happen more promptly, or where there were delays in payment despite or due to FSP, this could affect experiences of grieving.

"To not have that facility, to not be able to round off the funeral, because that horrible feeling will stay with them, 'I've not paid for that funeral'. The funeral has happened but that debt is still sitting there. The speed at which Funeral Support Payment comes, it is speedy, but it needs to be quicker."

Third sector organisation

However, clients also recognised that grieving is a life-long process and that there was a limit to the extent to which much money could make it easier.

"I don't know because the grieving process is a lifetime thing. […] You don't think about the financial side because your mind at that time, knowing your loved one is gone, you're not thinking about [the financial side]".

FSP client, 55+, East Lothian

"No, not really, money can't help the grieving process. They're very different, they're not linked."

FSP client, 55+, [Urban area]

The COVID-19 pandemic had also had an impact on experiences of grieving for clients. They discussed limits on the number of people who could attend the funeral, and feeling more isolated in their grief because, for example, they could not hug their relatives at the funeral.

"We've had all sorts of reports of people really struggling to grieve because of the restrictions of the last 18 months. Horrific stories of funerals only being attended by no more than 1 or 2 people. […] It definitely helps people with the grieving process and coping with the dramatic change in their life if they can say a proper farewell to their loved ones."

Third sector organisation

Susan's experience of FSP

Susan lives in a small town on the east coast of Scotland with her teenage son. Last year, she lost two relatives within the space of a month. Her grandfather died of old age in a care home, and shortly after the funeral her mother also died.

Her grandfather was cremated at a small, local crematorium. The funeral was attended by 20 people, which was the maximum allowed by COVID-19 restrictions at the time.

It cost around £3500, half of which was covered by FSP. Susan's grandfather had an insurance policy in place which covered most of the rest of the funeral, leaving Susan with around £250 to pay out of pocket. She paid this to the funeral director slowly via a repayment plan.

During the process of planning her grandfather's funeral, Susan's mum mentioned that when she died, she wanted a direct cremation instead. Soon after, Susan's mum died unexpectedly, and Susan planned a direct cremation for her as she had wanted.

"When my grandad had died obviously my mum had actually voiced what she wanted for her. So, luckily we managed to get that. She didn't want a funeral, so we had to get her cremated with no funeral. She didn't want one, she hated being the centre of attention and stuff like that, so she didn't want people there, if you know what I mean, we couldn't even be there."

For her mum's direct cremation, FSP covered the entirety of the costs.

Susan had first learned about FSP from the funeral director when she was planning her grandfather's funeral. She applied online, and this was followed up by a telephone call checking some of the details. For the second funeral, she chose to apply by phone as she anticipated that they would call her during the application anyway.

Susan found the experience of applying for FSP very straightforward. She was a bit worried the second time that they would be suspicious that she was applying again so quickly, but they were very understanding. In both cases, the money arrived quite quickly. She was very glad to receive FSP, as she would have been unable to cover the costs of two funerals in quick succession otherwise.

"It was such a Godsend to have that support, I just I wouldn't have known what to do if I hadn't have got that. I would have probably have, I don't know, had a breakdown or something, because it is just the worry. I suppose there are loads of worries in life, but it's like you have to worry about two of your family members' deaths, and how you're going to find the money to bury them and all this kind of stuff. It's kind of really such a Godsend that that funeral support payment exists."

Factors limiting the positive impacts on money worries and wellbeing

The same three factors which have been identified in previous chapters as limiting the potential impacts of FSP emerged again in this context:

  • Delays in receiving FSP
  • Not knowing how much would be covered
  • FSP not covering the full cost of the funeral

Clients who had experienced delays or administrative issues in receiving FSP, reported that this had caused them additional stress.

"Yes, [FSP had an impact on my wellbeing]. Just the whole thing – the apprehension, not being sure if it was going to be enough and when it was going to get paid out."

FSP client, 35-54, Glasgow

Third sector participants and funeral directors also highlighted this issue.

"It has reduced stress, yes absolutely. But sometimes not for a while or it causes more stress because most of the time they don't actually know before the funeral if they'll be successful in their claim so it gives them a lot of worry before and during the funeral. Sometimes they've asked me about it or said they haven't heard back at the funeral - it's the last thing that should be on their mind at a funeral. That's not the way it should be. [it would be better] if we could get decisions earlier."

Funeral director, larger business, Dundee

Third sector participants also highlighted that the portion of funeral costs that FSP did not cover was a source of real financial stress for their clients.

"We see clients… their grief, their ability to grieve is impacted by the genuine fear and terror for some people over how they can afford to pay the rest."

Third sector organisation

Disappointment was also expressed where FSP did not cover elements that were felt to be important to grieving. There was mention of the fact that FSP does not cover the cost of a headstone, which was felt to be important as it marks a person's final resting place.

"Even a wee basic thing, to put a name, a name where someone is, it is important that people know. I don't know why it is important, but it is important."

FSP client, 55+, Glasgow



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