This chapter introduces Funeral Support Payment and the rationale behind its implementation. It also summarises the eligibility criteria, aspects of the application process, and the overall evaluation aims relevant to this report.
Funeral Support Payment: Description
The Social Security powers that have been devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for £2.8 billion of social security expenditure (around 15% of total benefit expenditure in Scotland), enacted though the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. The Act gives specific responsibility for benefits which meet or contribute towards funeral expenses.
Funeral Support Payment has been implemented using these new powers. It replaced the Funeral Expenses Payment, which was administered by the Department of Work and Pensions. Funeral Support Payment is a key part of the Funeral Costs Plan set out by the Scottish Government to tackle poverty stemming from funerals. Social Security Scotland has been taking Funeral Support Payment applications since 16 September 2019.
Funeral Support Payment is designed to contribute towards the cost of a funeral for people on low incomes in receipt of certain benefits, with an overall aim of reducing funeral-related poverty and supporting people through the bereavement process. The payment does not usually cover the full cost of the funeral, but makes a contribution to the cost. The funeral can be for a baby (including babies who were stillborn), child, or an adult. However, if a baby died before the end of 24 completed weeks of pregnancy, Funeral Support Payment cannot help towards these costs.
To receive Funeral Support Payment, clients must meet a range of eligibility criteria. This includes (a) being resident in Scotland, (b) receiving a qualifying benefit (or having a partner who receives one), and (c) being reasonably responsible for the funeral costs (or having a partner who is responsible for the funeral costs). The funeral must also be for someone who lived in the UK. It must take place in the UK, or in some circumstances in the European Union, or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
The average total payment of Funeral Support Payment is currently £1,810, but the actual amount received depends on a number of factors. It can be used for:
- Funeral costs (fixed rate)
- Burial or cremation costs
- Travel costs
- Transport costs to move the person who died
- Document costs
- Medical costs
There are two fixed rates for funeral costs - a higher rate if person who died did not have a pre-paid funeral plan, and a lower rate if the person did have a pre-paid funeral plan. The fixed rates of Funeral Support Payment have increased since the policy was implemented:
- £1070.60 and £130.65 (current high/low rates)
- £1010 and £123.25 (April 2021/March 2022)
- £1000 and £120.05 (April 2020 to March 2021)
- £700 and £120 (September 2019 to March 2020)
The other costs, when they apply, vary depending on the circumstances. For example, in Scotland, it does not usually cost anything to bury or cremate someone who died aged 17 or under.
Accessibility of Funeral Support Payment
Social Security Scotland is committed to accessibility. To maximise this, multiple application channels are available: digital, paper and telephone. The digital application process is compatible with assistive technologies and clients can 3 request phone calls and letters in a variety of formats e.g. in over 100 different languages, using BSL video calls, or in braille, easy read and large print.
Promotion of Funeral Support Payment
Social Security Scotland continues to deliver an integrated communications and marketing campaign to support Funeral Support Payment. Activity has included: promoting Funeral Support Payment on Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland social media channels; utilising paid-for digital marketing; issuing media releases to local newspapers; circulating social media toolkits to stakeholders; and distributing flyers, factsheets and posters. Although anyone of any age may need to apply for Funeral Support Payment, research has shown that radio is an appropriate media for the older demographic who may need access to Funeral Support Payment during peak death times over winter. For that reason, there has been a particular emphasis on marketing to national and community radio stations across Scotland to promote the payment.
Work is underway with stakeholders such as registrars and National Records for Scotland to ensure people are being reached when they register a death, for people all of all ages to get the support they are entitled to. Although digital and social media has high reach and impact, information is available offline for all campaigns so that everyone can access material in a way that suits them best. Inclusive communication is at the heart of Social Security Scotland's approach. Social Security Scotland is committed to making sure eligible populations, including seldom heard groups, hear about benefits across communication channels and formats that best suit their needs.
Applying for Funeral Support Payment
Applications can be made online, by phone, and by paper form. Also, it is possible for Funeral Support Payment applicants to submit evidence online. If a client is applying online, they will receive a message guiding them to a new portal to upload their documents.
Social Security Scotland processes each application received and makes a determination whether to approve or deny the application. An application will be denied if the client is not eligible or provides insufficient evidence to demonstrate their eligibility to receive a Funeral Support Payment. An application will be authorised if the applicant is eligible and can provide the appropriate evidence to receive a Funeral Support Payment. Applicants may also withdraw their application before a determination is made.
Social Security Scotland aims to process completed applications within ten working days of receiving all supporting evidence for an application, and they will make payment as soon as possible thereafter. Applications may take longer to process if copies of documents need to be requested and received from clients. This is less likely when applicants choose to work with a funeral director and provide Social Security Scotland with consent to contact that funeral director. This is because the funeral director often has all required information available. Payment can also be made directly to the funeral director, if the client is eligible and consents for Social Security Scotland to pay the funeral director.
The Scottish Government published its approach to evaluating the first wave of devolved social security benefits, including Funeral Support Payment, in November 2019.
The purpose of this evaluation is to provide learning about the overall implementation of the benefit and the extent to which Funeral Support Payment's immediate and short-term outcomes have been met, now that the benefit has been in operation for over two years. In doing so, it can also assess progress towards Funeral Support Payment's medium-term outcomes, and its likely contribution to the long-term government impact of reducing poverty which stems from funerals. However, this latter outcome will also be affected by Scottish Government interventions outwith social security, which are also designed to support families on low-incomes. As such, it will not only be attributable to Funeral Support Payment.
Specifically, the evaluation objectives are to:
1. Evaluate the extent to which Funeral Support Payment has met its policy outcomes.
2. Assess the likely contribution of Funeral Support Payment to wider long-term government outcomes for low-income families.
3. Discuss any implications for future policy development.
The findings will form the policy evaluation of Funeral Support Payment, and will set the groundwork for policy improvements.
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