UNIVERSAL CREDIT claimants and other recipients of certain benefits, including Pension Credit, may be able to receive up to £1,000 in order to help meet the costs of a funeral from Spring 2020.
The rise in the cash available for grieving families in helping to meet the costs of a funeral was announced by the Minister for Welfare Delivery on Saturday. This is on top of existing payments to help pay for funeral necessities, such as burial or cremation fees.
Under the changes, from Spring 2020 the maximum amount a family can claim to help meet the costs of funeral expenses such as a coffin, flowers, and funeral directors’ fees will rise by 43 percent, from £700.
The rise in Funeral Expenses Payments is the first since 2003.
Announcing the change, Minister for Welfare Delivery, Will Quince said: “Everyone wants to give their loved ones a dignified send-off, and this money will help pay for the personal touches that enable a family to say goodbye properly.
“Planning a funeral can be incredibly distressing, and this payment will help lighten the financial burden on families during a difficult time.”
According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), around 800 claims for Funeral Expenses Payments are received each week by the DWP Bereavement Support team.
Who is eligible for help with funeral costs?
A person cannot a Funeral Expenses Payment if all three of the following applies:
- They get certain benefits or tax credits
- They meet the rules on the relationship with the deceased
- They’re arranging a funeral in the UK, the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
A person may still be able to get other forms of help even if they’re not eligible for the Funeral Expenses Payment.
What are the certain benefits and tax credits?
A person or their partner must get one of the following benefits or tax credits in order to be eligible.
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Housing Benefit
- The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Universal Credit.
If a person gets a Support for Mortgage Interest loan, they may also be eligible.
What are the rules on the relationship with the deceased?
In order to fulfil this section of the criteria, a person must be one of the following:
- The partner of the deceased when they died
- A close relative or close friend of the deceased
- The parent of a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- The parent or person responsible for a deceased child who was under 16 (or under 20 and in approved education or training).
A person may not get a Funeral Expenses Payment if another close relative of the deceased (such as their sibling or parent) is in work.
Funeral Expenses Payment can help to pay for some costs such as the burial fees for a particular plot or cremation costs, travel to arrange or go to the funeral, the cost of moving the body within the UK (if it’s more than 50 miles), and death certificates or other documents.
Gov.uk says that currently, a person may also get up to £700 for any other funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin.
It’s this latter amount which is set to rise from Spring 2020.
The government website warns that the payment will not usually cover all of the costs of a funeral, and how much one receives will depend on one’s circumstances.
Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, said: “While the cost of funerals has risen over the years, the Government’s benefit to help with funeral costs has remained at £700 for 16 years.
“Having tirelessly campaigned on this issue, we welcome the news that the Funeral Expenses Payment benefit is set to rise.
“However, with bereaved families borrowing almost £2,000 to pay for a loved one’s funeral, more needs to be done to tackle funeral poverty.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg – the Government must, at the very least, commit to annual increases of the benefit if it really wants to have an impact.”
Ian Atkinson, marketing director at SunLife – author of the Cost of Dying Report, said: “The Funeral Expenses Payment has been £700 for 16 years, so a 43 percent rise is really welcome and could make a big difference to many people. However, we should bear in mind that over the same period the cost of a funeral has risen 122.5 percent, from £1,920 in 2004 to £4,271 in 2018.”
He continued: “A direct cremation is the most affordable type of funeral – the fact that no one is present at the cremation makes it far cheaper, and then it is up to the family how much they then want to spend on the ‘send-off’.
“The Funeral Expenses Payment is to pay for the extras that make a funeral more personal (it is on top of existing allowances that pay for funeral necessities, such as burial or cremation fees) so this rise will certainly help many people be able to afford those personal touches for their loved ones.”