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Bereaved families ‘burdened with record funeral debt’

A basic funeral in the UK now costs £3,785

Bereaved families who struggle with funeral costs are taking on an average of £1,990 in debt to pay for a funeral, research shows.

According to the 2019 Royal London National Funeral Cost Index, the total amount of funeral debt in the UK has risen to £147m, a 12% increase from last year. 

The report found 12% of people struggled to cover the cost of a funeral, which is around 74,000 bereaved families in the UK.

Of those who struggled, one in four (27%) said they went into debt from credit cards, loans or overdrafts, one in five (20%) borrowed money from family or friends and nearly one in eight (12%) had to choose a cheaper funeral. 

People with an income of less than £5,000 a year spend at least 65% of their annual income on a funeral, compared to just 3% at most for those on £150,000 or more a year.

Royal London said state support for those on low incomes is inadequate as it only covers 39% of the cost of a simple funeral. 

Funeral costs are at an all-time high, with a basic funeral in the UK costing £3,785, an increase of £28 from last year.

London remains the most expensive region with a funeral costing on average £4,939, while Northern Ireland is the least expensive with the average cost of a funeral at £2,943. 

Louise Eaton-Terry, Royal London’s funeral cost expert, said the government has tinkered around the edges and made some improvements to the Funeral Expenses Payment benefit, but the fund does not cover the full cost of a simple funeral. “The value of the fund is seriously lacking with no serious action being taken to increase it and help support the bereaved who are being crippled with funeral debt,” she argued.