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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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UK Government Bury Bad News as Funeral Payments Fall

Sunday, 10 June 2012

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has called for a review of the eligibility rules and adequacy of social fund funeral expense payments after figures revealed an 18% drop in the number of applicants receiving an award in Scotland over five years, with the funds received falling far short of requirements for a basic funeral.

Figures released in response to parliamentary questions from Dr Whiteford show the average amount awarded in Scotland in 2011-12 was £1,500 pounds, far short of the average funeral cost, estimated at £2,648 in 2010.

The percentage of applicants receiving an award has fallen from 66% in 2007 to 49% in 2011-12.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Having to arrange a funeral is difficult enough for anyone, but when you’re on a low income the financial burden makes it even more stressful.

“Help with funeral expenses can be a crucial support for bereaved families, so it’s important to ensure everyone who is entitled to funding receives the help they need.

“In these times of UK austerity, it’s a worry that less than half of applicants for funeral payments receive the award. This is a cost that many relatives cannot plan for, and the rising costs of funerals hits the poor the hardest.

“Even for those who receive the social fund payment, the funding received falls short of what is required for even a basic funeral.

“A survey from the National Association of Funeral Directors found funeral costs leapt by almost 50% between 2007 and 2010, while the funding available from the social fund for expenses like funeral director’s fees and the cost of a coffin has been capped at £700 since 2003.

“Social fund funeral payments are an important safety net for people who have no means to save for funerals – at such a stressful time in people’s lives, it’s important we get this right.”


Notes: Figures on the average amount awarded for funeral payment over the past five years in Scotland, and the number of applications received,


Average amount awarded for funeral payment over past five years in Scotland

        Applications    Awards  Average award (£)
2007-08 8,700           5,700   1,200
2008-09 8,600           5,400   1,200
2009-10 8,400           5,200   1,200
2010-11 8,300           4,600   1,300
2011-12 8,500           4,200   1,500

Funeral payment applications and awards over the past five years in Scotland Proportion of applications which received an award

        Applications    Awards
2007-08 8,700           5,700   65.52%
2008-09 8,600           5,400   62.79%
2009-10 8,400           5,200   61.90%
2010-11 8,300           4,600   55.42%
2011-12 8,500           4,200   49.41%

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