GOVERNMENT FUNERAL PAYMENT REFORM ‘NEEDS TO FOCUS ON CLARITY’

  • Up to 54% Social Fund applicants are turned down
  • Golden Charter urges funeral directors to commit to pricing clarity

Government funeral payment reforms need to focus on clarity and simplicity as well as funding for the benefit which has not been increased in value since 2003, leading prepaid funeral plan provider Golden Charter believes.

Around 54% of applicants for Social Fund payments towards funeral costs are turned down highlighting the complexity of the current rules, Golden Charter says.

Eligibility criteria on Gov.uk shows applicants have to be “a close relative or close friend of the deceased” and in receipt of benefits or tax credits to qualify. But applications can be rejected if a close relative is not in receipt of benefits and the estate of the deceased is also assessed as part of the process.

Applications are also subject to time limits – they have to be submitted within three months of the funeral and cannot be submitted in advance unless applicants have the invoice as estimates are not accepted.

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The Glasgow-based firm says reforms to Bereavement Support payments introduced earlier this month which merge the current three payments into one to make applications more understandable should be the model for Social Fund reforms.

Gordon Swan, Golden Charter’s Director of Communications, said: “The bereaved can be left trying to arrange a funeral that at the outset they don’t know if they can pay for which is contributing the rising problem of funeral poverty.

“Reform of the Social Fund payments needs to be as much about making it less complex to apply as well as increasing the funding available for people on low incomes who struggle to afford a funeral for loved ones.”

Golden Charter believes funeral directors can help by making it easier for customers to compare costs – many do publish pricing online but the majority do not which can mean bereaved families who are worried about money having to shop around at a time of distress.

“Bringing clarity and simplicity will not remove the funding shortage but if the bereaved, the funeral director and the DWP could know on day one whether a social fund payment would be forthcoming at least realistic plans could be made,” Gordon Swan added.

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