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08/08/17 11:03

Action on funeral poverty

Plan to make funeral arrangements more affordable.

A 10-point plan to help people struggling with debt to manage funeral costs has been set out by Equalities Secretary Angela Constance.

The Funeral Costs Plan commits to a range of actions to improve the support available. A leaflet has also been published to help people with practical new guidance on how to make their wishes clear and encourages conversations with family and friends – which can reduce stress and keep costs down when the time comes.

The Equalities Secretary launched the new plan and guidance while visiting the Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union (RWCU). Alongside White Cart, RWCU is one of two credit unions in Paisley that has recently developed new products that help people plan and pay for funerals.

Ms Constance said:

“The death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult time for anyone. It can be even harder when money is tight. We know funeral costs can push people into poverty – and often it is those already in financial hardship who face increased difficulties.

“That is why we are taking decisive action to tackle this growing issue and have engaged with local authorities, the funeral sector and other support services. I am pleased by the willingness to work together to find solutions that support more affordable funerals.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting those who need it most following a bereavement, which is why we will introduce a new Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.”

Credit unions are not-for-profit organisations owned by their members that provide low-cost loans and encourage people to save. Karen Wallace, Manager at RWCU said:

 “Our Funeral Finance product should help reduce anxiety and distress caused by financing a funeral and help protect families from problems caused by resorting to high-interest loans to meet the funeral costs of loved ones.”

Kenneth Keegan from Kenneth Keegan Independent Funeral Directors said:

“When a family finds themselves in the position of having to arrange a funeral, it can be a daunting experience. A lot of clients may not have been expecting the death of a loved one, they then find themselves in the position of having find a considerable amount of money to cover the costs which can be stressful in its self. 

“Where the credit union has been of a great help and support to families is giving them comfort that the costs can be financed and paid for over a period of time which they feel is affordable. Having this support allows the family to arrange the funeral without the worry of finding the funds to cover the various costs associated and go through the bereavement with the knowledge that their loved one will have a funeral service that reflects their values and beliefs.”

Background

The Funeral Costs Plan: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/08/6243  commits to 10 actions:

  1. Launch a new Funeral Expense Assistance benefit, by summer 2019
  2. Publish guidance on funeral costs, by December 2018
  3. Improve advice on funeral planning, help following a bereavement and support after a funeral
  4. Publish funeral planning guidance to help people think about and record plans for their funeral
  5. Strengthen consumer protection in relation to funeral plans
  6. Support discussion of bereavement, death, dying and care at the end of life
  7. Highlight products from credit unions, including those specifically for funerals
  8. Deliver a Social Innovation Fund to help tackle disadvantage such as funeral poverty
  9. Give people more options to save for their funeral, through a funeral bond pilot
  10. Improve the evidence base to assess the effectiveness of our actions

’Planning your own funeral’  http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/08/4930

This  will be available across Scotland from local authority, NHS, and advice services.

The Scottish Government held a National Conference on Funeral Poverty in November 2016 and has hosted three roundtable discussions on this issue. Work has been informed by the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty (SWGFP).

The chair of the SWGFP John Birrell and Citizens Advice Scotland published ‘Funeral Poverty in Scotland A Review for Scottish Government’ February 2016.