A study conducted by the University of Bath and Sun Life Direct has revealed the rising cost of dying, along with outdated and insufficient end of life support from the state, is causing the most vulnerable in the UK significant emotional and financial pain.
This situation is further aggravated by the overall economic climate and the increasingly ageing population.
The "Cost of Dying Special Report into Social Fund Funeral Payments" shows that many families on low income are resorting to so-called "paupers funerals" (where the local council covers the burial or cremation costs), as claiming state assistance for funeral payments proves to be a complicated and confusing endeavour.
Respondents in the survey say the application process for the state aid brings with it embarrassment and a great deal of frustration. In addition, applicants often take on debt to cover funeral expenses before they get their application answered and rejections represented nearly half of last year's 69,000 applications. Those who are fortunate enough to get their application approved are still struggling to meet funeral costs, which stand at £3,091 on average, far above the typical government award of £1,217.
Being denied adequate and consistent support from the state and having to go through an assessment process they describe as "unclear" and too much centred on the old notion of a nuclear family, the most vulnerable are often left with their own scarce resources and forced to seek alternative routes to arrange funerals for their loved ones. One of the respondents described a DIY funeral she had to arrange for her mum - collecting her body from the hospital in her car, laying her to rest in a coffin she had bought over the Internet and having to sell the car afterwards to pay the funeral bill. I'm sure this is the last thing that any of us would wish to happen to our loved ones.
According to the report, this highlights that the current system is far from adequate and needs to be updated as quickly as possible to meet the modern reality and give a lifeline to those who need it most. The issue is most palpable for low-income households but is also valid for a large section of society. More than 33% of all people lack the capacity to meet future funeral costs, according to recent research by the Dying Matters Coalition, which is pooling efforts to raise public awareness about the importance of talking openly about death to see one's end of life wishes tackled most effectively and with greatest care.