The BBC has reported that the cost of public health funerals, also known as paupers’ funerals, has risen by almost 30% to £1.7m in the past four years. The number of these funerals taking place has also risen by 11% over the same period.
Public health funerals are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or without relatives who are able to pay the funeral costs. The increase in the number of this type of funerals is likely to be due to people living longer, although a rise in funeral costs could also be a cause, according to industry figures.
436 councils were approached as part of the research project. 409 councils reported that they were responsible for public health funerals, with nearly 2,600 such services carried out during 2013-14. Overall, the North West region saw the greatest number of public health funerals being conducted, followed by London in second place.
The research also shows significant rises in the cost of public health funerals taking place across the country, with the cost of services in the South West region increasing by 39% compared to four years ago. A ‘no frills’ public health funeral can cost up to £1,000.
While people on low incomes can apply for assistance with funeral costs through the Government’s Social Fund, the complexity of the process, coupled with no guarantee of a successful application, puts a lot of people off.
Mark Woollard, of the National Society for Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, said; “I think there’s been an increase in public health funerals because people don’t have as much disposable income, and also, people are living longer and alone. A lot of the cost is due to third-party costs such as crematorium fees, cemetery fees and the minister’s fees, which have gone up much more than funeral director costs.”