As fawning Tories prepare to spend millions on a lavish funeral for a hated Prime Minister, changes to the Social Fund suggest that in future the relatives of those without estates will increasingly be forced to borrow from the Government to meet the bulk of funeral costs.
A link currently making the rounds on twitter features last year’s story that many grieving families are forced to depend on pauper’s funerals due to the lack of adequate support within the welfare state. Just 54.5% of applications for funeral payments were accepted in 2011/12, a number which has been steadily falling since before this Government weren’t elected.
On top of this the amount available for funeral costs is woefully inadequate. A report published last year revealed that the average cost of a funeral is £3,091. The average amount paid out from the Social Fund towards funeral expenses is just £1,217.
One of the reasons for this discrepancy is that the part of the Funeral Payment which can be allocated to ‘other’ expenses – which means anything above the most basic legal costs involved in a funeral – has been capped at just £700 since 2003.
The direction of travel is clear. The number of people being rejected for a Funeral Payment is increasing, whilst in real terms, the amount available is falling.
Unsurprisingly the DWP’s answer to this is not to reverse the trend but to encourage claimants to take out a Budgeting Loan towards the funeral costs of family members. In a note deposited in the Parliamentary library, Pensions Minister Steve Webb states: “We are therefore taking powers in the Welfare Reform Bill that is now going through the Commons that will, for the first time, bring funeral costs within the scope of the budgeting loans system.”
True to his words, funeral expenses are now eligible for a Budgeting Loan. These are small loans which those on benefits can apply for and are repaid at source out of benefit payments. Along with the Bedroom Tax and the Council Tax Bill, for grieving families this will be yet one more unavoidable weekly payout that slashes meagre social security payments. Yet this Government are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of spending £10 million on Thatcher’s funeral.
Funeral Payments cost around £45 million a year providing expenses for 38,000 funerals. This means that if you are on benefits, a low wage or a state pension, this toff Government thinks that Margaret Thatcher was around 800o times more important than your mum.
(above pic shows the mass pauper’s graves which are increasingly common in the US)
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