Pauper's funerals soar as government refuses to pay
So why won't the government pay?
Cost of dyingFunerals are astonishingly expensive. According Sun Life Direct's annual Cost of Dying survey, they cost an average of £3,091. That is up an astonishing 71% since it first started assessing costs nine years ago. Burial costs alone are up 10% in the last year.
For many people, this sort of bill - sometimes completely out of the blue - is overwhelming, and they have no way to pay for the costs of a funeral. The shortfall, according to a report by Sun Life Direct and the University of Bath, is £118 million.
State supportIf you cannot afford to pay for a funeral, the typical approach is to apply for state payment through the Government Funeral Payment system. However, the report has revealed that this is being overwhelmed with requests, and as a result is having to turn half of them down. In 2011, there were 69,000 requests through the scheme - half of which were rejected.
All those in receipt of certain benefits are allowed to apply, but the system, will assess a number of things before deciding whether or not to pay out. The authors of the report found a number of weaknesses in the way the system works. So, for example, it will assess the assets of the immediate family of the deceased - regardless of whether or not they are estranged, or willing to contribute to the cost.
Even those who receive payouts are getting around £1,217 - which falls well short of the average cost.
These figures are not going to get any better either, as the death rate is expected to rise 17% a year for the next 15 years.
DesperateThose who are rejected by the system are left with some very difficult choices. Many are forced to endure the humiliation of a pauper's funeral (which are officially known as Public Health Funerals). Some 20% put the cost on a credit card, 10% take out a loan, and 9% sell at least some of their belongings.
Dr Kate Woodthorpe, a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bath and author of the report, comments: "Quite simply, it is becoming too expensive for poor people to die. Thousands of the most vulnerable in society are being let down by a system of state support that lacks coherence and is so unclear that some applicants have to resort to alternative means to organise a funeral."
And while this is worrying enough, it's only part of the picture, because Sun Life Direct says that the average cost of dying - including death-related costs such as probate, headstones and funeral flowers is far higher - an astonishing £7,114.
So what do you think? Could you afford to die?