The Church of England looks set to cut its charges for cremation, so that interring ashes will be cheaper than opting for a full grave. The plans are expected to be approved at next month's General Synod.
Currently, while some parishes already charge less for a cremation plot than a full-sized grave, many do not. If the changes are approved, the cost of interring ashes will fall from £278 to £120. While using a church for the service will remain at £174 in both cases, a simple graveside service will now cost £360 for burial but only £202 for cremations.
"This synod motion ensures that there is consistency where burial takes place in the churchyard so that the PCC part of the fee for burial of a body is the same in every case, and the PCC part of the fee for burial of cremated remains is the same in every case," a Church of England spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph.
The move will help to relieve a dire shortage of space in churchyards and cemeteries. A recent survey from the BBC found that almost half of England's cemeteries are expected to run out of room for new burials within the next 20 years. Some, including Tandridge district council in the South East, said they'd run out of room already.
The changes may make a difference to families, who have in recent years seen the 'cost of dying' rise dramatically. Research published by the University of Bath last week shows that the average cost of a funeral rose by 80 percent between 2004 and 2013, and is still going up.
On average, the price of a typical funeral, including non-discretionary fees and a burial or cremation, is £3,456, with another £2,006 spent on extras such as a memorial, flowers and catering. As many as 100,000 people will struggle to pay for a funeral this year alone, says the report.
"Medical advancement has made significant improvements to death rates. As a result people are living longer, which requires larger incomes and pension pots to ensure these extra years can be afforded," says Dr Kate Woodthorpe, the author of the report. "Whether or not these will stretch to cover funeral costs is unclear."