Bereaved struggling to pay for funerals as costs rise

Updated: 

Funeral poverty has reached an all-time high, as those who struggle to pay take on an average debt of almost £1,700, figures show.

The average cost of a funeral has increased to £3,784 - an increase of 3% on last year - according to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index.

Funeral debt has also risen to £160 million from £147 million last year.

One in six of those surveyed (16%) said they struggled with funeral costs, with these people taking on an average debt of £1,680 and one in 10 selling possessions to repay the amount.

The report shows a "postcode lottery" continues, with prices ranging from £3,036 to £6,516 depending on location.

Kensal Green in London is the most expensive location in the UK for a funeral for a second year with an average cost of £6,516 - an increase of 1% from 2016.

Belfast remains the cheapest location with an average cost of £3,036.

Lower cost funeral options continue to be popular, with the study finding that 10% of all cremation funerals did not include a ceremony or service.

Royal London's funeral cost spokeswoman Louise Eaton-Terry said: "With thousands of bereaved people struggling to pay funeral costs and taking on nearly £1,700 in debt to ensure their loved one has a decent send-off, it is clear that Government action to tackle funeral poverty is long overdue.

"The Scottish Government is leading the way with its commitment to providing help and guidance on funeral costs for consumers.

"We want Westminster to follow Scotland's lead and do more to address the issue of rising funeral debt."

Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management chief executive Tim Morris said: "Increases in funeral costs are evident by the increases in local authority-arranged public health funerals, a number of funeral directors providing a direct option and crowd-funding appeals on social media.

"Unfortunately, only the Scottish Government has acted in respect of the shortage of burial space crisis that affects around 25% of the population.

"This additional driver of funeral poverty requires urgent attention in England and Wales."

:: YouGov surveyed 2,029 UK adults who had organised a funeral in the last five years and 1,006 UK adults who had also used a funeral director between May and June.