PAUPERS’ funerals may return as undertakers’ rip off price rises are leaving struggling Brits unable to bury their dead, MPs warn today, according to The Sun. Raising the grim prospect in a stark report, the Commons Work and Pensions Committee say crippling funeral costs are also sending the low paid into ever deeper debt.
The MPs reveal harrowing testimony on how one penniless mother was forced to freeze her son’s body for months while she saved enough for his send off. The grieving have also been denied their relative’s ashes because of a shortfall in their final payments.
The cost of a funeral rose by four per cent last year alone, despite inflation remaining at close to zero, the committee said. But at the same time, the means-tested funeral benefit has been frozen at £700 for 13 years and no longer covers the cost of even “a simple funeral”.
The committee has called on the government to launch an urgent review into funeral costs and bereavement benefits. Its chairman, veteran Labour MP Frank Field, said: “We heard clear evidence of the distressing circumstances and debt this is leading people into, at a time when they are grieving and vulnerable.
“We do not want a return to the spectre of miserable “pauper’s funerals”. A DWP spokesman said: “We are modernising bereavement benefits, introducing a simpler and fairer scheme that will better assist people in what can be an extremely difficult time.
“The planned new bereavement support payment will provide a higher lump sum payment than currently is offered and more people will be able to claim this full support now we have removed the lower age limit.”