Britain is sitting on a ‘funeral time bomb’ set to plunge families into debt to bury their loved ones, according to a new report by the International Longevity Centre.
The report predicts that the cost of the average funeral could reach £7,000 by 2020, but more than half of UK households have less than £3,000 in savings.
The average cost of a simple funeral was £3,590 in 2014 – still higher than the average savings – and the report claims that the cost of such funerals will rise to £5,226 in the same timescale.
The ILC claims the rising number of deaths in Britain is putting pressure on existing funeral services, pushing up the cost of burial fees and the cost of hiring a funeral director.
The UK death rate, which has been falling for decades, is now set to start rising again as the oldest of the ‘baby boomer’ generation approach the end of their lives.
Deaths are predicted to rise by 20% which will have a significant effect on the previously estimated costs for funerals and other costs.
The cost of dying has already gone up by 80% since 2004. In 2013 an estimated 109,000 people incurred a funeral debt of an average £1,305 per person.
Now the ILC are calling for more government help for people who can’t afford to pay for a funeral for their loved one as well as urging more people to put plans in place for their own send-off to take the strain from their grieving families.
An estimated 14.5 million families would be unable to pay for a funeral at short notice unless the deceased had taken out some form of insurance cover, says the report.
Chief executive, Baroness Sally Greengross, commented: “More than half of UK households have less than £3,000 in savings and will struggle to cover funeral costs.
“We all need to talk more about dying and ensure we are prepared for the inevitable. State support for funerals is complex and inadequate,” she added.
An estimated 25% of all funerals last year were paid for by family members because the deceased had made no financial provision for their passing. Families were left to cover the cost from their own savings or forced to take out loans to meet the cost.
Government funeral payments designed to help low income families come nowhere near paying the cost of even a basic funeral, covering just 37%.
“Payments should be reviewed each year to ensure they accurately reflect costs,” says the report.
“Eligibility criteria need to be simplified and, given the sharp rise in funeral costs, the government should consider making funeral payments available for a larger number of families,” it concluded.
Fraser Sutherland, of Citizens Advice, said: ““People who have never organised a funeral are often shocked at how expensive it is. There are lots of different expenses, which all add up.
“There are charges for the grave site as well as fees to the undertakers, the cost of the coffin, then flowers etc.
“These high costs come at a time when many are struggling just to feed themselves and keep their homes, so a sudden bill of more than £3,000 can be devastating.”
One of the easiest ways of avoiding the additional stress at a highly emotional time is to start planning ahead by taking out life insurance.
Simon Markey, CEO of OneFamily, which through Engage Mutual helps around one in 12 of all UK families to support one another financially, said: “Our own research shows us that families are coming together more and more to help one another financially. Nearly half of UK adults (48%) who have provided family members with assistance have done so to help them to cover day to day expenses. This report reveals a need for families to look to the future too.
“While the subject of end of life expenses can be a very delicate one to discuss, the findings highlight how starting this conversation could help avoid leaving loved ones with unexpected debts they may find difficult to manage,” he continued.
With cover available from just £10 a month, you can make sure your loved ones are financially protected. These Over 50’s plans are whole of life cover which pay out in full on your death. Applicants are guaranteed acceptance and there are no medical questions.
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