Funeral costs leaving vulnerable in debt say Mid Ulster Citizens Advice

Funeral costs hitting vulnerable
Funeral costs hitting vulnerable

The manager at Citizens Advice Mid Ulster has added his voice to calls for politicians to act on the rising cost of funerals.

Stephen Catherwood said his organisation has concerns the growing expense is leaving the vulnerable in debt, and has questioned the level of support available to bereaved people with limited incomes.

In 2015, the average cost of a funeral in NI was £3,203, whilst the average funeral benefit award in 2014/15 was just £1,048.56 - inadequate to cover the cost of basic funeral expenses, he said.

But he added that Citizens Advice has raised the problem with local MPs because of problems being experienced by their clients.

“The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for any family,” he explained. “Unfortunately, for people on a low income it also brings a heavy financial burden (and) this compounds the trauma of bereavement with the stress of money worries and added debt.

“The diminished value of the Social Fund funeral payment only covers around one third of funeral costs. This is leaving people in real hardship.

“We raised this important issue with our local MPs, as Westminster is key to setting the future shape of this support,” he continued.

“We are delighted that Gavin Robinson MP has secured a Westminster Hall debate, which will help focus attention on this important issue and assist our campaign to pursue change.”

Citizens Advice NI is calling for a review of the Social Fund Funeral Payment and the introduction of a Government supported standard funeral package.

This week, Gavin Robinson highlighted the issue in a House of Commons debate.