Undertakers’ nightmares #1 – the Social Fund Funeral Payment

Charles Cowling

 

Posted by Nick Gandon

 

Methinks that the lunatics have taken over the asylum at the Department for Work and Pensions.  Maybe lunatics is an unkind (and no doubt very non-pc) description, which on reflection, I should perhaps replace with the term “jobsworths”. 

Long known throughout the undertaking profession for their crazy deliberations over the claims for the Social Fund funeral payments, these nice people, of which there ARE some genuinely helpful souls, have hit an all-time NUL POINTS over the last 7 days. 

It would be great to know whether other funeral directors have come across these little gems before…

I found a payment into our bank account from the DWP last week.  On the statement, it included a DWP reference number, with the letters “SF” – which I decided must be a payment from the Social Fund.   Most payments are preceded by a letter advising payment and client details… but not this one! 

“Simples” I thought.    I’ll ring them up, quote the reference number, and ask which client the payment concerns.  

After searching their website to find the most appropriate contact number,  and talking with no less than 6 very nice but totally clueless DWP people,   I eventually got the right number – only to talk to the most unhelpful one of the lot. 

“I can’t discuss this with you” came back the aggressive Liverpudlian voice from the Belle Vale Benefit Centre.  “It’s against the Data Protection Act”.   So, I pleaded, with an element of reasonable rationality (or so I thought):  “You’ve paid us the money.   Can’t you at least tell me the name of the client whose account you’ve (part) paid?” 

Forget it!  Common sense way out of the window!     “I’ll have to contact the client (came the reply) and get their permission to be able to tell you that the payment relates to them.     When I’ve got their permission, I’ll call you back and let you know who they are”.   Crazy. 

 

Case No 2  

I got a call yesterday afternoon from (by coincidence) someone at the DWP office at Belle Vale Benefit Centre requesting information relating to a claim. (No connection with the above).    Unfortunately, we got cut off mid-call, and their phone ID does not register for callback. 

They didn’t call me back, and I couldn’t call them (no number). 

I did my best, and tried a series of numbers and, after over an hour of waiting to be answered,  BINGO! I got the right call centre. 

Yes, you’ve guessed it – my hopes were short-lived.  I explained that I was trying to give them the information they requested from me regarding a Mr X, and could they kindly take the details. 

NOPE. 

“Even if you give me the name and address of the claimant, I can’t talk to you about them because of the Data Protection Act” came the reply. 

“To identify the claimant, I need their national insurance number, but I still can’t talk to you about them, even with that.” 

“I only want to give you the information you have called and asked me for,” I protested.    “I’m giving you the info – not the other way round.  The Data Protection Act was never meant to obstruct simple conversation like this,” I protested. 

“Call your client and ask them for their national insurance number” replied the robot woman. 

I was struggling for a professional variation of the word “BOLLOCKS” but decided on the more polite   “we’re wasting each other’s time, aren’t we?  Goodbye”. 

Anyone else had such a ridiculous wasted few hours with the DWP social fund representatives?

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andrew plume
andrew plume
8 years ago

……the crux of the problem, (it seems to me and from not having read of these very credible posts in detail) is that DWP solely operate at their speed and with no inkling of being commercial, when a quick commercial decision is all that is necessary – whatever the legislation may be, it vastly needs to be overhauled, so that significant delays no longer occur as a side note, DWP (like similar Agencies) are choc full of jobs worths who are far more interested in their own financial futures, than going out on a limb to help people – it’s… Read more »

Nick
8 years ago

David’s comment reminds me of a funeral some years back, where the family claimed from the DSS. One sister, honest woman, organised the funeral. Another sister made the claim. To cut a long story short, the cheque had been issued in our name and sent to the second sister. She had the “front” to actually tell us that she was going to hold on to cheque “for now” whilst she thought how she could cash it. Her logic was, that the cheque had been sent to her, therefore it was hers to do what she liked with. We did, eventually,… Read more »

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[…] Nick Gandon, in this blog, sparked discussion about the way the Funeral Payment is administered – here. If funeral directors were to come together and refuse to take on applicants to the Social Fund, […]

Charles Cowling
8 years ago

Your last point is an especially telling one, David. What a paradox that middle class folk, who can best afford a funeral, are the ones most comfortable with a plain and simple one – would probably rate anything more than a couple of limos ‘common’.

David
8 years ago

Hi Nick, I’ve also had difficulties with the social fund for similar reasons, payment without letters to confirm who they are paying. Very frustrating. Teresa, Unfortunately we cannot rely on all members of the public to be as conscientious as yourself and deliver the payment to the funeral director concerned. In fact I know of some cases where the payment has been cashed by a cheque cashing service. The social fund funeral payments system relies on funeral directors to take on these funerals. So it makes sense for the DWP to make the process as easy as possible for the… Read more »

Nick
8 years ago

I agree 100% Norfolk Boi.

Direct pre-payment to the chosen undertaker is surely not beyond the ability of the “largest office” in the UK.

Leaving things until after the funeral has taken place – and only then saying NO is a cynical and arguably unforgivable way of “doing business”.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve encountered what I can only describe as an increase in “aggresive response” from the DWP. Just my perception…..

james
6 years ago
Reply to  Nick

it night mare way they treat you when u call just been trying dicusss funeral payemt guy on other end was really rude not helpfull what so ever i dont no why social fund dont employ more help full staff it night mare cant fine out any thing att all

Norfolk Boi
Norfolk Boi
8 years ago

If all funeral directors required an advance payment then this situation would not happen. The DWP would have to solve the situation they have created.

Teresa Evans
8 years ago

Nick I thought that this topic of discussion was about undertakers nightmares with the social fund funeral payments…and not whether all undertakers are good or bad. I simply added my thoughts about how an undertaker could avoid tangles with data protection if the DWP was to revert to making payments to a claimant, and not direct into an undertakers bank account. I agree that when the DWP makes a payment this way that it should reference it so that the undertaker knows what funeral it is for, however I don’t believe that the system should operate this way. I am… Read more »

Nick
8 years ago

Teresa, I stand humbly corrected when I wrote “the vast majority of FDs”. I, of course, should have referred to “the majority of FDs that I know” AND (hopefully), their counterparts across the UK who profess to uphold even the most basic professional standards. Undertakers, on the whole, are a very caring bunch of folk, but there are exceptions, as in any trade or profession. I guess (with respect to yourself), that over the last 40 years I’ve met a good few more than you have. The impression I have gained leaves me confident that the majority will personally “go… Read more »

Teresa Evans
8 years ago

Nick, I do not believe that you can speak for the vast majority of undertakers…unless of course you know them personally. I would hope that many are sincere and look to limit the distress of arranging a funeral. In acting as agent for someone newly bereaved, I would hope that a customer would be oblivious to what an undertaker does behind the scenes…this is why people hire them. That said I am persuaded that there are many undertakers who prefer it this way so that people become dependent on them. I established that the DWP’s computer system is not designed… Read more »

Nick
8 years ago

The vast majority of FDs will bend over backwards to help families overcome the type of distressing situation we’re talking about. Many families will be oblivious to the efforts that their undertaker will be making to “work around” the situation to spare their feelings.

There are many many more such situations that do not get into the realms of the press.

Perhaps the DWP might be forced to improve their act, for PR purposes alone, if even every other case got reported.

Teresa Evans
8 years ago

In respect of the story of the family in Northampton who are unable to pay the funeral costs, I can grasp why the DWP might object to making payments when a direct descendant of the person who has died is working. I would imagine that many people in this situation would look to the state to pay the expenses, when a sibling could possible pay for it. I am not suggesting that this is what this family has done, but I can understand the DWP’s policy. Again this subject falls back to knowledge. If this family knew the position they… Read more »

Molly
Molly
7 years ago
Reply to  Teresa Evans

As a responsible FD I inform all families wishing to make a SF claim of their right to ‘walk away’ and let the Local authority take over. I also go through the SF rules with them and make it clear that if any immediate descendent is working (or even not working but not in receipt of qualifying benefit) then it is likely that their claim will be rejected. A Simple/Basic funeral is always offered and explained as well (plus the option of DIY) … but the sad truth is that the vast majority of families with little or no money… Read more »

Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Mark Elliott & Ann.L
7 years ago
Reply to  Molly

I agree with everything you say Molly very well said . I to feel for the families and will do anything I can to help them but at the end of the day the funeral needs to be paid for.

Teresa Evans
8 years ago

For a multitude of reasons I can totally grasp the frustration with the Data Protection Act, but what I cannot grasp is how the DWP should even consider making a payment to assist with a funeral direct into any undertakers bank account. The qualifying applicant (customer) is the only person that the DWP needs to communicate with and make a payment to. When I made an application for a funeral payment the payment was made to me by way of a cheque made out in the name of the undertaker. In turn, the undertaker only needed to communicate with me,… Read more »

Nick
8 years ago

Charles, the situation you highlight in Croydon is a surprisingly common “stand-off” with the DWP. No funeral director is knowingly going to carry-out a funeral where they have absolutely no chance of getting paid. The crazy situation with the funeral payment is that the DWP refuse to discuss any aspect of the case with the funeral director, even with the claimant’s express wish or permission. So, simply put, the DWP won’t tell the FD if they are going to pay the bill, even if they know for certain that they will or they won’t. They refuse to confirm one way… Read more »

Bill O'Bong
Bill O'Bong
7 years ago
Reply to  charles

Makes me sick how these social parasites expect it to be their god given right that someone undertake the funeral without being paid before it takes place. ‘Can’t pay won’t pay’ attitude. one doesn’t walk around one’s local supermarket, load their trolley up with goods, approach the checkout and say ‘what i’ll do is take this home, eat it, then perhaps pay you next month’. These people need to learn that undertakers premises cost money to run, and payment before a service is provided should not be an issue- unless of course they don’t intend to pay the bill in… Read more »

Rupert Callender
8 years ago

Yes Nick, we too have wrestled with the Orwellian SF. The Data Protection act is itself the most outrageous piece of double speak. As if our personal details aren’t freely distributed between supermarkets, governments, insurance providers, the police, news international, in fact anyone with an envelope of cash. Hidden in plain site. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so true.

Jonathan
Jonathan
8 years ago

No, Nick, I haven’t, but I’d love to be able to say I were surprised by your experience.

I’d have been tempted to substitute for ‘bollocks’: ‘The deceased requested his National Insurance Number be buried with him, so it’s not available.’

Well why not? I’d have wasted my time already by then anyway!