A sad story here, and a sorry end we are likely to see more of. It was a Conservative government that introduced the Social Fund Funeral Payment at a level that ensured that the underprivileged and disadvantaged were not humiliated and marginalised when they had insufficient to pay for a funeral. How times have changed. Public attitudes are becoming increasingly hostile to benefit claimants, so we’ll probably see a lot more of this (extracted from the Oxford Times):
Out of work Michael Walton, 40, lost his brother David, 59, on August 31. But he has not been able to afford to pay the £480 deposit to book a £2,250 funeral with Reeves and Pain funeral directors of Abingdon Road, Oxford.
He has been seeking help from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund, but will not receive any money until a funeral date is arranged. The funeral directors will not arrange a funeral until a deposit is paid.
A brother and sister from Cowley, aged 51 and 49, with learning difficulties, have found themselves in a similar situation having lost their mother on August 10.
They have been unable to afford the £1,020 deposit needed to arrange the funeral and so far have been unable to obtain funds from the DWP.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, a former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said: “The problem is that the social fund won’t pay until the funeral arrangements are under way and the funeral directors won’t arrange funerals until they have received money. For people on low incomes it is a real Catch 22 situation.
In London’s East End, Quaker Social Action’s Down To Earth project is doing great work to enable people on low/no income to arrange affordable funerals — they go to incredible and creative lengths to achieve this.
If government won’t step in to mend this unhappy situation, and in an age of food banks it looks increasingly unlikely that it will, organisations like QSA, working at the community level, look to have their work cut out for the future.