Catch 22 for the disadvantaged

Charles Cowling

Michael Walton

 

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. 

 

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Andrew HicksonJanice HuttonMark Elliott & Ann.LEvelynAndrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals) Recent comment authors

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Andrew Hickson
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You see? We can do it! United we stand…

PS. I’m going to put an extra £15 on mine, I don’t want to appear cheap 😉

Andrew Hickson
Guest

Or £17 in fact. Maths was never my forte!

Janice Hutton
Guest

I whole heartedly agree with Andy. As Independent Funeral Directors, we may do a funeral for less money, but think of the positives. Another family that think you are fantastic, and who tell all their friends, because the big organisations wouldn’t help them and you have. We will carry out a funeral at any West Yorkshire Crematorium for £1469.00 including the ministers fee and we have two fantastic celebrants who will carry out a simple service at the same price as a minister to help out. We also take some payment up front from the family, which we re-pay after… Read more »

Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Guest

The DWP also do not speak with the funeral director about any aspect of the claim that a client has put in so it is very difficult situation to be in.

Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Guest

The DWP do not always pay out what families say they are going to get to cover the cost of the funeral service. I had one family where the Daughter only got just over £100 from the DWP and this is not even going to cover the cost of someone taking the funeral service.

Evelyn
Guest

Simples Andrew! Thank you for explaining this – I spoke a local independent near me and he said he received the money from the DWP direct, so I couldn’t understand what the problem was – but it’s all in the timing it seems. He does what you do in regards paying the family back – it’s all based on good old fashioned trust, isn’t it? Hopefully the word will get out that Independents can offer the best service and the best price.

Andrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)
Guest

Once again, I feel that independents really can lead the way here. Our ability to be flexible and take each situation as it presents itself puts us in the driving seat to make changes. Rather than criticising F’Care, the DWP et al for the way they handle the situation, I prefer to be positive and try and find a solution. As mentioned above, the government is pretty unlikely to do anything about it, so we (by which I mean funeral directors) have to. The first thing I believe we have to do is to realise that we can carry out… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

I take my hat off to you, David. I’m afraid that I will not proceed without, dependent upon the arrangement chosen, either full payment of all charges, or all disbursements plus a deposit. I admit that I have made the odd exception….. As a result, I probably lose quite a few potential clients, but I have very few outstanding accounts. The plus side is that I keep my bad debts virtually non existent, and so pass that healthy financial fact to future clients in the form of lower overall prices. Having said that, the current DWP funeral payment is a… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

Yes, disciplinary action if they are not paid prior to the funeral taking place. These same firms are credit checking ALL clients during the arrangement and insist on FULL payment if they fail to pass. It seems they also have a policy that blacklists families from certain roads unless the ENTIRE funeral bill is paid in advance. To be fair, I do always ask for disbursements to be paid prior to the funeral day but will (and do) proceed with a funeral if I don’t receive them. It’s a risky strategy for a small business and I have to keep… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

I would bet many of us small firms are in this position – so far no-one has been turned away by me for lack of funds – but I am already holding a few doubtful debts. Why? My guess is that some people have actually got no money, nothing. Their income, such as it is, is already committed to rent, food, heating.

The large organisations seem to be totally inflexible – I hear some even disciplining staff who allow arrangements to be made without disbursements?

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

David

do you mean, ‘without up front (and before the service) payment of disb’s?

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

and thankfully, this has all now been resolved:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-19924444

andrew

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

Sorry about the typos, by the way, 4 hour drive back from Cambridge in torrential rain last night arriving home at 1am….I’m a bit delicate this morning!

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

We have helped quite a few families who have been in this position and who are desperate. Shortly after opening (around 16 months ago now) we made the difficult decision that we were not going to ask for a deposit or for ‘dispursements’ up front. As far as I can see, we are very nearly unique in this and I totally understand why. We are not a large corporation and we do not have huge reserves of profits to draw on. Consequently, paying out for a funeral before we get anything back does have a significant effect on our cash… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

yes, Charles and FUNERALCARE t/a Reeves & Pain, clearly are, as we have seen unwilling to help, despite the holding organisation’s vast and excessive profits – I’m sure that they do not wish to commit themselves to undertake (sic) possible funerals for those with similar financial difficuties arising (if they slashed their fees) and ‘making a precedent’ or am I being overly charitable here……not that I’m ever particularly charitable towards F’care and rightly a Local Indy, not a million miles away from Oxford has I hear expressed an interest in helping (although this little piece of info hasn’t been personally… Read more »