The government launches Bereavement Benefits Inquiry

December 2, 2015   //   No Comments

The Work and Pensions Committee has requested written submissions for an inquiry into bereavement benefits.

Submit your views here

The need for a review has arisen in light of the growing problem of funeral poverty.  A recent freedom of information request by BBC local radio showed that the cost to local councils of so-called “paupers’ funerals” has risen almost 30% to £1.7m in the past four years.  Working with the Quaker Social Fund, SAIF has highlighted the issue of increasing numbers of people being unable to afford a funeral for their loved one, or falling into debt to pay the funeral costs.

The government provides Social Fund payments to help people unable to pay for funerals, but these are paid in retrospect and do not necessarily cover the full costs.  The Widowed Parents Allowance, to help a parent left to raise a child or children alone, is only available to parents who were married, and people may be unaware that bereavement support is available.

The Work and Pensions Committee has requested written submissions on the policies and processes which relate to the Social Funeral Fund Payment, Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parents Allowance and recommendations for improvement.

The Committee are particularly interested to hear about people’s experiences of:

Funerals

  • What are the costs of a funeral, and how does this compare with payments from the Social Funeral Fund?
  • Do funeral homes offer less expensive funeral options for people on low incomes?
  • Could improvements be made to the application process for Social Funeral Fund payments?
  • What is the impact on families and individuals when they cannot meet the cost of a funeral for a friend or relative?
  • What is the impact on funeral homes and directors when the cost of a funeral cannot be met?
  • What arrangements do Local Authorities have for Public Health Funerals? Have LAs seen an increase in Public Health Funerals and what is the cost to LAs?

Bereavement benefits

  • What is the level of awareness about bereavement benefits, amongst those who may be eligible to claim?
  • Are bereavement benefits targeted at those who need them? Should eligibility criteria be reviewed?
  • Are there any problems with how bereavement benefits will interact with Universal Credit?
  • Is communication and guidance about bereavement benefits sufficient?

You may enter a written submission on the inquiry’s webpage here.  The deadline for written submissions is 5 January 2016.