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The cost of death

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In the UK the prices of funerals have astronomically, by 112%, since 2004. The rising costs are putting pressure on citizens to find money to pay for a respectful ceremony. In addition to this the recently deceased often fail to leave behind an adequate amount of money to pay for a funeral and as a result one in nine families are left with insufficient funds to cover all the costs. The pricing epidemic can cause families to plummet into debt after the death of a loved one. For someone who has lost a close one, times are already tough but excess stress and pressure due to issues regarding money is ought to put unnecessary strain on said person.

One in six (16%) said that they struggled with the price of funerals, with people taking on an average debt of £1,830. One of these people is Lauren O’Connell who ended up in seven thousand pounds in debt after the unexpected death of her father. She claimed that the price of the cheapest coffin and funeral cost £4,500 not to mention the other services needed for a ceremony and reception. She was left struggling to pay the bill and says that “the debt was a huge worry (for her)”. It is clear that there is a problem in the funeral industry when it comes to costs therefore something must be done to tackle the rising prices so that vulnerable people like Lauren do not have to worry about debt as well as grieve.

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However, debt isn’t just a one-way street, independent funeral directors are being hit hard too. People being unable to meet costs are causing independent funeral directors to have financial difficulties as approximately 40% of their services are unpaid for at any one time. As well as this, due to increased cost of death certificates, services, burial, cremation and headstones and these amenities remaining unsalaried, small funeral directors are being forced to shut down or sell to larger companies. Though there is a simple solution to this problem: firstly, funeral debt must be cut down significantly in the industry and with the bereaved to assist in lowering the costs. Secondly, more effective business methods must be undertaken to help those who have lost someone recently to comprehend how much a funeral will cost and how to make the funeral affordable as well as meet needs.

The cost of a basic funeral has risen 5.3% since last year to £3,450. This shows an 80% increase since 2004. In addition to this, other discretionary fees such as flowers, catering, receptions and transport add to the overall cost bringing it to approximately £7,620. These costs are causing cut-backs by those organising the funeral. 30% had to cut back on limousines for immediate family, 27% on a memorial, 26% the catering, 17% on flowers and 15% had to find a cheaper venue to host the reception. However, there may be another option in the form of an increasingly popular ‘paupers funeral’ where cut backs are the whole point. The funeral is arranged by the local authority and paid for from the deceased persons estate. The person is buried in a public, unmarked grave if it is decided that they will be buried, and the funeral service is a short sermon by the grave or in the crematorium. The funeral is hardly desirable but people being unable to meet the ever-increasing costs are being forced to accept this method of burial. To add to this, with an aging population deaths in the UK are set to increase by 20% meaning that costs are about to rise even more. This correlates to an increase in these ‘paupers funerals’. Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre – UK, said: “Modern medicine and advances in public health have led to falls in the number of deaths over many decades. But the pattern of falling death numbers is about to turn around and start to increase. With growing funeral costs, quite simply, growing numbers of people might find they can’t afford to die.”

Though there may be a minor bright side to the price rises if you fit into a particular category: the wealthy. With costs going up the well-off members of society are finding that with the money they have, they are susceptible to a wider range of products. This means that a recently deceased family member’s funeral can be supplied with all the personal touches that they desire. They can spend the coveted amount of money on optional accessories such as flowers and necessities such as coffins. The bereaved that are lucky enough to be able to afford this can be put at ease knowing that their deceased family member will be treated with dignity. This allows them to mourn and express their grief without the burden of debt. A lavish send-off isn’t essential but if these people feel the deceased would want it they have the freedom to provide whatever they wish.

The cost of dying has risen dramatically in the past few years. Evidence supporting this suggests that it has risen by almost 80% since 2004. This puts considerable pressure on those who cannot afford to pay for a deceased family members funeral. The increasing costs force bereaved families into astounding amounts of debt if they choose to bury or cremate their family members in a dignified way. Obviously, a solution should be put into place to help tackle this increasingly common epidemic but for now and for the considerable future some of the nation’s most vulnerable people are being hit the hardest and they will remain like that until something is done about it.

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