Guest column: Rise in number of cases of funeral poverty is worry

Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP

I have been contacted by a number of people about a campaign about funeral poverty and the related campaign by Fair Funerals.

I share the concern about the worrying rise in funeral costs and I appreciate this can leave families with significant additional financial responsibilities at the most difficult of times.

Funerals offer families the opportunity to celebrate the life of a loved one, and providing a simple ceremony and proper burial or cremation is a matter of respect for those who have passed away.

I believe it is absolutely right that support is available to bereaved families to provide dignified funerals, regardless of income.

At the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to fund child burial fees for bereaved parents, and to transform our social security system to ensure it is there for all of us in our time of need.

It is very concerning that research from Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index for 2017 indicated that one in six families arranging a funeral struggled to afford its cost.

And a report from SunLife found that funeral costs have risen 70 per cent in the past decade, and 4.7 per cent in the last year alone.

I am aware that Fair Funerals is calling for the Chancellor to review the Social Fund Funeral Payment.

The Government recently consulted on reforms to the ‘funeral expenses payments scheme’, and intends to bring forward a number of reforms due to take effect in spring 2018.

However, the Government will not increase the social fund funeral expenses Payments scheme because it believes that the current amount makes a significant contribution towards a funeral. 

I have written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about this matter. I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns raised by individuals and organisations such as the Fair Funerals and take action to tackle funeral poverty.

Flu vaccinations are available every year on the NHS to help protect adults and children at risk of flu and its complications.

Flu can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy it will usually clear up on its own within a week.

However, flu can be more severe in certain people, such as anyone aged 65 and over or children and adults with an underlying health conditions.

These groups of people are eligible for a free flu jab and I would urge if you fall into one of those groups to contact your GP or local pharmacy to arrange for you to have the jab.