The soaring cost of funerals in Scotland has come under fire in a new report for ministers which calls for councils to be obliged to justify inflation-busting increases.
More than 1,000 funerals take place in Scotland every week, with the average cost now more than £3,500, despite many low income families having no savings in place to cover such expenses.
The report, from Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty and Citizens Advice Scotland, found a wide range of prices set by local councils for burial plots and cremations, as it recommended that authorities reduce or limit charges.
In a key finding, it also called upon Scottish ministers to “require local authorities to justify any increases in burial/cremation charges” that are above the rate of inflation.
The Scottish Government should launch a new national ‘Scottish Funeral Bond’ to standardise costs and allow more people to save for their own funeral, the report said.
Scottish ministers were also urged to put pressure on the UK Government to increase social security payments to ensure they cover the cost of funerals and do not leave bereaved families in poverty.John Birrell, the author of the findings, said: “I am increasingly concerned that if action is not taken bereaved relatives are going to experience more and more distress and I hope the suggestions made in our report will go some way to mitigate this.”
Scotland’s social justice secretary Alex Neil, confirming that he would consider introducing a Scottish
Funeral Bond, said: “This could help unlock lower cost options for people who choose them.”
Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland called for an end to the “obscenity of people being forced into crippling debt” to cover funeral costs, as it welcomed the findings.
The Revd Sally Foster-
Fulton, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: “The escalating cost of funerals is an attack on people when they are at their most vulnerable and felt, most acutely, by those who have the least in the first place.”
Local councils umbrella body, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, backed a “better clarity of the requirements and costs” for bereaved families and friends.