Benefits announced to tackle "funeral poverty"

New benefits to help Scots struggling with the soaring costs of funerals are to be introduced.

Angela Constance has unveiled new funeral support
Angela Constance has unveiled new funeral support

The new funeral expense assistance is expected to be brought in by September 2019 and is part of a raft of benefits being devolved to the Scottish Parliament from Westminster.

Equalities Minister Angela Constance unveiled the

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measure as part of a ten-point plan to address the “growing issue” of people ending up in poverty due to funeral

expenses.

Other actions include introducing a funeral bond pilot scheme to assist savers, publishing guidance on funeral costs by December 2018 and strengthening consumer protection on funeral plans.

In 2016, the basic cost of a burial, excluding under-

takers’ fees, was £1,373, up 8 per cent on the previous year, Citizens Advice Scotland found. There were big differences in price across the country, with Edinburgh the most expensive council area at £2,253 and the Western Isles the cheapest at £701.

Stirling University researchers found councils across Scotland spent an estimated £500,000 on so-called

“pauper” funerals in 2016.

Ms Constance launched the plan on a visit to Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union in Paisley yesterday.

She said: “The death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult time for anyone. It can be even harder when money is tight. We know funeral costs can push people into poverty – and often it is those already in financial hardship who face increased difficulties.

“That is why we are taking decisive action to tackle this growing issue and have engaged with local authorities, the funeral sector and other support services. I am pleased by the willingness to work together to find solutions that support more affordable funerals.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting those who need it most following a bereavement, which is why we will introduce a new funeral expense assistance from summer 2019.”

The Church of Scotland welcomed the new plan and said it would work with the government to help bring an end to funeral poverty.

Martin Johnstone, secretary of the Kirk’s church and society council, said: “Over recent years we have consistently spoken out against the growing scandal of funeral poverty.

“Every week, ministers in all parts of Scotland spend time with families who are not only grieving the death of a person that they love but are also worried about how they will pay the funeral costs.”