RIP (rest in poverty) as funeral costs soar

Environmentally friendly coffins like this wicker one are becoming popular but families can struggle to meet the bills. Picture: Getty
Environmentally friendly coffins like this wicker one are becoming popular but families can struggle to meet the bills. Picture: Getty
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The cost of the average funeral has rocketed to £3,240, meaning many Scots are unable to afford to bury their loved ones or are forced to take on debt to fund a service.

The price of a typical funeral has risen by 7 per cent every year since 2004, according to figures from Citizens Advice Scotland, despite a squeeze in household finances and a real-terms reduction in state financial help available.

The figure does not include “extras” such as flowers, an obituary notice in the local press, catering, a mourners’ car, room hire for a wake and a headstone.

This can all add up to an extra average fee of £1,815, taking the total cost to more than £5,000.

The report also found that the price of saying goodbye to a loved one is a postcode lottery for Scots, with the price of a funeral varying by almost 300 per cent, depending on local authority area.

The most expensive council area is East Dunbartonshire where the average cost of a burial is £2,716 – almost four times as much as the lowest-charging Western Isles council.

It is also 280 per cent more than nearby East Renfrewshire, meaning there is only seven miles between the most expensive place to be buried on mainland Scotland and the cheapest.

“People who have never organised a funeral are often shocked at how expensive it is,” said Citizens Advice Scotland head of policy Susan McPhee.

“There are charges for the grave site as well as fees to the undertakers, the cost of the coffin etc. Our research has found the average cost in Scotland for a simple funeral is £3,240. That’s a lot of money for a family to find at a time of emotional stress, particularly when the bereavement is unexpected.”

The UK government, through the Department for Work and Pensions, supplies small amounts of money to families who are on extremely low incomes and need help to pay for basic funeral costs.

However, the amount available per family has remained static for ten years, failing to keep pace with the rising cost of funerals. Last year, there were 66,000 applications to the fund; however only 53 per cent of these applications were successful.

Ms McPhee added: “These high costs come at a time when many families are struggling just to feed themselves and keep their homes, so a sudden bill of over £3,000 can be devastating.

“To make matters worse, the special assistance scheme that people have been able to claim in the past has been squeezed of resources, so that 50 per cent of applications are now being turned down.” Despite cremation being a cheaper option, only 12 local authorities in Scotland run crematoriums. The average cost of a cremation in Scotland is £570, compared to £1,180 for a burial. However, the services of an undertaker alone typically costs almost £2,000, while a minister or celebrant usually costs around £140.

The Church of Scotland does not charge for a minister to carry out a service, although families usually offer donations.