State should pay costs of basic funeral - minister
The Rev Bryan Kerr says the bill for burial or cremation is out of control, saying it had risen by 80 per cent in a decade to an average of £3,456.
“With some of the most vulnerable people in society being the worst affected by funeral poverty, it does not take a big leap to work out that people will begin to rely on payday loans to bridge the gap, plunging them further into debt,” he told the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Rev Kerr, minister at Greyfriars Church in Lanark, said that current government relief does not go far enough.
About half of applicants for support are unsuccessful, and those who do receive help get on average £1,225, he said.
The minister wants the UK government to use National Insurance to pay a basic allowance, with people free to top it up for more elaborate ceremonies.
“Tax rising is never popular,” he said. “However, we all need a funeral of some description.
“Such a scheme as providing a state insurance for funerals, radical as it seems, would also require the local authorities and others who operate burial and cremation services to show restraint in charging to ensure that they did not just bleed the system dry with excessive charges,” he said.
The Kirk’s church and society council said it would continue to work in collaboration with other agencies to address issues of funeral poverty and would seek to ensure a fair pricing structure was in place for the services provided.