Co-operative launches low-cost scheme to alleviate funeral poverty

The Heart of England Co-operative is offering a range of payment plans to help families who cannot afford funeral costs. A standard funeral in the area where the...

The Heart of England Co-operative is offering a range of payment plans to help families who cannot afford funeral costs. A standard funeral in the area where the society operates costs around £3,300, which can be a financial burden for families already in distress.

Figures released by the National Association of Funeral Directors confirmed the cost of funerals has risen by 80% between 2004 and 2015. Another 2014 report by consumer magazine “Which?” predicts that funeral costs will continue to rise while only 16% of consumers have an adequate policy in place to cover the cost of their funerals. The report shows that 68% of consumers do not have any policy with another 14% having a policy that only partially covers funeral expenses.

Heart of England’s low interest credit scheme was designed to help families without a pre-paid funeral plan, enabling them to pay for their loved ones’ send-offs over 12, 24 or 36 months.

Darryl Smith, general manager of the Heart of England’s funeral division, said: “There is an increasing financial pressure on the funeral industry and on consumers because of the rising costs of skills and raw materials associated with funerals. But there are a number of options out there, which are designed to help families in the event of losing their loved ones.

“Schemes such as pre-paid funerals allow consumers to take the worry off their loved ones’ shoulders in the event of their deaths, while credit schemes like our own may be suitable to those of our client families who have not made any type of provision to cover funeral costs.”

Heart of England operates a network of 12 funeral homes in Coventry, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, being one of the most established funeral service providers in the area. The society’s initiative falls in line with a national campaign to tackle funeral poverty launched by anti-poverty charities Quaker Social Action and Church Action on Poverty.

Quaker Social Action is leading two projects that aim to help people who struggle to pay for funerals: Down to Earth and Fair Funerals.

Heather Kennedy, funeral poverty officer at Quaker Social Action, explained: “Through our Down to Earth project we support directly people who can’t afford a decent send-off for someone they love. But funeral poverty is getting a lot worse and we knew we had to do something about the big picture. The cost of dying has risen seven times faster than the cost of living. So in 2014 we launched the Fair Funerals campaign, which works with communities, government and the funeral industry to tackle funeral poverty.

“On 9 June we’ll be launching the Fair Funerals Pledge. The pledge asks funeral directors across the UK to make a big difference to bereaved people on low incomes by providing transparent, comparable prices. We very much hope Co-operative Funeralcare directors will sign the pledge once we launch.

“We ask co-operative societies, with their history as champions of social justice, to join the Fair Funerals campaign and help us convince government and the funeral industry that we need to do more for people struggling with funeral costs.”

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, added: “The price of funerals has risen sharply at the same time as Government support has been eroded. Funeral poverty is part of the wider poverty crisis where people on low incomes are struggling to afford basics like food, fuel, finance and furniture. It’s hard enough for people to have to deal with the emotional cost of losing a loved one, without being landed with a huge additional burden of unpayable debt after the funeral. Heart of England’s initiative is hugely welcome, and I hope that others in the sector follow suit.”

• To join the campaign, email: [email protected].

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