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Evening Standard: Cost of paupers’ funerals in London nearly doubles

Funerals_EveningStandard

The average cost of paupers’ funerals in London has nearly doubled in just three years, the Standard can reveal.

Figures show the average bill for each funeral has risen from £673 to £1,230. The number of these funerals has more than doubled to 2,153 in the three years from 2013 — almost two a day — compared with 1,000 between 2007 and 2010.

Paupers’ funerals, or public health funerals, are carried out for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay, with local authorities footing the bill. Most people who receive a public health funeral are cremated or buried in an unmarked grave.

Analysis of data released under the Freedom of Information Act from 28 of the 32 borough councils reveals the cost is up by almost 85 per cent, with boroughs spending more than £1.5 million since 2013.

Experts put this down to rising costs, and also the efficiency, or otherwise, of boroughs being able to recover the cost from the deceased’s estate.

The increase in paupers’ funerals was being blamed on a reduction in disposable income, the fact that more people are living longer and alone, and traditional funerals becoming more expensive.

Families who cannot afford a funeral can receive a £700 Social Fund payment covering the expense of a coffin, hearse, director and flowers and a separate payment to cover grave, burial or crematorium fees.

This amount has been capped for 16 years, while the average cost of a normal funeral has risen to £3,700.

In 2010 the Standard revealed children and babies were being buried together in paupers’ graves. This led to an outcry and the formation of our Dispossessed Fund, which has raised millions for London’s poorest.

It emerged 1,000 people had been buried in paupers’ graves since 2007, 70 per cent of them children, infants or stillborn babies.

Today the figure has soared. In total, London spent £1,501,468 on paupers’ funerals between April 2013 and April last year. Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “These tragic figures speak for themselves. People, mostly elderly, are dying around us with no family or friends nearby to care for them.”

Genealogy service Finders International has set up a charitable trust to help pay for public health funerals. Councils can apply for a subsidy in cases where there are no next of kin.

Finders International managing director Daniel Curran said its funeral fund “can help local authorities significantly with finance, while also confirming whether or not there are next of kin — free of charge”.

Original story, as featured in the Evening Standard