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Rise in Public Health Funerals in Wales

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Recent news pointed to the stark rise in the numbers of public health funerals in Wales.

An ITV story at the end of May stated there’d been a 55 percent rise. Sometimes called ‘pauper’s funerals, a public health funeral takes place when there is no money in the deceased person’s estate to pay for the funeral or they have no relatives to cover the costs. Local councils or health boards pick up the tab instead.

The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index reports the average price of a funeral in Wales is £3,535. The ITV story also reports that crowdfunding funerals is also becoming more commonplace when families and friends are forced to go online to ask people to help with costs.

ITV News focused on Helen Hughes from Cardiff. When Helen lost her husband to a heart attack in December last year, he had no life insurance. Helen chose the cheapest funeral she could, but it still left her in debt.

She created an online crowdfunding page where she received financial help from family members and also received a lump sum from the UK Government’s Funeral Payment scheme, but she still hasn’t paid off the balance.

Helen told ITV News struggling with the costs of the funeral had made “things snowball”, worsening her depression.

The campaign group Fair Funerals says funeral prices have risen way above inflation since the Government’s funeral payment scheme was set up in the 1980s and that it covered less than 40 percent of the cost of a basic funeral.

The group has called on the Chancellor Philip Hammond to #BurytheDebt for grieving families by raising the state’s funeral fund.

A UK Government spokesperson said they understood funerals were difficult for people and that the payments provided an important contribution towards the costs, with the average award at over £1,400.

Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director said: “Helen’s story—and the numbers of public health funerals needed in Wales—is all too common. Increasing numbers of people struggle to pay for funerals and the costs fall to local authorities, which are already coping with reduced funding, and cuts to health and social care.

“We established our funeral fund for public bodies to help this in this area. We also offer a service where we will trace next of kin free of charge for councils and health boards when someone dies in their care and seemingly has no relatives.”