Research published by the University of Dundee in Scotland has shown that Dundonians rack up more than half a million pounds in debt to pay for funerals every year.

Reporting on the issue, The Evening Telegraph says an estimated 307 families acquire an average debt of £1,744 so that they can give their loved ones the send-off they deserve. The report was produced by the university to mark the annual Challenge Poverty Week.

To afford the services, the report found people in the city will cut back on the amount of food they buy or turning on the heating in their homes so that they can afford funeral services, which will include costs such as coffins, fees, cars, flowers, a wake and more. Others reported borrowing money from their friends or taking out loans to pay for the funeral.

‘Mixed approaches’ to costs

The newspaper article said funeral directors had been criticised for their business methods and pricing—reporting “mixed approaches” to the way costs were outlined and wide gaps between different funeral directors and how they priced services which were broadly similar.

Thanks to the challenges of unemployment and the city’s number of drug-related deaths, Dundonians were particularly at risk of funeral poverty. In addition, the report found geographical variations. In Dundee, the average cost of a burial is £4,194 and a cremation £3,377—whereas in the nearby city of Perth, a cremation is on average £300 cheaper.

Dr Carlo Morelli and Ruth Bickerton researched the issue and wrote the report on behalf of Funeral Link—a local charity that provides support and guidance to locals who have suffered a bereavement. Since January of this year (2019), the charity has provided assistance to twenty-one families, helping ten of them save more than £10,000 in total.

Funeral poverty

Mary Kinninmonth is the chair of the charity’s board of trustees. She told The Evening Telegraph that the comprehensive evaluation report provided strong evidence of the extent of funeral poverty and the need for Funeral Link’s services. She added that she hoped the report would stand the charity in good stead as it continued to seek out funding for its much-needed services.

To help local people with funeral costs, Dundee City Council has launched its own “respectful funeral service”, where local funeral directors partner with the council to offer a dignified service which isn’t as expensive.

Dr Morelli said that additional regulation of funeral services might be needed to ensure people were not exploited at this difficult time in their lives.

The report said recommended services such as Funeral Link ought to become more common across other parts of Scotland, and there should be more effort to raise awareness of money available from the Social Fund to cover funeral costs.

He told the Telegraph that the largest funeral service firms had been successfully increasing the costs of their services at the expense of the hardship of those involved.


Finders International has a funeral fund subsidy payment to help local authorities and health boards pay for the costs of funeral in cases where there are genuinely no known next of kin. You can email [email protected] to find out more. Alternatively, you can visit our website, Finders International.