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Simple steps would improve system says NAFD

A Government inquiry into bereavement benefits has heard evidence from the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) on the issue.

Representative Nigel Lymn Rose told the Select Committee on Work and Pensions that five simple steps would make the current system fairer, more effective and easier to access: collecting data; index-linking payment; a pre-eligibility test; a simplified application form and improved signposting of support to bereaved families.

Only 62% of the 52,000 people who applied for the Social Fund Funeral Payment in 2014 were successful. Applicants can wait up to 21 days to find they receive nothing or very little, leaving them with a large, often unexpected debt, which is often passed onto the funeral director.

Often, applicants don’t even know that their claim has failed until after the appeals window has closed.

The NAFD says the £700 maximum award for ‘other funeral expenses’, which covers essentials such as a coffin, memorial and the services of a funeral director and has not been reviewed since 2003, now generally covers less than half of the average funeral costs incurred.

It suggests five steps:
1. Collecting at least basic information about funerals
2. Index-linking the payment
3. Introducing a pre-eligibility check and claims tracking system
4. Reduce the application form
5.  Improve Government signposting and support to bereaved families

Nigel Lymn Rose said: “The NAFD remains committed to working with the Government to ensure that all those without the means to fund even the most basic of funerals can access financial support so they can say a proper farewell to their loved one. However it is also important to recognise that the vast majority of funeral directors in this country – more than 90% of our members – are small businesses, and they deserve to be treated fairly too and not left to swallow the debts of those unable to pay.
“The NAFD is calling on the Government to act fairly in the interests of both bereaved families and the funeral firms who care for them.”

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