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Funeral debt nears £150m

Funeral debt in the UK has risen to £147m, according to a new report, as people borrow from friends and family or the bank to fund the last wishes of loved ones.

Funeral debt in the UK has risen to £147m, according to a new report, as people borrow from friends and family or the bank to fund the last wishes of loved ones.
The latest National Funeral Cost Index from pensions and investment company Royal London reveals that the average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £3,675, with 93,359 adults taking on funeral debt. The average debt taken on to cover costs is £1,601, which collectively equates to £147m.
One in seven people (15%) said they struggled with funeral costs. Among those, one in four said they borrowed money from family and friends or went into debt by taking out a loan, with a similar proportion using their overdraft facility to pay funeral costs.
Data from the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management shows the cost of a burial ranges from £2,917 in Belfast, to £9,679 in Kensal Green in London. Greenock in Scotland is the cheapest place to be cremated (£2,873).
The Royal London research also found 5% of consumers are choosing to have a direct burial or direct cremation and says it says the findings show there is “a clear demand” for this.
Spokeswoman Mona Patel said it was “vital” the Government tackle funeral poverty by addressing the flaws of the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment, including the time taken.  
“The funeral industry also needs to address consumer demand for a simpler and cheaper funeral option, by providing more access to direct cremation and direct burials,” she added.
Royal London is also calling for policymakers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow Scotland’s lead and do away with doctors’ fees; to adopt the pathway set by the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016, by providing permission for the sensitive re-use of abandoned old graves.
Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, told the media that it was “pleasing” that the Royal London report had gone some way to dismiss the unfair blame often placed on the heads of funeral directors for the growing cost of funerals, by recognising that, in many cases, the real issue is third party costs.
“As an organisation, we actively encourage all our members to display their prices online to make comparison easier, while our code of practice also demands complete openness of all funeral costs,” he said.
Nick Willcocks, co-ordinator at, which compiles data based on mystery shopping for a simple funeral, said:
“We encourage individuals to speak to two or three firms directly, get a feel for them and then make a choice.
“An increasing number of people are choosing to separate the cremation from the celebration of life and through direct cremation this invariably provides a more affordable but no less dignified alternative to a traditional, attended funeral.”


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