Niall Cooper: Debt beyond death
What churches can do to combat funeral poverty
As Christians, we are familiar with the concept of life beyond death. Sadly, as the cost of dying continues to increase more rapidly than the cost of living, increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with the experience of debt beyond death.
Last year, Quaker Social Action, Church Action on Poverty and a consortium of other organisations launched the Funeral Poverty Alliance, which created a “fair funerals pledge”. The pledge asks funeral directors to make their most affordable funeral package visible to the public, to communicate affordable prices in initial conversations and to prominently display full price lists. A new report published this month calls for Churches to tackle funeral poverty and help to prevent the death of a loved one plunging people into serious and long-term debt.
Take James’ story: “After my wife lost her long battle with cancer, I had no idea how I was going to raise the money for her funeral. I had been left with four, school-age children and, because I’d been my wife’s main carer and had to give up work, our savings were almost all gone. I was really shocked when our local funeral director quoted me £6,300 for a burial. I’ve still got quite a bit to pay off, which I’m doing through a payment plan of £12.50 a week. Having this debt hanging over me is a painful reminder of my wife’s death.”
James’ experience is far from unique. People on low incomes and benefits are the hardest hit because they have little or no savings and have to spend a much larger proportion of their income on funeral costs.
Niall Cooper is director of Church Action on Poverty
This is an extract from the October 2015 edition of Reform.