For Dying Matters Week 2020 it felt appropriate to write about the current financial challenges regarding funeral costs. Our colleagues at England’s Illegal Money Lending Team we’re telling us that in 2019, 6% of the Loan Shark victims they helped had resorted to using loan sharks to pay towards funeral or health costs, with even the cheapest funeral costing £975!

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Blog by Revd Cassius Francis - TCT’s Just Finance Black Country Worker

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* First published 12th May 2020 | Updated 19th May 2020 *

Firstly I want to say to anyone who is experiencing bereavement or loss at this time, that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

The process of grief must be even more profound when we are not able to benefit from the physical support of others who can, quite literally, hold us up but who also may not be able to give their loved one the funeral they had requested because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Sadly, the scale of deaths that we are seeing in our communities is unprecedented in our lifetimes and the unexpected nature of the circumstances may leave families in a financially vulnerable position, needing to suddenly find money for a funeral.

In April, the Guardian Newspaper reported an increase in the requests for a direct cremation:

‘A direct cremation is a simple, low-cost option where, typically, there is no funeral service – no flowers, limos or hymns – and no family or friends present. In its most basic form it is simply a cremation, and prices start at less than £1,000.’
The Guardian - 18th April

However, for many families, this may not be an option they would be willing to consider, because of the request of the deceased to be buried or because of a faith perspective or belief that would rule out cremation. This type of service does, on the positive side, leave families free to organise a more personal send-off later – perhaps a memorial service, ash scattering or celebration of life. In addition, once the lockdown is over, everyone could attend a gathering without the limited numbers we face under current restrictions.

From the standpoint of my work as the Just Finance Development Worker for the Black Country, I am very concerned about the financial wellbeing of people in our communities. If you are bereaved and planning a funeral, please do check the Fair Funerals Campaign website. The site has an option to input your postcode and it will provide details of funeral directors who are making a voluntary commitment to be open about their most affordable options and to help people find funerals within their means.

Please do try to find ways to talk about death. There is some helpful advice about how to talk about death on the Art of Dying Well website and there are the Grave Talk cards, designed to get conversations started about death, dying and funerals. As difficult as these conversations may be, knowing the wishes of your loved one will make the process of decision making much easier if they die suddenly. The Money Advice Service also have advice about help paying for a funeral, and you can find the official government advice here.

If you are concerned about a loan shark (an illegal money lender) operating in your community, you can report them anonymously on 0300 555 2222 or via their website Stop Loan Sharks.

Finally, just a word of encouragement during these difficult times - whatever your circumstances are, you are not alone. There are some amazing organisations working to offer support to those who are bereaved including AtaLoss.org, a website with a directory of support.

Bless you and stay safe.

Revd Cassius Francis is the Just Finance Development Worker for the Black Country (with Transforming Communities Together and he is a minister with the Wesleyan Holiness Church.

Addendum

Since the publication of this article, we have been blessed by contact from a Public Health Nurse at Dudley Council. They have kindly shared these additional resources and we wanted to share them with you:

Financial Support-https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments

Child funerals are now free:

The Child’s Funeral Fund for England funds free burial or cremation https://tinyurl.com/yah47gkj

With this being Dying Matters week, I wanted to share a link to a short video prepared as a very gentle introduction to explore what people’s wishes may be at the end of their lives.

https://www.allaboutdudley.info/dying-matters/

Recognising that in the current situation of Coronavirus death, dying and bereavement are particularly sensitive issues, we are also encouraging those who may be experiencing a difficult end of life or bereavement situation to access further support through the website:

https://lets-get.com/explore/bereavement/