The latest Royal London National Funeral Cost Index reveals funeral debt in the UK has risen to £147m as people borrow from friends and family or the bank to fund the last wishes of loved ones.
With a postcode lottery meaning funeral costs range from £2,898 to £6,422 depending on where you live in the country, families are finding it almost impossible to plan financially for the inevitable.
The research also found consumers are using different coping strategies to keep costs down, with 5% choosing to have a direct burial or direct cremation, which is a radically different and cheaper option.
While this is not on offer from many funeral directors, Secure Haven Funeral Directors, based in Chelmsford, offers the Honesty Cremation Package to assist families struggling with the costs of a full funeral.
The family-run funeral home was set up last year in response to hidden costs and growing price tags attached to putting someone to rest.
Paul Yarwood, whose family were horrified at the pricey experience of dealing with funeral directors when his parents died, set up his business to focus on affordability, care and helping families through their grief.
Mr Yarwood said: “Having lost both my parents and having to arrange their funeral with no real idea on how the costs were accumulating, I thought it extremely important that other families should not have to go through this process.
“With costs spiraling well above the rate of inflation, I feel families need help in their decision-making if cost is an issue or not.
“By offering our services well below the national average in cost, yet still keeping the high level of service and professionalism, we believe families can make more choices when it comes to arrangement.
“Secure Haven understand the need for many families to opt for a non-service cremation – a direct cremation – where there are no attendees at the crematorium. This may be the preference for families who, because of the rising cost of a cremation, may have restricted finances while looking to provide a dignified farewell to their loved one.”
Royal London’s research highlights 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 being taken on to cover funeral costs is £1,601, which collectively equates to £147m across the UK.
One in seven polled (15%) said they struggled with funeral costs. Among those who struggled, one in four said they borrowed money from family and friends (27%) or went into debt by taking out a loan or going into their overdraft (24%) to pay funeral costs.
Mona Patel, Royal London’s consumer spokesman, said: “When dealing with the loss of a loved one, the last thing that people need is financial stress as well.
“It is vital the Government tackles funeral poverty by addressing the flaws with the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment. This includes the length of time it takes to get a payment which then often falls far short of the cost of the funeral. 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.”