April 17, 2013 · Uncategorized

No, not that one. There was an article in the Telegraph last July which said that the number of public health/”pauper’s” funerals had increased substantially because of cuts to the social security budget and the Government Funeral Payment Scheme. The article mentions some study by an insurance company which just happens to sell funeral insurance, but I think it is an issue worth discussing anyway. When my dad died we got a grant from the social fund to pay for it because none of had that sort of money at that short notice. The funeral directors offered us an “affordable” funeral for about £1600, which thankfully was taken care of for us. It sounds like a lot, but it included:

  • Collection from the hospice
  • Storage and preparation for the funeral
  • Transport to the crematorium
  • A coffin
  • Various fees such as “ash cash” (a fee paid to the doctor who signs off the certificate authorising cremation) and use of the crematorium chapel
  • A newspaper obituary

More expensive funerals include things like transport for friends & family, catering and other odds and ends. Dealing with the body is pretty expensive: cremating someone over 16 in Leeds costs £633. Burying an adult costs from £842 upwards. A green burial costs £2,248. The cost of a funeral is the first thing to be paid out of the deceased’s estate. Everything else has a lower priority. If there isn’t enough money, the executor has to pay, which is where the funeral payment scheme should come it.

A funeral has to take place because dealing with the remains of the deceased is a public health issue. Bodies have to buried in certain places to avoid polluting groundwater and deep enough to make sure they don’t smell or attract vermin. Cremation requires the body to be prepared so it burns safely (no exploding pacemakers for example) and the fumes don’t cause any problems. Burials and green burials also require a fair amount of land. All this has to be paid for somehow. Local authorities are required to make sure a body is buried or cremated, but that’s as far as it goes in theory. In practice even public health funerals usually have some sort of arrangement to allow people the chance to say goodbye to the deceased in a dignified way, even if it’s just a minister conducting a short service to an empty chapel.

On that cheery note, it’s worth at least thinking about what might happen when your time runs out. Making even a basic will helps people left behind know your final wishes and helps to avoid some of the arguments. It’s also good to keep in touch with people before it’s too late. There are far too many people I just wish I’d had one last chance to speak to while I’d had the chance.

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