Royal London Cost of Dying report 2015
November 5, 2018
This year, the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index confirms funeral costs continue to increase ahead of overall inflation. In a year of record low inflation for the UK, funeral costs have increased by 3.9%, compared to an annual inflation rate of 1.0%, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI).
- In 2015, the average cost of a funeral was £3,702, an increase of £140 on the 2014 figure. The average cost of a burial funeral is now £4,110 (up from £3,962 in 2014) and the average cost of a cremation funeral is now £3,294 (up from £3,162 in 2014).
- This represents the continuation of a long-term trend that has seen funeral costs rise ahead of inflation over the long term. Since 1980, the average annual increase in funeral costs has been 6.1%, compared to an average annual inflation rate of 4.0% (as measured by RPI).
- Looking forward, many underlying systemic factors suggest that, if left unresolved, costs will continue to rise. These include pressure on local authority funding, a shortage of plots for burials, the continued impact of mercury abatement* regulation on crematoria and the inflationary price effect of the increasing number of private crematoria.
- This year’s report also provided some evidence of the social pressures felt by those on low incomes to give their loved ones a “good send-off”. For example, our research indicates that poorer consumers spend just as much on coffins as wealthier consumers.
- Overall, however, the amount spent on items where there is a discretionary element actually fell this year. Spending on limousine hire, venue hire and flowers all fell. Perhaps this belt tightening was a necessary response to the increased costs for non-discretionary spend items, such as funeral directors’ costs and burial and cremation fees?
- In addition, there are signs the funeral industry is responding to consumer demand with more affordable solutions, including more transparent and simple offerings including “direct cremation”.
- For the first time this year’s report includes data from yourfuneralchoice.com, which compares funeral directors’ costs within each locality. This reveals tangible savings that can be achieved in most local areas, if people shop around. Differences between funeral directors can vary by amounts in excess of £1,000. Of course, we understand that many bereaved people are in great distress and do not feel up to shopping around.
- Given these price increases, it is perhaps not surprising that the average level of funeral debt among those that struggle has increased from £1,305 to £1,318, and, while individual debt is increasing, data produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggests that the Social Fund Funeral Payment (SFFP) (the state benefit designed to assist people who are struggling to pay for funeral costs) continues to erode in value in real terms.
- The number of successful SFFP awards has fallen again this year and although the average amount paid out increased by £28, this is some way short of the £140 average increase in the cost of a funeral. This means the gap between the value of the payment and the cost of a funeral continues to rise. This problem is compounded by the fact that claimants have to commit to a funeral package before they know if they will qualify for a payment and what its value will be. Again this year, we call for this benefit to be reformed.
- Other actions needed to address the systemic failures of this sector include reforms to allow the appropriate re-use of abandoned burial plots and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow Scotland’s lead in removing the charge for doctors’ fees.
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The full report can be viewed at the following link:
Image Courtesy: www.royallondon.com