Cost of Dying special report: "Affording a Funeral": Social Fund Funeral Payments

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This report outlines the key findings from a qualitative study into the process and experience of claiming a Social Fund Funeral Payment (FP). The research involved interviewing claimants, funeral directors and stakeholders2 in order to examine and evaluate the way in which state support was being organised and administered. To contextualise the research internationally, and to enable the development of a cohesive set of recommendations, the study was complemented by a comparative analysis of state support and provision for funerals in 18 countries3, which was the first of its kind.
Findings suggested that compared to other countries, there is considerable disparity in the UK between the rising cost of a funeral and contributory funds available from the state. With fundamental changes to the organisation of the welfare state,
alongside mounting concerns about social care and pensioner poverty, this report suggests that being able to pay for the funeral of a family member needs to be included in these discussions. The research findings indicate that the issue of accessing state support for funeral costs is ever more pressing. The current arrangement of contributions from the state
for those people who cannot afford a funeral lacks coherence. This has the potential for creating confusion and frustration as well as exacerbating emotional distress, which many of the participants reported.
Frustration and distress was the outcome of a number of interwoven issues. Namely confusion regarding awareness of and eligibility for a FP, the amount that the FP scheme awards successful claimants, the order in which the funeral is organised and FP claim administered, and the way in which familial relationships are assessed and how decisions regarding responsibility for the funeral costs are made.
Drawing on international comparisons, these issues are compounded by a culture of individualism in the UK that regards death as a private event, alongside a reliance on a free market economy to regulate funeral costs and a political narrative of welfare dependency rather than welfare entitlement. A narrative of welfare dependency in the case of the FP overlooks the cost of social care at the end of life and pensioner poverty, and the impact these can have on the ready availability of finances for a funeral after an individual has died.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherAxa Sun Life Direct
Commissioning bodySun Life Direct
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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