A new benefit has been launched which aims to tackle funeral poverty in Scotland
A new benefit to help low income families meet the costs of a funeral has officially launched.
The payment - which is being delivered by Social Security Scotland - will help towards the cost of a funeral. It replaces the Funeral Expenses Payment previously operated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for people living in Scotland.
The payment will help towards burial or cremation costs, some travel costs and a £700 flat rate payment for people who do not have funeral plans. The Scottish Government has committed to annually uprating the flat rate element in line with inflation.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “If people on low incomes find themselves in the awful position of having lost a loved one and they are struggling to pay for the funeral, I would urge them to find out if they are eligible and apply for Funeral Support Payment.
“As with all of the benefits that we are introducing, we have been working hard to make sure that we improve people’s experience of accessing this kind of support. We have simplified the application process to make it less intrusive and we have, for the first time, included the option for people to apply online.
“Tackling poverty, while respecting the dignity of our people, is at the heart of the Scottish Social Security System, and it benefits not only individuals and families but our nation as a whole.”
Derek Mitchell, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “The Citizens Advice network sees hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland every year, and the majority of them are struggling just to pay their regular bills, like rent, food or energy bills. To be hit by the cost of a funeral on top of that can be a financial shock people just cannot take.
“We have been calling for action on this issue and we welcome the launch of the Funeral Support Payment. We made the case for the payment to be increased so it keeps pace with the cost of living, and also for widening eligibility so more people can claim it. We commend the Scottish Government for listening.
“A funeral can put massive pressure on peoples’ finances, heaping stress on grieving families. This payment in delivering support to families during that period, delivering some security and peace of mind, will be invaluable.”
Richard Meade, head of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie Scotland, welcomed the announcement but said many people will still struggle to meet the cost of a funeral.
“Many people tell us they worry about the financial burden they’re leaving their family, including the cost of a funeral,” he said.
“However, it is important to note that the new payment will still only meet a third of the average cost of a funeral, meaning some people will still be facing significant debt in order to afford even the average funeral cost for their family or loved one.
“We would encourage everyone to make plans and talk to their loved ones about their funeral wishes and choices, and where possible put aside savings, before it is too late.”