Tackling the debt and spiralling costs associated with paying for a funeral will be debated at series of discussions this autumn.
Funeral directors, local authorities, charities and other organisations with an interest will attend the first of three events starting today, and will be followed by the Scottish Government’s first national conference on funeral poverty on November 16 in Edinburgh.
The discussions, which were recommended by the independent report on funeral poverty, will focus on how best to support people to plan ahead for their funeral, helping people understand their choices and developing more affordable funeral options.
The announcement of the national conference coincides with the publication of burial and cremation costs charged by local authorities and private providers. The Citizens Advice Scotland figures show an 8% increase in burial and an 11% increase in cremation costs in the last year, and continued variation in costs between local authorities.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, who will lead today’s discussions, said: “For families who are mourning the loss of a loved one to be faced with mounting debt and distress because of the cost of paying for a funeral is completely unacceptable and I’m determined to address it.
“This national conference will bring together the funeral industry, local authorities and charities to discuss how we can address the rising, and disproportionately different costs which are incurred in different parts of the country.
“We know funeral directors want the best for their customers and as a government we want to raise awareness of funeral planning. Therefore it’s important we make sure all parts of the industry work together to give people a realistic choice when they are making difficult decisions about the funeral of a loved one.”
Funeral payments, which are part of the Regulated Social Fund, are among the social security powers to be devolved to Scotland which the Scottish Government is currently consulting on.
Minister for Social Security Jeane Freeman said: “Our new powers over funeral payments, gives us the opportunity to set up a benefit which is simpler to understand, fairer and more streamlined.
“We have already committed to processing applications within 10 working days, allowing people to make better informed decisions when they are planning a funeral and relieving the stress and anxiety current long delays can cause. This will also create more certainty for funeral directors, allowing them to give appropriate advice and potentially eliminating the need to take a deposit from those who make a successful application.
“I would encourage anyone with an interest to take part in the consultation we are running now so they can help shape our fairer, more dignified approach to social security.”