One in four Scottish people wouldn’t be able to cover the cost of the funeral of a loved one if they were to pass away tomorrow, new figures reveal.

The statistics have been revealed following a YouGov carried out a survey on behalf of the Scottish Government, which has just launched a new benefit to help families with bereavement costs.

Scots are now able to find support from the new Funeral Support Payment, delivered by Social Security Scotland, which replaces the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Funeral Expense Payment Scheme.

The changes mean that around 40 per cent of people will be eligible for financial support when facing a bereavement, with applications able to be submitted over the phone, by post or online for the first time.

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Speaking of the launch of the new benefit, Social Security Minister, Shirley-Ann Sommerville said: “Coping with the death of a loved one is one of the most tragic events any of us can face. At that difficult time, it’s even harder when there’s extra stress finding the money to pay for a funeral.

“Our new Funeral Support Payment has been designed and tested with members of the public and stakeholders including funeral directors and welfare advisors to ensure the end product is one we can be proud of.”

It is hoped the new benefit will reach more people than the previous DWP benefit and is being backed by an additional £2 million in funding by the Scottish Government.  The Scottish Government has also said it will uprate the benefit annually in line with inflation – something the UK Government has not done since 2003.

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Who is eligible?

Anyone who lives in Scotland will be entitled to apply for the benefit, providing they are responsible for paying for it. This means if their name is on the funeral bill or they are the nearest relative.

They can even apply if the deceased relative lived elsewhere in the UK.

Applications can also be made if the funeral is not taking place in Scotland, providing it is being held in another UK country or within the EU. Also, they can apply if the funeral is taking place in Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland or Iceland.

Families will have up to six months to apply for the benefit after the person passes away.

What benefits must you be in receipt of?

To apply for Funeral Support Payments the claimant or their partner must be in receipt of one of the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit;
  • Universal Credit (UC);
  • Income Support;
  • Pension Credit;
  • Working Tax Credit (disability or severe disability element);
  • Housing Benefit;
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), (not contribution-based JSA);
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), (not contribution-based ESA).

They can also apply if they are not in receipt of one of these benefits but have applied and are awaiting the outcome of the application.

This is particularly important if the claimant previously relied on the deceased for financial support as Funeral Support Payments can be applied for up to six months after the death. This means that even if the Claimant is not in receipt of one of the above benefits, they can apply for them and then make their application for a Funeral Support Payment.

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How much will you receive?

How much they will receive will depend on whether the deceased was under 18 years or over 18 years of age, and where they lived, as funeral costs will vary from area to area.

However, they can get help with the:

  • Burial or cremation costs;
  • Funeral costs;
  • Travel costs;
  • Transport costs, to move the person who died;
  • Death Certificate costs; and
  • Medical costs

It is not expected Funeral Support Payments will pay for the full costs of a funeral, and the average total payment will be £1,300.

For many, however, this will not be enough, as the average cost of a simple cremation in Scotland is £3,079; and the average cost of a simple burial is £3,919.

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Funeral poverty

This means for many families, they will struggle to pay the cost of a funeral and many will be thrown into what is known as funeral poverty, where those struggling with the costs of a funeral struggle with other bills, including credit cards, loans and mortgages.

Therefore, when someone dies, it is important to check whether the deceased had any life insurance, as claiming this can help with the costs of the funeral.

It is also important to speak with funeral directors about setting up a repayment plan to help repay the debt at a level that is affordable each month.

It is also worth checking if they are receiving all the benefits they should be receiving, especially when it is a partner that has passed away. This is a significant change of circumstances and can often lead to someone being entitled to further benefits they were not entitled to (and a benefit that may entitle them to apply for Funeral Support Payments).

For those who are struggling with other debts, they should seek advice to explore all their options.

Carrington Dean is Scotland’s leading provider of Debt Payment Programmes under the Debt Arrangement Scheme and also Scotland’s leading provider of Protected Trust Deed. For a free confidential discussion with a Carrington Dean Money Adviser, call 0808 2085 195