I AM writing this letter to offer some clarity regarding my Funeral Services Bill.
My Bill was aimed at ending the silence on funeral poverty, and starting a conversation about how we can bring funeral costs down so that bereaved people no longer face the agonising experience of being unable to afford a funeral for their loved ones.
A recent report shows that the average cost of a funeral is now £3,551, and that 46 per cent of people who arrange a funeral find that the costs are more than they expect. The Funeral Payments system available from the Government to help families, is poorly designed, and can cause as many problems as it solves.
Families end up having to commit to funeral costs before applying. This can encourage some families to buy a more expensive service, only to find they do not qualify for help, leaving them with significant debts to pay.
My Bill calls for a Government review of funeral affordability in the UK. It also proposes changes to improve the Funeral Payments system, and the creation of a ‘simple funeral’ where funeral directors would be required to provide information about the cost of a standard service to help people make a better-informed decision about the service they choose.
A lot of the reports on the Bill focused on the issue of garden burials, and while that was only a very small part of my speech and such burials are not commonplace, it has created a national conversation about this emotive and taboo subject.
I would also like to clarify that this Bill is national and at no stage in my speech did I say people in South Shields or even the North East have buried relatives in their gardens.
I have spoken to a lot of people across the country in preparing for this Bill and I am sure most people will understand that I am not at liberty to provide details relating to cases of home burials because the information was provided on a confidential basis.
This does not mean they have undertaken illegal burials – simply that they do not wish for everyone to know their personal details. There are however, some other cases available on the internet highlighting people who have chosen this option.
I would also like to add that I have been overwhelmed by the amount of kind messages from people across the country who have shared their stories and thanked me for highlighting this issue. I would like to thank everyone who got in touch with me to offer their support, because they understand that I introduced the Bill to help the 100,000 households a year who are having to get into debt to afford a funeral service for someone they care about and they know that this is something I will continue to campaign for.
I do hope readers find this clarification useful.
I would like to assure readers that since I proposed this Bill I have continued to be a visible presence both in South Shields and in Parliament. Any readers wishing to follow my progress can follow me on Twitter, access my website, or come to see me at one of my regular constituency advice surgeries.
Member of Parliament for South Shields.