Funeral Poverty — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:51 pm on 13th October 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields 4:51 pm, 13th October 2015

My hon. Friend is correct; this does not only affect people who have the time to plan a funeral, which is short in itself. Some communities cannot plan—full stop—so that debt will be incurred by everybody across the board.

The decisions by the DWP are far too slow. Most funeral services, as we have said, are decided very quickly after a person’s death, but the average claim can take up to three weeks to process, which means that most people only find out whether they are entitled to support long after committing to costs. My Bill, among other things, called on the DWP to introduce an eligibility check to help applicants understand whether they are likely to receive support before they make any commitments to funeral costs. I hope that the Minister can update hon. Members on social fund funeral payments, and accept what his predecessors would not—that there are serious flaws in the current system. I would like him to tell us what he will do to improve the process.

When I introduced my Bill last year, I hoped to start a national conversation about funeral affordability. The Government and the wider public have become increasingly aware of the issue. This debate is a welcome continuation of that conversation, but it is about time that some of that talk is turned into action. I hope the Minister will tell us about some of that action today.