Funeral Poverty — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:10 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Phil Boswell Phil Boswell Scottish National Party, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 5:10 pm, 13th October 2015

I thank Paul Maynard for holding this debate on such an important matter, as he clearly highlighted in his worthy contribution. I also thank all Members who have spoken. After a serious piece of slash-and-burn, let me say that recent reports have found that not only are many people unable to pay for the cost of a funeral, 47% of individuals are forced to take out high-interest credit card debt or short-term loans to cover the shortfall.

According to findings published in The Guardian on 20 October, jobcentre staff actively encourage individuals to take on debt in order to pay for funeral costs. The fact that they have done so when individuals have approached them at a time of desperation and emotional turmoil after the loss of a loved one is morally reprehensible and frankly unacceptable. Although the reports do not specify whether encouraging individuals to incur high-interest debt to cover the costs of a funeral is an official Department for Work and Pensions internal policy, I hope that this debate will encourage the DWP to tackle that emerging pattern, and I would appreciate a ministerial response on that particular concern.

According to the 2015 Citizens Advice Scotland report, “The cost of saying goodbye”, which has been mentioned by many Members who have spoken, North Lanarkshire council ranks in the top 40% of the most expensive councils for funeral costs in Scotland. According to Citizens Advice, the total cost of a funeral for people living in our constituency falls somewhere between £2,500 and £8,000. As more than half the households in Lanarkshire have an annual household income of less than £20,000, the cost of a funeral in our constituency can represent more than one third of household income for many.