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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered funeral poverty.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Streeter. While few things are certain in this world, we can be sure that almost all of us will have to go through the unbearable, gut-wrenching pain of losing a loved one. Since death does not work to a strict timetable and can often come without warning, even at the end of a long illness that final passing can still take us by surprise. The support and help that people need at this time must surpass all normal standards. Sadly, it does not, which is why I secured this debate.
I am deeply frustrated that the debate is one in a long line I have contributed to on this subject. Over the past four years, I have faced a multitude of Ministers and met numerous organisations and groups in an attempt to press the Government to make much-needed reforms to how funeral services and, crucially, social fund funeral payments, administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, operate. The measures I have pressed for, and which I proposed in a Funeral Services Bill some years ago, would ease the burden of those who want to give their loved ones a fitting tribute. That I am here again to ask the Minister the same questions is evidence enough that, despite warm words from the Prime Minister as recently as last week, when she said that
“it is important to families and individuals to be able to give their loved one a proper funeral”—[Official Report,
Vol. 646, c. 160.]
the reality is that, on her Government’s watch, more and more people are simply unable to do just that.
One key ask in my Bill, and from many other people at the time, was for the Government to carry out an over- arching review of funeral affordability. Back in 2014, more than 100,000 people were estimated to be suffering from funeral poverty. A Co-op survey earlier this year revealed the number now to be 4 million. That is 4 million people who have experienced financial hardship as a result of a loved one’s death.
The gulf between incomes and living costs continues to rise as the Government’s agenda, coupled with punitive welfare and benefit reforms and inaction on low-paid, insecure work, has led to a record 8 million working adults living in poverty.