Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Funeral Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:40 pm on 11th September 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 3:40 pm, 11th September 2018

I thank my right hon. Friend for that request, in response to which I say, “Fear not. Hang on”; I will be covering it as part of the things that I will address going forward.

We have discussed the three elements of support that are available. First, and predominantly, there are the funeral expense payments for the necessary costs, which can be accessed by those who qualify for benefits such as income support, state pension credit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, the disability or severe disability element of housing benefit, income-related employment support allowance, the element of working tax credit, universal credit and support for mortgage interest. As I had to read out that list, I absolutely accept the point about what is often the confusion over eligibility; again, I will come on to that.

Secondly, there are the funds available for the additional expenses. However, it has been highlighted that the figure involved has not changed since 2003, so a number of Governments have had to wrestle with that decision. Nevertheless, I understand that that is an issue that has been raised by all those who contributed today. Thirdly, there are the social budget loans. Support is also available to working-age people through the bereaved payment support, a new benefit whereby we increase the initial payment with the potential for that money to be used for funerals, if claimants needed or wished to use it in that way.

As I have said, this issue is cross-departmental, but work is already going on. In June, the Competition and Markets Authority announced its investigation of this industry. I think we all welcome that. The CMA will look at the whole process, including its transparency—or lack of it—and fairness. Actually, I learned through my visits this summer that there is no regulation at all in this area—any one of us could set up as a funeral director tomorrow. I am not sure that that is a great thing.