I appreciate you have concerns over the financial burden meeting the cost of a funeral can impose on low-income families, and I agree it is important that help is targeted at those who are least well off at the time the need arises.
The Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment scheme continues to provide help towards a simple, respectful, low-cost funeral. Awards will cover the necessary costs of burial or cremation, with up to £700 of additional money for other funeral expenses. With an average award in 2015-16 of £1,410, this scheme is making a real contribution to the funeral costs of those who need it. The average award has increased by 27 per cent since 2006.
Interest-free Social Fund budgeting loans have also been available since 2012 to those on income related benefits to cover costs relating to funeral expenses. The average budgeting loan award in 2015-16 was £418. The introduction of budgeting loans is a vital part of removing the need for bereaved families to turn to high-cost lenders or credit cards, and removes some of the worry of meeting the funeral director's bill.
Importantly, the Government has also changed the situation to ensure that any benefits owed to the deceased at the date of death are no longer deducted from the Funeral Expenses Payment award. The Government is also reforming the system of bereavement benefits by introducing a new Bereavement Support Payment. The initial lump sums available will be higher under this new benefit, which will focus support on the early period after bereavement and ensure the immediate costs, which may often have been completely unexpected, are manageable.