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On Monday benefits expert John Gordon gave advice on getting help with the cost of funerals. As we are dealing with situations like this almost every day I would like to add to John’s advice.

The responsibility for deciding on how the funeral arrangements are made does rest with the bereaved. However, the cost can be met in several different ways.

If the bereaved feel they are unable, for whatever reason, to take on the financial responsibility, they can seek help according to where the person died. If in hospital, contact the Patient Welfare Team. If at home get in touch with the Council’s Adult Social Services Department. These departments will advise how they can best assist in making the arrangements.

As John said, alternative help may be available by a Funeral Payment claim through the DWP although the maximum benefit allowable is insufficient to cover the cost of an average funeral.

What is not clear when making this claim is that the DWP will not even consider the claim unless the funeral has been carried out, by which time the funeral account becomes payable, whether the claim is accepted or not. This means the bereaved have committed to paying the funeral account without any guarantee of help from the DWP.

In the worst case, if the DWP pays nothing to the bereaved, after instructing the funeral director, they will end up having to find the money to pay the entire bill.

The DWP system is recognised by many as not designed to help the bereaved but to deter. Currently, Ms Lewell-Buck MP, as a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, is investigating the issue, and to assist in this the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), representing professional funeral directors, has given evidence to the committee.

To be very clear and speaking only for our own company, the total costs involved in arranging a funeral start from about £1,700.

I would suggest that if anyone is personally concerned about funeral costs they contact a reputable funeral service; members of the NAFD, who operate to a code of practice, can advise on specific circumstances.

Peter Johnson,

Managing Director,

Peter Johnson Funerals