More and more people on Universal Credit and other benefits are asking to extra cash to cover funeral costs.
It’s thought the rise in applications for funeral payments could be partly due to the number of coronavirus deaths this year as the pandemic hit the UK.
But it is mostly because of the huge number of people who are now on Universal Credit and needing help with additional expenses.
There was a sharp increase in people on Universal Credit at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with over a million new claimants in April and the same number in May.
In latest figures, up to July 9, there were 5.6 million people on the welfare scheme.
So what are the rules for funeral payments?
Are you eligible?
In order to qualify for funeral payments you or your partner must get one of more of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Housing Benefit
- the disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Universal Credit
You may also be eligible if you’re getting a Support for Mortgage Interest loan.
And you can still put in a claim for Funeral Expenses Payment if you have applied for any of these benefits and are waiting to hear about your claim.
There are other eligibility criteria too.
You must be one of the following:
- the partner of the deceased when they died
- a close relative or close friend of the deceased
- the parent of a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- the parent or person responsible for a deceased child who was under 16 (or under 20 and in approved education or training)
How to claim
You must apply within six months of the funeral.
You can make a claim before the funeral takes place if you have an invoice or signed contract from the funeral director. It cannot be an estimate.
If you get Universal Credit, you won’t get a decision on your claim until after your next payment.
The simplest way to claim is by calling the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469. The line is open 9.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday and is a freephone service.
Alternative numbers are:
Welsh language: 0800 731 0453
Textphone: 0800 731 0464
Welsh language textphone: 0800 731 0456
Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 731 0469
You can also claim by post. Download and fill in the claim form (SF200), then send it to the address on the form.
If your application for a Funeral Expenses Payment is declined, there is the opportunity to appeal against it and go to a tribunal with your case.
The Government website has a step by step guide to what to do when a person dies – you can find that here.
How much do you get?
Those eligible for help currently receive an average of £1,593 to help towards the costs of a burial or cremation, including expenses such as travel and flowers.
The Government webite says that for funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin, you can get up to £700 if the person died before April 8, 2020, or £1,000 if the person died on or after that date.
In Scotland, a total of 780 applications have been made in June for a Funeral Support Payment – the highest number so far, it has just been reported.
Since the scheme was launched in September last year, more than 4,300 people have received funds – with over £6 million paid out so far.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the “growing need” for financial support following a bereavement could be “linked to the financial impact of Covid-19” – with more people now qualifying for help because they now receive Universal Credit or other benefits.
Ms Somerville said: “My thoughts are with everyone who has lost a family member or friend. Coping with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult events any of us can face – it’s even harder when there’s extra stress trying to find the money to pay for a funeral.
“The growing need for Funeral Support Payment over the last few months could sadly be linked to the financial impact of Covid-19.
“Many more people are receiving Universal Credit or other qualifying benefits, which means they might also be eligible for Funeral Support Payment.”
She added: “I’d encourage anyone who thinks they might qualify for this important financial support to find out more and apply today. You can apply for the payment up to six months after a funeral has taken place, although if you could not apply within this timescale because of Covid-19, we’ll accept your application as on time.”
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Social Security Scotland chief executive David Wallace stressed that despite coronavirus restrictions, the organisation was “committed” to getting payments to those who need them.
He added: “I am pleased that we’ve been able to protect our service and process Funeral Support Payment applications as quickly as possible – more than meeting our promise of processing within 10 working days of a completed application, once all the evidence is received.
“We are encouraging people to apply online in the first instance. For those that cannot access the online application, a limited telephone service is available where people can speak to one of our specially trained client advisers.”