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Many Scots 'unable to pay' rising funeral costs

Bereaved Scots are finding it hard to pay the growing costs of burying their loves ones, according to new research published today by Citizens Advice Scotland. 

The average cost of a simple funeral in Scotland today is £3,240 - an increase of 7% year on year since 2004. And this rise has occurred against a background of falling household incomes and a cut in the emergency assistance that people can claim for funerals, leaving some families unable to bury their deceased at all.

But our figures also reveal that there is a ‘postcode lottery’ in funeral costs in Scotland, with families in some areas having to pay 300% more than those just a few miles away. 

Publishing the new report, CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee says, 

"People who have never organised a funeral are often shocked at how expensive it is. There are charges for the grave site as well as fees to the undertakers, the cost of the coffin etc. Our research has found the average cost in Scotland for a simple funeral is £3,240. That's a lot of money for a family to find at a time of emotional stress - particularly when the bereavement is unexpected. 

"So it’s even worse to discover that some people are being charged significantly more in burial costs than those in other areas - even just a few miles away. For example the most expensive Council, East Dunbartonshire, charges £2,716 - almost four times as much as the lowest-charging Council (Western Isles), and 280% more than nearby East Renfrewshire. This means there is only seven miles between the most expensive place to be buried on mainland Scotland and the cheapest. 

"These high costs come at a time when many families are struggling just to feed their families and keep their homes, so a sudden bill of over £3,000 can be devastating. To make matters worse, the special assistance scheme that people have been able to claim in the past has been squeezed of resources, so that 50% of applications are now being turned down. 

"Bereavement is a difficult time for any family, and most people don't like to talk about the cost of interring their loved one. But we have seen a growing number of Scots (a 27% increase in the past year) come to the CAB because they simply can't afford to pay for a burial or cremation. These people are of course in real distress at having to face this awful situation. And our report reveals a real unfairness, which we think has to be addressed. 

"So in our report today we are calling for a number of measures that will take the financial sting out of bereavement. We are also encouraging Scots of all ages to consider what they wish to happen to them when they die and discuss that with family or friends. Doing this will ensure your wishes are kept but can also make the financial side of bereavement easier for those you leave behind.” 

Today’s CAS report is available to download below. 

Please see the League Table of Local Authority charges and a number of anonymous case studies. These are taken from the attached report.