Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy by Liam Foster and Kate Woodthorpe
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Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy by Liam Foster and Kate Woodthorpe

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Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy

Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy
Liam Foster, University of Sheffield, and Kate Woodthorpe, University of Bath

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  • although there are recent improvements to the state pension policy over the last 30 years there has in the last 30 years there has been a largely neo-liberal focus to policy developments with a focus on individual responsibility and the role of private provision.

Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy by Liam Foster and Kate Woodthorpe Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy by Liam Foster and Kate Woodthorpe Presentation Transcript

  • Paying the Price of Death: the challenges for British state funeral policy Dr Liam Foster, University of Sheffield and Dr Kate Woodthorpe, University of Bath Social Aspects of Death, Dying and Bereavement Study Group Symposium Monday 21 st November 2011
  • Overview of the presentation today
    • Origins of our interest(s)
    • Background
    • Why it matters now
    • Funeral Payments Scheme (FPS)
    • Issues with the FPS
    • Where to go next
  • Origins
    • Liam: pensions, welfare state, equality
    • Kate: funerals, bereavement, commercialisation
    • = funerals and the welfare state!
    • = exploratory paper in progress
  • Background
    • Drakeford (1998) ‘Last Rights? Funerals, poverty and social exclusion’, Journal of Social Policy , 27 (4): 507-524
    • Corden, A., Hirst, M. and Nice, K. (2008) Financial Implications of Death of a Partner (University of York: Social Policy Research Unit)
    • Both pointing to lack of academic/policy consideration of financial implications of death
  • Why does it matter now?
    • 491,348 deaths in England and Wales in 2009
      • Lowest ever recorded
    • Estimated that from 2012 mortality rate will begin to rise
    • Anticipated increase 17% over 18 years
    • Side note: uneven distribution of deaths around the country
      • Eg. London has a very ‘young’ population
  • Alongside….
    • Changes to funding of social care
      • More onus on individual responsibility for paying for care
    • Threatened pensions and investments
    • Higher debt burden in younger generation(s)
    • The result? Higher levels of undersaving for pensions, limited resources to draw on, poverty potential
  • What are the implications?
    • How will an individual with limited/no immediate resources pay for a funeral?
    • What does/will the State provide?
    • In addition, what will be the load on the local authorities with older populations?
  • The role of the State
    • 1940s Welfare State established, two forms of support available.
      • Universal Death Grant (£20)
      • National assistance (discretionary assistance)
      • 1979 Conservative Government changes to supplementary benefits, Single Payments introduced in 1981
      • Single payments absorbed into the Social Fund in 1988
  • The Social Fund
    • Administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (prior to 2001 Department of Social Security)
    • Intended to target benefits for those most in need
    • Includes Winter Fuel Payments, Funeral Payments Scheme, Community Care Grant
  • Funeral Payments Scheme (FPS)
    • 1988/89: 40,000 applications
    • 1993/94: 80,000 applications
    • 1995: criteria for application changed, specifically who could apply
      • Cap on funeral director fees introduced
    • 1997: ‘liable relative’ rule changed
      • If relative found who was not on benefits, then application from someone on benefits was not allowed
  • The FPS today
    • 2008/09: 69,000 applications
    • 41,000 applications successful
      • = 60% success rate
      • OR 40% unsuccessful in their application
    • Average payment = £1200 (including dispersement costs)
  • What are the issues?
    • Who claims?
      • 50%+ claimed by people of pensionable age (Corden et al, 2008)
      • Pensioner poverty in UK already established concern (see Scharf, 2009)
    • Is it enough?
      • Average cost of funeral £2500
      • FPS capped at £700 + dispersement costs
  • Further issues?
    • Sources of information
      • Friends and family
      • Jobcentre
      • Directgov.uk
      • Funeral directors
    • Who should be providing information?
    • Are claims resolved quickly enough?
      • In 2011 NAFD claimed that a funeral had been delayed by 9 weeks
    • Detrimental consequences? (see Corden et al, 2008)
  • Where to go next?
    • Academic focus on funerals/bereavement more generally has assumed resources are readily available for bereaved people
      • And (unwittingly?) not considered bereavement as an issue related to socio-economic background/class? (see Howarth, 2007)
    • Stigma associated with label of ‘pauper’
      • Does it exist?
    • Introduction of new package of bereavement support by DWP
      • Does not include Social Fund
      • Role of local authority
      • Regional variation?
  • In sum
    • Death, especially funerals, not regarded as social policy priority
    • Research needed into the process and experience of applying to the FPS?
    • Further research on the legacy of the Victorian pauper in contemporary social policy?
  • Thank you for your time today
    • Any questions or feedback?
    • [email_address]
    • [email_address]