Poorer families in Dundee have accumulated debts of more than £500,000 paying for funerals, a new report has revealed.
The study, commissioned by Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government, looked into the effectiveness of a project set up in the city to help those struggling with funeral costs.
Funeral Link offers one-to-one services to help next of kin plan and pay for funerals, negotiate with funeral directors, and also to encourage people to plan ahead to make it easier for their relatives.
According to the report, carried out by the University of Dundee, anecdotal evidence shows some people have gone without essentials in order to pay for funerals, on which people will still spend a significant amount of money regardless of their income level.
Quoted in the report is a 2018 survey by insurance company Royal London, which found there were 307 people in the city struggling to pay funeral costs – 12% of the overall number of funerals held.
Through this number, and the finding that those struggling owed an average of £1,744, it was calculated that at least £535,931 is owed in funeral costs across the city.
However, the report makes clear this figure could be far higher.
The report has called on both the Scottish and UK governments to put regulations in place to stem the rise of funeral costs.
Dr Carlo Morelli, co-author of the report, said: “We found that within the short duration of its existence, Funeral Link has provided a widely recognised, valuable service and was highly effective, by working with the funeral sector, in negotiating lower costs for families in Dundee since its inception in 2019.
“However, while there is some evidence of smaller funeral directors working with families to lessen funeral debt, the largest firms in the funeral sector have been successful in increasing costs at the expense of the hardship being caused to families involved.
“The report recommends that the Scottish and UK governments need to demonstrate much greater regulation over the sector if consumers’ vulnerability is not to be exploited.”
Mary Kinninmonth, chairwoman of the Funeral Link board of trustees, said: “Funeral Link helps support people with money concerns to deal with the practicalities of one of the most difficult times they will face – the death of a loved one. We also raise awareness to encourage people to plan ahead to make it easier for those they leave behind.
“The comprehensive evaluation report from the University of Dundee strongly evidences the extent of funeral poverty and the need for our services.
“We hope the evidence from it will stand us in good stead as we continue to seek funding to secure the continuation of our much-needed service.”