A new benefit providing help for people on low-incomes to meet the costs of a funeral is on course to be delivered by the SNP Government through Social Security Scotland by summer 2019.
Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA) will replace the current Funeral Payment in Scotland and improvements mean around 40% more people will be eligible to apply. FEA will provide financial support directly to those who need it most at the point of bereavement. Regulations enabling delivery of this new system were laid in Parliament on 24 January.
As with all SNP Government benefits, FEA was developed with input from those with experience of the present system – helping identify and address the parts of the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) application process that people currently find difficult or distressing, improving the process and removing barriers to apply.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP said:
“Coping with the death of a loved one is one of the most tragic events any of us can face. At that difficult time, it’s even harder when there’s extra stress finding the money to pay for a funeral.
“Our FEA will increase eligibility by around 40% and so reach far more people struggling with the costs, and is backed by around £2 million additional funding.
“Help will be provided towards burial or cremation costs, certain transport costs, plus £700 for other costs such as funeral directors fees or flowers. We have committed to annually uprating the £700 to take account of the impact of inflation – something the UK Government has not done since 2003.
“This is a demand led benefit and forecasts are that we will spend £6.3 million in the first full year of operation - 25% more than the DWP spent on this benefit in 2017/18. And like the Best Start Grant, we will encourage people to apply and get this financial support to people who need it most."
Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:
“It’s great to see another commitment of this year’s Programme for Government being realised and I welcome that it will become available later this year.
“By extending eligibility to cover 40% of people who were not eligible under the UK Government scheme, the SNP Government is making a real difference to the lives of those who may have otherwise come into financial difficulty in what is already a difficult time.”
The SNP Government’s work to tackle funeral poverty is set out in the Funeral Costs Plan, which is being progressed in partnership with the funeral industry, councils and the third sector.