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Putting ‘The Grave’ into Social Policy: State Support for Funerals in Contemporary UK Society


There is a long tradition in the assessment of UK social policy of examining benefit entitlement and access, yet little attention has been paid towards benefits associated with bereavement and, in particular, what happens for those people who cannot afford a funeral and require state assistance. This is despite the fact that every year approximately one in ten deaths in the UK results in a claim to the Department for Work and Pensions’ Funeral Payment for a contribution towards funeral costs. Beyond a paper in this journal over ten years ago, no research has been conducted into how the scheme is administered and what happens to those people who claim. Drawing on a study with both successful and unsuccessful Funeral Payment claimants, funeral directors and key stakeholders, this paper evaluates the Funeral Payment in terms of eligibility and entitlement, and timing and cost. It argues that closer attention needs to be paid to the issue of financial support for funerals to avoid the evolution of an unwieldy system at a time when the UK death rate is predicted to rise owing to the ageing of the population.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
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