Economics of Age

Tuesday 21st January, 15:45pm to 18:30, 11 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QB

ILC-UK and the Institute for Policy Research and Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.

How can the public, private and third sectors support the ageing population in managing the costs associated with dying, including the families and communities that people leave behind?

We know that death rates in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest recorded level. Figures published in 2012 revealed that mortality rates were the lowest ever recorded for England and Wales. There were 6,236 deaths per million population for males and 4,458 deaths per million population for females.

Medical advancement has made significant improvements to death rates. Over the last decade, the death rate for circulatory diseases has fallen by 44%. During the same period, death from cancer decreased by 14% for men and 10% for women, and infant mortality has dropped by 60%. As a result people are living longer, which requires larger incomes and pension pots to ensure these extra years can be afforded.

Yet whilst we have seen significant falls in the number of deaths, the cost of dying has steadily increased.  A recent report  revealed that the average cost of dying has risen to £7,622, representing a 7.1% increase on last year.

There are a range of products and services that contribute to this figure, including the funeral, probate, headstones and flowers. On average, the price of a typical funeral including non-discretionary fees and a burial or cremation is £3,456. The average amount spent on extras such as flowers, catering, limousines and a memorial is £2,006.

This annual increase in the cost of dying is not a one off trend. The average cost of a funeral has risen by 80% between 2004 and 2013. The costs of dying are expected to continue to increase, reaching £4,300 within the next 5 years.

Unsurprisingly, the number of people who are struggling to meet these costs is growing. This year, over 100,000 people will struggle to pay for a funeral. With the average shortfall experienced £1,277, it has been estimated that across the country funeral poverty now stands at £131million, over 50% higher than the £85million estimated 3 years ago.

We know that the long term decline in death rates is about to reverse, with a projected rise in the number of deaths around 15-20% in the next two decades. We also know that right now, with some of the lowest death rates ever recorded, the safety nets provided by the State via the Social Fund Funeral Payment and local authority Public Health Funerals are under pressure. Their sustainability into the future is debatable.

Taking all this into account, it is imperative that the public, private and third sectors work together to support the ageing population – and the generations behind them - to prepare for the costs associated with death, both in terms of their own and their family members. The question we wanted to address in this event is how?

Through this event and report we explored:

  • How have the levels of mortality changed over the past century and what are the future trends?
  • How many people might be in funeral poverty?
  • Will we see more people facing funeral poverty in the future?
  • Can the cost of dying be reduced?
  • Can the Social Fund Funeral Payment be rescued?
  • How can the insurance industry support the costs of dying?
  • How should the Government respond to the impending challenges?

Notes of the discussion will be published in a report by ILC-UK and the University of Bath following the event.

Agenda from the event:

15.45 – 16:00

16:00 – 16:05
Welcome, Baroness Sally Greengross

16:05 – 17:00
Dr Kate Woodthorpe, University of Bath
Ben Franklin, ILC-UK

Debbie Kerslake, Cruse Bereavement Care
Dean Lamble, Sun Life Direct
Elizabeth Procter, Sue Ryder Care

17:00 – 17:40
Discussion and Q&A

17:40 – 17:45
Close, Baroness Sally Greengross

17.45 – 18:30
Wine reception

The slides from the speakers' presentations are available to view below: