Press Release

For Immediate Release: 17th April 2015

Till debt do us part: families encouraged to discuss end of life expenses as funeral costs set to rise by nearly £1billion by 2020

New report predicts funeral ‘time bomb’ as number of deaths start to increase

After decades of the number of deaths in the UK falling, 2015 will mark a “tipping point” where the historic trend starts to reverse: as the oldest of the babyboomer generation move through their later years (1) deaths are predicted to rise by 20%(2).

This trend reversal will have significant implications for current forecasts of funeral costs and highlights a growing need for families to broach the delicate subject of end of life expenses.

The findings form part of a new report commissioned by mutual, OneFamily, which incorporates Family Investments and Engage Mutual, and undertaken by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK).

The report, “The funeral time bomb”, will be available from April 20 and reveals:
• Funeral costs are already soaring in the UK with the cost of a simple funeral increasing by 80% between 2004 and 2014.
• With deaths predicted to rise, increasing pressure on funeral services is likely to push prices even higher: ILC-UK predicts that funeral costs could reach or exceed £7,000 by 2020, with the cost of a simple funeral  projected to rise to £5,226 by 2020.
• Aggregate spending on funerals in the UK could rise to £3.7bn by 2020 (up from £2.8 bn. in 2014).
• Funeral debt (where money has been borrowed to cover the cost of a funeral) in the UK could reach a quarter of a billion in less than 20 years

The report highlights a growing need for families to come together and plan ahead for funeral expenses. It reveals that an estimated 109,000 UK adults incurred funeral debt in 2013 with the average standing at £1,305 per person (3).

In total, funeral debts incurred during 2013 equated to £142m (3) and the ILC-UK calculates that based on current trends, the total UK funeral debt could reach a quarter of a billion by the mid-2030s: an increase of 76%.

The figures could have a significant impact on families who are already under financial pressure. At present, 14.5 million families would not be able to pay for a funeral at short notice unless the deceased had taken out some form of funeral  provision, such as life cover, to help towards the costs.

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC-UK, said:

“More than half of UK households have less than £3,000 in savings (4) and many will struggle to cover funeral costs. We all need to talk more about dying and ensure we are prepared for the inevitable. State support for funerals is complex and inadequate and without reforms will contribute to more people falling victim to funeral debt.”

Simon Markey, CEO of mutual OneFamily, which helps around 1 in 12 of all UK families to support one another financially, said:

“Our own research shows us that families are coming together more and more to help one another financially.  Nearly half of UK adults (48%) (5) who have provided family members with assistance have done so to help them to cover day to day expenses. This report reveals a need for families to look to the future too.

“While the subject of end of life expenses can be a very delicate one to discuss, the findings highlight how starting this conversation could help avoid leaving loved ones with unexpected debts they may find difficult to manage,” he continued.

More than one in four (22%) of those who have arranged a funeral in the past five years had to do it without financial provision having been made by the deceased (6). Government Funeral Payments have not kept up with rises in funeral costs and in 2012 the average amount awarded represented just 37% of the costs of a simple funeral (7).

The report argues that borrowing costs are unaffordable for many and that there is an urgent need for more support and greater pre-planning.

‘The funeral time bomb’ is free to download from and from Monday, April 20.

Helen Creighton or Ben Franklin at ILC-UK on 02073400440 or 0774264 8679
Kathryn McLaughlin, Engage Mutual head of media relations , tel: 01423 855245
Emma Chadwick, pr consultant, tel: 01423 855256/ 07885 047 194


*1 A simple funeral includes burial or cremation, the services of a funeral director, and a minister or celebrant.
*2 Funeral debt is where money has been borrowed to cover the cost of a funeral.


1) The 20 years following World War II saw a population explosion when 16 million children were born between 1945 and 1965. Dubbed the ‘babyboomer’ generations, the youngest babyboomers will turn 50 in 2015 and the oldest 70, creating a demographic bubble set to have enormous economic implications for the country as they age.
2) ONS population projections and mortality rates and ILC-UK calculations
3) Royal London (2014) National Funeral Cost Index
4) Family Resources Survey (2013) Department for Work and Pensions
5) OneFamily research conducted by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,218 GB adults, of which 1,502 have provided financial support to a family member. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th-21st January 2015. The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 
6) YouGov poll of 1,988 people who had arranged a funeral in the past five years for Royal London, Royal London (2014) National Funeral Cost Index
7) Social Fund Report data (2012) and ILC-UK calculations

OneFamily On 1 April 2015, Engage Mutual and Family Investments merged to become OneFamily, headed by CEO Simon Markey. For the time being, both will continue to trade under their respective brands.  Engage is a leading provider of over 50s life cover; its product has a Defaqto 5 Star Rating.

The International Longevity Centre-UK is the leading think tank on longevity and demographic change. It is an independent, non-partisan think tank dedicated to addressing issues of longevity, ageing and population change. We develop ideas, undertake research and create a forum for debate.



New data analysis reveals the vast market for health apps – including the 760,000 ‘living fast, dying young’ under 40s who smoke, drink frequently, have a smart phone and regularly use the internet.

We are recruiting for a temporary Events Coordinator to coordinate and support our busy events calendar for the remainder of 2018, build on our external communications and assist the Head of External Affairs on communications around our Future of Ageing conference.

New international report explores the relationship between life expectancy and productivity in developed countries.

ILC-UK are once again looking for someone to speak for 10 minutes on the plenary platform in front of 250 people at our annual Future of Ageing Conference (29th November, London).

“Auto-enrolment has successfully led to millions more saving each month towards a pension, but the Committee is right to call for action to get people saving more. We are pleased they support our recommendations to consider automatic escalation of pension contributions for some individuals, and we agree that a strategy is needed to automatically-enrol the self-employed."

Dr Brian Beach, Senior Research Fellow at ILC-UK and who gave oral evidence to the Committee, welcomes the Committee’s call for stronger action by Government and EHRC and says it’s crucial that employers understand what ageism really is.