This report is a representation of an event hosted at the International Longevity Centre-UK in January 2014 on ‘The cost of dying in an ageing society’.

The meeting was intended to discuss and debate funeral costs and how people could be supported to prepare for these in advance, manage them at the time of need, and deal with the ongoing financial impact of bereavement. It also aimed to investigate the role the public, private and third sectors could play in preparing individuals and families for costs associated with death.

Co-organised with the ILC-UK, it was funded by the University of Bath’s Institute of Policy Research (IPR) and Centre for Death and Society (CDAS), with a view to raising these issues in the public domain. Participants included end of life care practitioners, bereavement support providers, insurance companies, cremation and burial providers, and academics.

The presentations from the meeting are briefly outlined, followed by a report of the discussions held. It ends with a review of where to go next, making six recommendations:

  • Building up a body of evidence

Evidence of the problems people face when it comes to affording a funeral is growing,
but there is still considerable scope to bring this together to provide a coherent source of
information that can lead to greater public awareness and policy change.

  • Education for preparedness

Many people are under-prepared for how much a funeral can cost. Greater education,
preferably before the point of need, could help individuals and their families make
decisions about how much to spend on a funeral, and which aspects of it they would like
to prioritise.

  • Reviewing state support

While the death rate has been low over the last few years and in light of the predicted
rise in the death rate, there are signs that the systems for state support require review.

  • A new way of thinking about funerals

There is mileage in promoting a new way of thinking about funerals, which could involve
separating the management of remains from the ritual aspects. This would enable
individuals and families more time to make emotional and financial decisions about the
ritual elements of the funeral.

  • A culture of talking about death

We live in a country where death is not a common part of everyday life, especially when
compared to some of our European counterparts. Yet as the death rate begins to rise,
more and more people will be impacted on by the loss of an individual. Promoting a
more open discussion about death and its financial consequences may assist those

  • Working together

The public, private and third sectors could benefit greatly from a more cohesive
approach to addressing funeral costs. For example, while Government could develop
policies that aim to better educate the public on preparing for the cost of funerals, the
third and private sector could play a vital role in ensuring that the messages get down to
the grass roots level. Responsibility for all of the above suggestions does not lie with any
one sector.

For more details on the event held in January 2014, click here.

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