Over 200,000 families a year unexpectedly left to cover funeral costs

10 October 2016

Figures released by the nation’s leading funeral provider, Co-op Funeralcare, reveal that a failure to plan ahead for funerals is costing next of kin dearly, with over 200,000* families being left without any funds to cover their loved one’s funeral costs in 2015.

The findings follow a range of measures announced by the Co-op this year as part of a broader focus on tackling funeral affordability.

Even in cases where financial provision had been made to cover funeral costs, the YouGov** survey of over 1100 UK adults found that 11% of those who have arranged a funeral for someone said that the person who had passed away hadn’t left sufficient funds to cover the full cost.

As a result of this shortfall, in spite of financial provision having been made, a fifth of families (18%) have had to unexpectedly fund over three quarters of the total funeral cost, equating to over £2,500 on average. With the average funeral now costing over £3,800, the majority of families left to fund any shortfall did this in a range of ways including:

  • 54% - accessed savings of family and friends of the person who passed away
  • 10% - took out a personal loan
  • 9% - covered the costs on a credit card
  • 6% - sought assistance via the Government’s Social Fund

Measures introduced by the Co-op, to tackle the issue of funeral affordability include improvements to Co-op’s most affordable funeral option, reducing 7% on average off the cost. Co-op has also become the first business to sign an enhanced pledge from campaign group Fair Funerals to tackle funeral poverty and increase price transparency, in addition to re-launching its funeral planning range to offer the UK’s most affordable*** national fully-guaranteed funeral plan.

With as many as 12% saying they weren’t aware of the Government’s support via the Social Fund, for those that did apply for the fund, a third were not eligible for funding so had to find alternative means to cover the funeral cost. Further findings show that this is a situation that is set to continue with nearly half of UK adults (48%) yet to consider how their funeral would be paid for. Amongst the remainder who have made plans, the most popular way to save to cover funeral costs is as follows:

  • 44% - in a bank and building society savings account
  • 20% - via a pre-paid funeral plan
  • 20% - through other savings and investments
  • 16% - via an over 50’s plan
  • 13% - via their life insurance

For those who have taken out a funeral plan, their rationale for doing this was to ensure that their families had nothing more to pay to cover funeral costs. Highlighting this, 45% said it was very important that their funeral plan was inflation proof and fully protected loved ones against any future rises in costs. In spite of wanting to put arrangements in place, findings show that as many as 96% of those with a funeral plan don’t know whether it will cover the total funeral cost.

Commenting on the findings, Richard Lancaster, Managing Director for Co-op Funeralcare said:

“The end of our lives isn’t an easy thing to think about and as a result thousands of families are being left with a legacy of financial as well as emotional grief following a loss.”

“With a range of measures already launched this year, we are focused on playing our part to tackle the issue of funeral affordability both by reducing the cost of a funeral, and also by making it more accessible for families to make plans and budget gradually for funeral costs.” Notes to Editors:


*There were 529,655 deaths registered in England and Wales in 2015 according to the ONS. Based on 40% of this figure, 211,862 adults in 2015 were left without financial provision for a funeral in 2015

**You Gov research conducted amongst a sample of 1100 UK adults in May 2016

***According to a comparison of national funeral plan providers, the Simple Funeral plan is the most affordable set plan for both burial and cremation available nationwide and fully covering third party costs

For further information please contact: Lauren Hoult / 07702 505 626 / lauren.hoult@co-operative.coop Catherine Turner / 07834 090783 / catherine.turner@co-operative.coop

About Co-op Funeralcare:

Co-op Funeralcare is the UK’s leading funeral provider and part of the Co-op, the UK’s largest co-op business, whose purpose is “Championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities.”

Further information is available at: coop.co.uk/funeralcare