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Funeral directors will seek u-turn on Bereavement Grant cut

The Bereavement Grant was a one-off payment of €850 made available on the death of a family member but it has been scrapped in the Budget.

Image: Funeral via Shutterstock

Updated 5.23 PM

THE IRISH ASSOCIATION of Funeral Directors (IAFD) has branded as “disgusting” today’s scrapping of the bereavement grant for families to cover funeral costs.

The Bereavement Grant is a one-off payment of €850 made available on the death of a family member. Eligibility is not related to an ability to pay for the funeral but is based on PRSI contributions, meaning it is payable to the vast majority of citizens.

Graham Gleasure of the IAFD has said that they will be talking to the Government with the hope of persuading them to reverse their decision to scrap the payment.

Gleasure told TheJournal.ie that the Government’s decision is particular galling because the payment “is not a grant, it should never have been called a grant”. It is, he said, an entitlement earned as a result of PRSI contributions.

The payment will be discontinued from 1 January with the Government saying it will be available for people in exceptional circumstances. Gleasure says however that this provision may put some civil servants in a “very difficult position” in deciding whether a recently bereaved familiarity is entitled to the payment.

Families who are recently bereaved also will not want to be “pleading their case” for the payment either, he added.

When news of the scrapping of the payment was leaked before today’s Budget speech the reaction on Twitter was wholly negative, particularly from people who have had to avail of the assistance in recent times.

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John Keohane of Keohane Funeral Directors in Cork city said the cut will have an impact on families, particularly given the current economic conditions.

“It helps pay the bills, certainly,” he told TheJournal.ie. “Assuming people already have a grave, the average, standard funeral can cost about €4,500.

“Obviously, every family situation is different but this payment does make a difference. A lot of people do not know it exists when they are first bereaved but, generally, they ask what help they are entitled to.”

Keohane also says that cremations have become more popular in the city since the establishment of a local crematoria.

“There are a couple of reasons, as well as the availability,” he added. “One is that some people don’t have a plot in a cemetery and they can cost up about €1,700 – and more in Dublin. Cremation halves the cost, really.”

While the Bereavement Grant is based on PRSI contributions, the Exceptional Needs Payment, available under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme can help families which cannot afford a the cost of a funeral.

It is a single payment to help with once-off expenditure which a person “could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income”.

Although the payments were stopped this year for communions and confirmations, they are still payable for funerals where a person’s income is low.

Each case is decided on the merits by the Department of Social Protection.

August figures from the Department of Social Protection show more than €5 million is being paid out every year to help cover funeral and burial expenses. The average payout is around €1,300, having dropped slightly on previous years.

There has been no signals in any Budget leaks if this grant will remain untouched. Earlier this year, the government stopped the Exceptional Needs Payment for communions, confirmations and other religious ceremonies.

More Twitter reaction:

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Additional reporting by Rónán Duffy

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