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File photo of a coffin in a hearse Alamy
too poor to die

Families are going into debt to cover funerals costs, then struggling to pay for essentials

Meanwhile, half of applications to the State looking for help with the cost of burials were unsuccessful.

FAMILIES ARE GOING into debt to cover the cost of funerals for their loved ones and are then left struggling to pay for essentials.

That is according to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which last year received nearly 1,200 requests – around three a day – for help with funeral expenses.

At the same time, new figures show that half of applications to the State looking for money to help cover the cost of funerals were unsuccessful, leaving families struggling to put the money together. 

Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP’s Head of Social Justice said there were likely more people in need than the charity’s figures indicate, “as families often go into debt to pay for a loved one’s funeral and then struggle with other essential costs”.

“Often there will be little time for families to discuss or seek advice on arrangements and a high cost moneylending loan may seem like a lifeline. In these cases, the initial contact with SVP may be for help with food or utilities,” she said.

Requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

A traditional burial can range from €4,000 to €10,000 and SVP says more transparency is needed, “so that families are fully aware of the type of costs they are incurring when making arrangements”.

The charity has received 246 requests for help this year already.

Keilthy said that they often signpost the Community Welfare Service to people, which can also provide financial assistance with funeral costs through the Department of Social Protection. 

The Department paid out over €9 million last year for funeral expenses alone. The figure is up from €6.6 million in 2022, and the number of successful claims are rising year on year, according to figures released to The Journal.

There are two types of assistance available – an Arranged Burial, which is completely State funded and organised, and the Additional Needs Payment, which usually only partially covers expenses.

Applicants must earn below the a certain weekly household income limit, which is  €444 for a single person and €544 for a couple (with no children). Personal circumstances are also taken into account.

There were 19 Arranged Burials in 2023, the same number as in 2022.

There were 5,629 applications for Additional Needs Payments relating to funerals received last year, with 2,862 payments being made.

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