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Hundreds of families applying for grants to help cover high funeral costs

The Department of Social Protection is paying out more than €5 million every year to help people cover funeral and burial expenses for their loved ones.

File photo
File photo
Image: Funeral with coffin at a cemetery via Shutterstock

SEVERAL THOUSAND FAMILIES every year are applying for a special grant to help them afford to bury their loved ones.

New 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.

The funeral payment is made as a one-off ‘exceptional needs payment’ which people would not be able to afford on their weekly income. There is no automatic entitlement to the payment and the decision is made by the officer who administers the scheme.

The St Vincent de Paul Society and other groups working with people on low incomes have frequently criticised the opaque nature of funeral costs in Ireland and the difficulty in comparing prices during a difficult time for families. The average cost of funerals is estimated at between €3,000 and €5,000, but can rise to closer to €10,000 – especially in Dublin – when all costs are taken into account.

In response to a question raised by Willie O’Dea TD, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said that almost 4,000 payments were made in 2011 and 2012. A total of 1,810 payments have been made in the first six months of this year so far, which is on track to match the figures from the previous two years.

The Minister refused to rule in or out any plans to cut the grant in the upcoming Budget 2014. “With regard to my future plans for these payments, any changes to the scheme will be considered in a budgetary context,” she said.

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