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THE MORNING LEAD

'I know people that, if they had a farm, had to sell animals at home to pay for the funeral'

The State spent over €9 million contributing to funeral expenses for people who couldn’t afford it last year.

THE STATE SPENT over €9 million contributing to funeral expenses for people who couldn’t afford it last year.

The figure is up from €6.6 million in 2022, with the number of successful claims rising year on year, figures released to The Journal by the Department of Social Protection show.

The State provides assistance to the family of the deceased if they cannot cover some or all of the funeral costs, making sure the “necessary basic requirements for a dignified funeral” are met.

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.

In Dublin, there were 932 successful assistance claims last year, between Arranged Burials and Additional Needs Payments, with the average payout being €2,846.

There were 268 successful claims in Cork, averaging €3,160.

Limerick had 140 successful claims paid out in 2023, at about €2,946 each.

Other counties with a high number of payments were Louth (123), Meath (111) and Tipperary (95).

Leitrim had the fewest claims (20), totalling €70,410. Sligo had the second fewest at 29.

Costs rising

The cost of a traditional religious funeral can range from €3,500 to €8,500, according to Fanagan’s funeral directors.

Independent TD Michael Collins was a funeral director for years before his career as a politician. He has called on the government to reinstate the bereavement grant, which was abolished in 2014, arguing that the current Additional Payments Scheme doesn’t go far enough.

Collins, who represents Cork South-West, says he’s had many constituents come to him asking for help covering the cost of a funeral, and some have even had to take out a loan or sell land or animals to make up the money.

“Somebody could have a little bit of property but that doesn’t mean they’re in a position to sell it,” he told The Journal.

“I know people that, if they had a farm, had to sell animals at home to pay for the funeral.”

Collins said coffins have gotten more expensive in recent years, and families can’t avoid other costs like the undertakers, hearse and death notice.

Most people don’t put money aside in advance for funerals, or a death occurs suddenly, and they are unprepared.

Irish funerals are “a great Irish tradition”, and Collins says he wouldn’t want Ireland to have to adopt a more drawn-out wake and burial process, such as that of the UK, just because people are trying to find the funds.

“I would urge the government to seriously seriously reconsider bringing back a proper, meaningful bereavement grant for people,” he said, as the means-testing process for the Additional Needs Payment is too onerous and narrow.

“This is more sit down at the table and looking at every aspect of what you have and what you haven’t, and it’s very very unfair.”

Collins said the government needs to have a more “sympathetic ear” to people experiencing grief, and the logistics that come along with it.

Given the rising number of people needing help with funeral costs, he said it might be time for Ireland to start looking at schemes that would allow people to pay in small amounts over time, so that they’re prepared when the time comes.

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