In this article:

In its sixth annual study in the UK, Your Funeral Choice have contributed to the most recent Royal London National Funeral Cost report. The study unearths how funeral costs are affecting the UK population in 2019, including the increase of burial costs, the debt incurred by individuals as a result of high funeral expenses and whether government initiatives can have a tangible effect on standardising funeral prices across the UK.

The UK average funeral costs 2019

By analysing a wealth of data from various credible sources, the 2019 report suggests the rate at which funeral costs are increasing has slowed. This year, costs have increased by 0.7% to £3,785. Although a small increase in price, the debt incurred by individuals as a result of paying for a funeral has reached an all-time high of £1,990 compared to £1,744 in 2018.

This level of debt is most likely due to the cost of a funeral remaining the same regardless of income. As low-income consumers are spending a greater proportion of their salary on funeral costs, they are disproportionately affected by funeral prices in comparison to those with a much higher income. In fact, according to the Royal London Report, those with a salary of £5,000 or less are spending 65% of their earnings on the funeral of their loved one.

Burial and cremation costs in England & Wales

This year, burials are the main contributor to the overall rise in funeral costs. Not only are they responsible for the increase from 2018 to 2019, but they also play an integral role in the overall increase of costs since 2014. Burial costs are rising as land prices are at a premium price. Local authorities are met with the challenge of maintaining cemeteries and managing the safety of them, as well as looking for new burial ground, all of which come at a cost.

There is currently legislation in place in the borough of London that allows abandoned graves to be re-used. According to the Royal London report, there are also calls to expand this legislation to cover England and Wales.

Whilst burials are the most expensive option, the fees associated with planning a cremation have also increased, although at a slower rate than last year. From 2018 to 2019, crematorium costs have risen by 2.8%. Private crematoriums now make up 38% of all crematoria in England in Wales, 2% more than 2018.

Funeral director costs

The cost of a funeral director is another huge factor that mounts up the overall expenditure of funding a funeral. In 2019, their cost is fairly unchanged with a minor decrease of 1.1%.

From region to region, not only do funeral director costs vary but so do the services they provide. This year’s Royal London report discovered the volume of funeral organisers who enquire with more than one funeral director has decreased from 6% in 2018 to 5% in 2019. A common challenge is that even those who do shop around are not well enough informed as to what drives the cost differences between funeral directors, and therefore do not recognise where they will receive the best value for money. In future, the funeral industry is looking at setting up a standardised framework amongst funeral directors to provide clarity and transparency.

Your Funeral Choice encourage funeral planners to shop around with several funeral directors before choosing the right one for you and your family. By using the location search on our website, we are able to give you a list of funeral directors local to you, making the funeral director search and enquiry process much easier.

Low-cost options

Initially considered the ideal solution for those struggling to fund a traditional funeral, a direct cremation has become progressively diverse with some involving an ‘attended service’, similar to a traditional cremation. In 2019, the direct cremation has become the primary term associated with low cost funerals in the UK.

In its most basic format, a direct cremation is without mourners, a separate ceremony or a celebration of life. The number of direct cremations fell from 4% in 2018 to 3% in 2019. With so many people getting into debt due to rising funeral costs, the little movement in the average spend of funerals in the UK suggests that direct cremations alone are not providing a palpable solution to funeral poverty.

What about the Funeral Expenses Payment?

The Funeral Expenses Payment (FEP) is a type of funding from the government, created to support those who are eligible in funding a funeral service. However, the average FEP in 2019 actually only meets half the cost of an average simple funeral. In accordance with the average funeral costs in the UK, the FEP still leaves those who have successfully been granted the funding short of over £2,000.

Plus, with a complex eligibility criterion, the FEP is only applicable to a select few. Even those who are eligible have to collate a lengthy claim to send to the government, providing evidence of their circumstances, all of which is quite a stressful thing to do at an already trying time.

So, what does this tell us?

The last year has seen a vast level of enquiry upon government intervention and the funeral industry. March this year saw an announcement from the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), citing they are launching an investigation into the funeral sector. According to the CMA, the investigation will focus on enforcing consistency and transparency throughout the funeral industry, ensuring the most accurate and clear information is provided to funeral arrangers.

However, although these investigations aim to improve the methods of the funeral industry, it seems they may still do very little in terms of reducing the high and ever-increasing funeral costs. A positive move in terms of implementing clear cut regulation across the board, it is so far unlikely that this analysis of the sector will do much in terms of providing fairness of funeral costs for those with a lower income.

According to the Royal London report, the government and funeral industry must work collaboratively to support those who are unable to afford the cost of a simple funeral. Whether this is through more access to information about funeral planning and the costs involved, or the funeral industry committing to talking to all consumers about the lowest cost options available, it is evident that some change is necessary.

For more help and advice on planning a funeral, please visit our Funeral Choice advice section.

Last updated: November 2019