The cost of even the most basic funeral can drive families into debt. The means-tested benefit had been frozen at £700 since 2003, but even "simple" funerals cost over £1,200. The average funeral in the UK now costs about £3,700, with funeral directors' fees rising well above the rate of inflation in recent years.
For the £700 social fund funeral payment (SFFP) some companies offered only "direct cremations or burials", without a service, celebrant, mourners, choice of coffin or flowers. Applicants are required to provide a final bill from the funeral director, meaning the bereaved must commit to the expense before having any clear idea whether they are eligible for help. Nor does it cover co-habiting couples who were not married or in a civil partnership.