'Pauper funerals' cost councils £500,000 a year in Scotland

Close-up of a closed coffin and funeral flowers Image copyright Thinkstock

Scotland's councils spent £500,000 on so-called "paupers' funerals" in the past year, a report has found.

The study, by Stirling Citizens Advice Bureau, found the number of these funerals in Scotland had risen by 24% in the last four years.

National assistance funerals, as they are known, are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or with relatives who are not able to pay.

Campaigners have called for a standard national price for burials.

'Postcode lottery'

Stirling Citizens Advice Bureau claimed bereaved Scots face a "postcode lottery" as a report earlier this year found burial costs varied by up to £1,552 between councils.

It has called for a review of funeral costs and a standard national price for a basic burial in Scotland.

The study found that 549 national assistance funerals were carried out in 2015, a small increase from 544 in 2014 and up 24% from 2011.

Researchers found that in the 2004-2006 period the funerals were split 49% to 51% between people with no traceable next of kin and those whose relatives could not afford or were unwilling to pay for a funeral, for the 12 local authorities that provided data.

'Sudden bereavement'

Between 2013-2015 this had increased to 73% where relatives were unable or unwilling to pay and 27% whose next of kin could not be found.

Report author David Robertson said that across the UK the cost of a basic burial has risen for 12 years in a row and now stands at an average of £3,693 - a 90% increase since 2004.

He said: "Most families will struggle to meet that kind of cost, particularly if the bereavement is sudden and they have not been planning for it.

"Low-income families in particular, who are finding it hard just to pay their food and fuel bills, can suddenly face a bill for several thousands of pounds which they simply can't pay."

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