Funerals: Student forced to borrow cash for father's ceremony

By Nelli Bird
BBC News

media captionCerys Evans wants laws on students and funeral benefits changed

A student says a flaw in the law means she had to borrow money on a credit card to pay for her father's funeral.

Cerys Evans discovered she was not eligible for a special benefit to help cover the costs when her father died unexpectedly.

Lyndon Evans was just 51 when he was admitted to hospital in Cardiff in May with sepsis and pneumonia.

UK officials said Funeral Expenses Payments were only available to those on "qualifying benefits".

"It was really unexpected. Dad was diabetic and he'd been unwell before, but he was honestly like a cat with nine lives, he came out of anything," said Ms Evans, from Caerphilly.

"When he went into hospital, we were told he can be treated, you know, he should come out the other side, and it went downhill so quickly and then he passed away."

The 20-year-old, who is studying criminal justice and psychology at the University of South Wales, said as next-of-kin it was up to her to make the funeral arrangements.

She had heard of the funeral expenses benefits payments, but told BBC Wales it quickly became clear she would not be eligible, even though she had a severely limited income as a student.

"It absolutely crushed me," she said.

"I had a credit card before. I had to use that and another one and borrow money from family members, it was just a nightmare. It was horrible."

She said her only other source of income was a part-time weekend retail job, with savings of just a few hundred pounds and "everything went towards the funeral".

image copyrightCerys Evans
image captionThe family say they struggled to grieve while focusing on funeral costs

Ms Evans said the reality of having to find about £4,000 from "virtually nowhere" was incredibly stressful for the family, including her younger 14-year-old sister and an older 27-year-old sister.

"I don't feel like any of us - especially my younger sister - none of us have taken time to grieve because we've all been focused on: 'Oh my god, there's money, there's this'.

"And Dad really wouldn't have wanted that either.

"We've all been focused on money and how we're going to sort everything out. Everyone has been lovely but it's been awful mentally, to tell you the truth."

The funeral took place in June, and Ms Evans said they could only afford "the bare minimum" for their father.

Petition call

She has now started a petition to try and change the system, to allow students to apply for help towards funeral costs.

"People don't realise how much we do," said Ms Evans.

"I cared for my Dad beforehand. I did his shopping.

"I didn't have a day for myself, and in between that I was helping Dad."

She said if the UK government wanted to encourage individuals to go to university, they should also realise "we are deserving of this fund just as much as anyone else".

A UK government official responded: "Losing a loved one is incredibly distressing and our hearts go out to anyone experiencing bereavement.

"The financial assistance we offer is targeted at those on qualifying benefits to ensure that the most vulnerable are supported with these costs."

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