13 Mar 2019

Funeral grants not keeping up with rising costs of burial

2:57 pm on 13 March 2019

A woman who received a funeral grant from Work and Income to cover the cost of her brother's burial says the grant needs to be increased.

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Photo: 123RF

Elizabeth* said while her whānau was grateful for the $2000, it was a huge stress finding the rest of the money.

Last week, RNZ reported that the increasing cost of burials was leaving some low-income families with no choice but to cremate their loved ones - even if it was against their beliefs.

The Funeral Directors' Association said the Work and Income grant was not keeping up with the rising cost of funerals.

Funeral grants can be used to pay for burial plots, cremation fees, embalming and caskets.

The maximum amount people can claim is adjusted each year, in line with inflation, and at the moment that amount sits at $2058.52.

Elizabeth said the grant covered a third of her costs, that were already reduced because she did not buy a plot for her brother.

If they had to buy a plot, that would have cost $3000, she said.

It would have been a struggle to come up with that amount of money.

"We would have had to borrow a substantial amount to be able to give him the funeral that he requested - and that was to be buried," Elizabeth said.

Many in her whānau were now thinking about opting for cremation - against their beliefs - to ease the financial burden.

"About 10 to 15 years ago, cremation wouldn't have even been considered, but after our brother's tangi, there are family members who are starting to consider and have even confirmed that they would prefer to be cremated, only because it will leave less stress for those who have to pay for the funeral expenses," Elizabeth said.

"There has been such a rise in the cost of funeral expenses that $2058 - a great help that it is - it would be an even bigger help if they were able to give a bit more towards the cost. It would relieve some of the stress."

Elizabeth said funeral cover could help but it was also a cost that not all families could afford.

Work and Income hands out about 5000 funeral grants each year, at a total cost of about $9 million.

*Not her full name.