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End to Paupers' Funerals
30/01/20

Sam Margrave, a member of the House of Laity of the General Synod from our Diocese, will be presenting a motion to the General Synod on the 12th February calling for an end to Paupers’ Funerals.

Pauper’s funerals is a term often used to describe public health funerals which fund funerals for those who cannot afford to pay their own costs. Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide public health funerals for people whose families cannot be traced or who die without sufficient resources to pay for a funeral. There has been a 70% increase in the number of paupers’ funerals between 2015 and 2018, with a cost to local authorities of £5.4 million annually.

Most pauper’s funerals are very simple, with no notification of the date and time. There is no national set of standards for paupers’ funerals, meaning the experience is a postcode lottery. In some local authorities, burials take place in an unmarked grave that could be shared with others. Often nobody is allowed to attend the funeral. Some councils do not return ashes to relatives after a cremation.

Sam first began thinking about pauper’s funerals when he saw a report about them on ITV News in 2018. The report showed a family who had to take out a loan for £4000 to avoid a paupers’ funeral for a much loved husband and father. Just a year earlier Sam had lost his dad and he realised the situation he saw on television could have been his. Sam’s dad had worked hard all of his life but in his later years he received benefits and had to pay for care. If he had lived longer, his family may have had to face the choice of the family in the ITV report: either take out a loan or have a pauper’s funeral.

A pauper’s funeral could happen to anyone.

After prayer and research, Sam felt that his role as a member of the General Synod was a real opportunity to raise the issue with the Church as he feels the Church is ideally placed to make a difference.

Sam says;

“Ordinary people in the most difficult financial situations are really struggling. Paupers’ funerals leave people in pain, and as they are currently being undertaken, cause great harm. The Church needs to commit to securing real change and challenge authorities to work with us to help those struggling to make saying goodbye to a loved one an experience in love and support. The Church of England has a reach into every community and we can make a profound difference if we choose to.”

Sam hopes that a task group will be established to reflect on the issue of paupers’ funerals and provide a clear response and an action plan to tackle this issue.

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