Affording a Funeral
Principal Investigator: Kate Woodthorpe
Funder: Sunlife Direct and University of Bath, HEIF
Project rationale and aims
Valentine, C. and Woodthorpe, K., 2013. Forthcoming. From the cradle to the grave: funeral welfare from an international perspective. Social Policy & Administration
Woodthorpe, K., Rumble, H. and Valentine, C., 2013. Putting ‘the grave’ into social policy: state support for funerals in contemporary UK society. Journal of Social Policy
Woodthorpe, K., 2012. Affording a Funeral: Social Fund Funeral Payments. Other. Axa Sun Life Direct.
Institute for Policy Research Themes
The following information frames this project:
- The cost of funerals is rising year on year (according to Sunlife Direct Total Cost of Dying data 2004-2011).
- The death rate is due to rise between 2012-2030.
- We are living in very uncertain times where the role of the State is in flux due to public sector cuts, the economy is far from stable and investments are vulnerable.
- Family’s disposable incomes are declining.
- Family structures are changing – there are more single parent, single people, blended families, more mobile, work/live in different places.
Furthermore, academically the experience of bereavement has typically been regarded as a middle class problem (Howarth, 2007). Emphasis on coping, grieving and reintegration into society all assume the person has the resources to fund a funeral and time to ‘be bereaved’.
What we do know about the experience of funerals has tended to focus on (1) the activity and perspective of the funeral director (a very good paper about the tension inherent with being a ‘caring’ and ‘commercial’ role can be found in Brian Parson’s 2003 work) and (2) ritual – the purpose and function of the ceremony and how this enables people to ‘move on’. Very little work beyond Drakeford (1998) and Corden et al (2008) has considered the financial implications of funding a funeral. In particular, very little is known about state support for funerals through the Funeral Payment, which is part of the Social Fund and administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
There is thus a big gap in terms of our understanding of:
- The process through which funerals are purchased both prior to need and at need
- How funeral director services and associated services are paid for
- How the cost of funerals impacts on the experience of the funeral
- How the cost of funerals impacts on the experience of bereavement/grief
- How all the above is experienced by people from low income backgrounds
- How state support for funerals is accessed and administered
The question thus arises as to how the ‘system’ for paying for funerals works for bereaved people, specifically people from low income backgrounds, both at the point of need and prior to death.
Using qualitative research with claimants, funeral directors and stakeholders, this project seeks to address how the Fuenbral Payment Scheme is administered and experienced.
Project outputs and impacts
The outcomes are as follows:
- A complete report for the project funders
- A project report for the media
- Attendance at 3 international conferences to disseminate results:
a) Rumble, H. 2012. Death Down Under, University of Dunedin, NZ
b) Woodthorpe, K. V., 2013. From the cradle to the grave: is the ideal funeral just a dream? In: American Sociological Association 108th Annual Meeting, 2013-08-10 - 2013-08-13, New York.
c) Woodthorpe, K., 2012. Rights, rituals and resources: similarities and differences in welfare support for funerals. In: Mortality, Death and Dying: philosophical and social perspectives, 2012-08-22 - 2012-08-24, Helsinki.
- 3 publications in high ranking journals (Social Policy and Administration; Journal of Social Policy; Sociology - see above)
- Parliamentary Roundtable (November 2012)
- Project used as a case study for University of Bath on how HEIF funding can make an impact
- 'I can't afford to die', policy event with International Longevity Centre-UK and Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath
- 'Funeral poverty in the UK: issues for policy', Policy brief from the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath
- 'I can't afford to die' Addressing funeral poverty, Report from the International Longevity Centre-UK following the policy event, 'I can't aford to die', January 2014
Find out more about this project
|Name:||Mrs Caron Staley|
|Title:||Centre Manager for Death and Society|
|Department:||Dept of Social and Policy Sciences|
|Location:||3 East 3.26|
|Phone:||work+44 (0) 1225 386949|