Revealed: Cost of community funerals to Portsmouth City Council

More and more people are unable to afford their own funeral in Portsmouth
More and more people are unable to afford their own funeral in Portsmouth
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MORE than £72,000 was spent on 'paupers' funerals' by Portsmouth City Council between 2017 and 2018, almost double the spend of the previous year.

Figures gathered by Royal London from freedom of information responses also showed that the authority spent the tenth highest amount on funeral services out of 275 local councils.

Public health funerals, which are also known as community funerals, are are provided by councils where the deceased or their family are unable to meet the costs.

The services generally include a coffin and the services of a funeral director but do not include flowers, obituaries or transport for family members.

More than 3,800 such funerals were carried out across the UK last year, totalling £5.4m.

Ryan Vokes, a funeral arranger for A G Stapleford & Sons Funeral Directors in Portsmouth, said: 'The problem is a basic funeral can still cost around £3,500.

'I imagine it could be a bit upsetting for people to need a public health funeral, they could lose some of their dignity.

'But in some cases people do want a more basic funeral and ask for it in their will, some people don't want anyone attending.'

He added: 'I don't think there is a huge amount of support out there for people who are worried about paying for funerals. There should be more really.'

Between the 2016-2017 financial year Portsmouth council spent a total of £33,982 on community funerals with local directors Forever Together, compared to £72,991 in 2017-2018. However, on average the council is able to reclaim 80 per cent of this figure from people's estates.

It is thought that one of the reasons for Portsmouth's high expenditure includes the fact there is a large, ageing population.

Richard Lee, the regulatory services manager at the council said: 'Local authorities like Portsmouth have a legal duty to initially pay for and make arrangements for community funerals. These types of funerals take place when no one else is able to pay for the funeral.

'Local authorities play an important part in making sure that people, who for any number of reasons don't have family or friends to make funeral arrangements, are laid to rest with the utmost care and respect.'

Help for city residents concerned about funeral costs is on hand through Citizens Advice Portsmouth (CAP). Sandy O'Neill, chief officer of CAP, said: 'Citizens Advice Portsmouth can assist clients with providing information and advice on forward planning, budgeting and saving for funerals.

'CAP can also assist with exploring eligibility for grants to assist with funeral costs. Our team are happy to help where they can. No appointment necessary, our advisers can help answer any query regarding funerals.'

Support is also available through the Diocese of Portsmouth. Archdeacon of The Meon, Gavin Collins, said: 'As the church we cannot change the cost but we can waive the fee in certain pastoral circumstances.

'I think that the numbers we have done that for have increased slightly in the past couple of years.

'We want to be there to support the bereaved. One of the things the church is always keen to do is give bereavement support and that's always been free.'

Here are the councils with highest total spend on public health funerals in 2017-18, according to the responses received by Royal London, with the amount spent:

1. Birmingham City Council, £990,437

2. Manchester City Council, £242,178

3. Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, £92,000

4. London Borough of Lambeth, £85,757

5. Richmond and Wandsworth, £83,982

6. Dudley Metropolitan Borough, £79,679

7. Bradford Metropolitan Council, £77,224

8. Coventry City Council, £76,519

9. Perth and Kinross Council, £74,248

10. Portsmouth City Council, £72,991

And the lowest spends in 2017-2018:

1. Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, £275

2. Eastleigh Borough Council, £310

3. Monmouthshire Council, £375

4. Newport Council (South Wales), £480

5. Thurrock Council, £550

6. Newry and Mourne District Council, £600

7. Dartford Borough Council, £600

8. High Peak Borough, £700

9. City of London , £715

10. Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, £910