Grieving Limerick families struggling with weight of burial costs

€600K spent by Government to cover costs of burials and funerals in Limerick

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Grieving Limerick families struggling with weight of burial costs

Seamus Cross, of Cross’s Funeral Homes, said that there is still a major expense for grieving families

AROUND 300 families in Limerick struggled with the costs of burying their loved ones over the past two years, new figures obtained by the Limerick Leader show.

The Department of Social Protection paid, in total, €602,000 to 293 families and individuals to assist with their funeral and burial expenses since 2015, with an average spend of €2,054 per payee.

Under the single exceptional needs payment scheme (ENP), the Department can make a payment to help with “essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which is beyond a person’s means”, a spokesperson told this newspaper.

In 2015, €265,000 covered 127 funerals; €261,000 was spent on 131 funerals in 2016; and, so far this year, 35 families and individuals have been paid €76,000 in total.

The ENP scheme is a means-tested programme at the discretion of the officers administering the payment.

The circumstances of the applicant and the deceased are taken into account, such as savings, property, and insurance policies.

And though this welfare scheme is available, funeral director Seamus Cross, of Cross’s Funeral Homes, said that there is still a major expense for grieving families.

He said that €1,870 was spent on a recent funeral and burial a number of weeks ago.

This, he explained, is consistent with other families’ expenses, adding that “you are talking about €2,000 before you put the pen to paper”.

“And in this day and age, €2,000 is a lot to come up with overnight.

“It’s like what I say to anyone — if you are looking for a fitted kitchen, you know how much it is. You can go six months and save up for whatever you want, but with a funeral, it is sudden.

“And then you are hit with trying to cope with it,” he said.

He added that when the Standard Bereavement Grant — an automatic €850 payment — was discontinued in 2014, that placed more pressure on families.

As funeral directors, their job is to help steer families in the right direction during their hardship.

“People have enough on their plate, whether their son was killed while on a motorbike, or an accident, or whatever may be the case. That [expense] is the last thing that they are thinking of.

“But it is a barrier, come two or three weeks’ time.

“And our job is to guide them with their financial circumstances, the best way we can. But people have enough to be thinking about, without thinking about the price of the funeral.

“Everyone wants the best for their loved one, but there are limits as to what you can do,” he explained.

In 2015, there were 97 payments in excess of €1,500, while there were 90 payments in excess of the same amount in 2016, the Department figures show.

The Department of Social Protection spokesperson said in a statement that applications can be made where the applicant is unable to pay the funeral costs, in part or in full.