Funeral Expense Assistance – illustrative regulations published
Losing a loved one is a difficult and distressing time. A time that can be made even harder if money is tight. And while it is important that where we can, we plan and save for our own funeral, not everyone can afford to put money aside to do that. So it is important that we make the right support available for people who need our support to help meet the cost of a funeral.
This is why the Scottish Government is introducing Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA), by summer 2019, which will replace the current UK Funeral Payment in Scotland.
Our FEA illustrative regulations are now available on the Scottish Parliament website. Illustrative regulations outline our thinking and intentions in relation to the delivery of specific devolved benefits.
For FEA, these illustrative regulations make clear our plan to widen eligibility of financial assistance for funerals to an estimated additional 2,000 people who would not currently receive support from the UK Funeral Payments. This is a 56% increase compared to the current UK Funeral Payment and we believe, is the best way of assisting more of those in need who would otherwise receive no support at all.
To do this we will invest an additional £3m – a 60% increase to the money that the UK Government currently spends on these payments in Scotland. We are making this extra investment at a time of serious financial constraint with the UK Government cutting our budget by £2.5 billion in real terms between 2010 and 2020. And because overall finances are tight, we believe that the additional investment we can make is best used to widen this support to more people who need it and not to increase the payment itself at this time. Of course, we will keep the payment level under review.
The current UK Funeral Payment system is complex and people are missing out on support. We believe it is important to make funeral assistance more straightforward. So we will also make the application and decision process for FEA easier for people to understand, and quicker to know what support they are going to receive.
We will continue to work with our innovative social security Experience Panels and key stakeholders to make sure we get things right. We have been clear from the outset that Scotland’s new social security system will be based on the principles of dignity and respect. Our approach to designing a system with the people that will use it is exactly why we are sharing illustrative regulations now to outline and explain clearly the changes and improvements we want to make. Using these illustrative regulations in this way then allows us and our stakeholders to discuss the proposals and helps us make sure that we get this new social security benefit right.
The proposals we set out in these illustrative regulations are part of our firm commitment to tackle funeral poverty in Scotland. That work and the actions we will take are set out in the Funeral Costs Plan we published in August together with Planning Your Own Funeral, which encourages all of us to discuss what we want for our funeral with our loved ones.
We will continue to work with local authorities, funeral directors and third sector organisations to encourage the provision of more affordable funeral options. We will also continue our work to help increase the understanding of the options available for a funeral to encourage people to plan and save for their funeral where they are able to do so.