'Paupers' funerals' on the rise in Sheffield

Michael Fogg
Michael Fogg
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The number of 'paupers' funerals' in Sheffield, for people who died alone or whose family were too poor to pay, is growing.

Sheffield Council paid for 67 such services over the last two years - more than double the 33 it organised across 2012 and 2013 - figures obtained by The Star using the Freedom of Information Act show.

Nearly 70 people have been given a 'pauper's funeral' in Sheffield over the last two years

Nearly 70 people have been given a 'pauper's funeral' in Sheffield over the last two years

A funeral director says that may be just the 'tip of the iceberg', with many other struggling families relying on government loans to help them cover the cost of a send-off.

Sheffield Council paid for 31 public health funerals - to give them their official name - last year, and 36 during 2015. Not once in the previous six years had there been more than 30.

The average cost of a public health funeral in Sheffield is £1,000 for a burial and £1,100 for a cremation, though this varies depending on the wishes of the deceased, when known.

Sheffield Council said it attempts to follow the wishes of the deceased 'within reason', which can lead to a 'relatively large variation' in costs.

Sheffield funeral director Michael Fogg said: "I think the problem of people dying unable to pay for their funeral is a growing one and public health funerals, organised by local authorities, are just the tip of the iceberg.

"More and more families are making claims to the Department for Work and Pensions to help cover funeral costs. Although they're not classed as paupers' funerals, you're still talking about families suffering extreme hardship who don't have the ability to pay.

"I see families living on the poverty line and struggling to put food on the table week to week, let alone make provisions for when they die."

Mr Fogg believes people need to talk about death more, however difficult they may find it, to ensure their families are prepared and know their wishes.

Nearly half of those given paupers funerals in Sheffield over the last two years were aged 64 or under and, interestingly, the vast majority were men.

In the last two years, 49 men received such a service, compared with just 18 women.

Mr Fogg said he did not know why this was but thought it could be because men are more likely to become estranged from their families, with mothers traditionally caring for their children following a split.

In Sheffield, public health burials take place at the City Road Cemetery, and cremations are held at the nearest crematorium to where the deceased lived.

Local authorities can recover the costs of a public health funeral from the estate of the deceased, where possible.

PUBLIC HEALTH FUNERALS IN SHEFFIELD

Year // number // men // women

2009 // 15 // 12 // 3

2010 // 27 // 20 // 7

2011 // 13 // 11 // 2

2012 // 20 // 13 // 7

2013 // 30 // 24 // 6

2014 // 23 // 20 // 3

2015 // 36 // 26 // 10

2016 // 31 // 23 // 8

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