Tuesday 11 August 2020
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huffingtonpost - 1 month ago

Revealed: Students Face Hidden Debt Trap When Loved Ones Die

Bereaved students are being forced to rack up thousands of pounds worth of debt to pay for the funerals of loved ones as they are not eligible for government support.The Funeral Expenses Payment provides up to 1,000 to help cover such costs as burial or cremation fees and death certificates, but is only available for those already claiming some form of welfare benefit.Students, who are not eligible for benefits, are excluded from the scheme even if they have no other family to assist in covering costs.Cerys Evans, a 20-year-old student from Caerphilly, lost her father William in May of this year. Because I was his only next of kin, any decisions and funeral costs came down to me, she told HuffPost UK. After he died, on top of him dying quite unexpectedly because he was only 51, it came to the funeral arrangements. The average cost of a funeral in the UK is 4,271 and even the most basic service can cost over 3,000. We ve always known what dad wanted because in the last couple of years he was diagnosed with dementia as well, said Evans. So I just assumed that I d be eligible for the funeral expenses payment, I d seen other people doing that and getting it straightaway. So with that and the money my dad had in the bank as well, we should have been just about able to cover it. But when I applied they told me that because I ma full-time student there s no way I can have it. You have to be on some sort of benefit but students can t claim benefits. This poor young girl’s grief will be overshadowed by the worry of how she will pay the debt from her father’s funeral.Labour MP Carolyn HarrisEvans was forced to use the remainder of her student loan which she had set aside for a badly-needed laptop to pay for the funeral. It s been awful, she said. I ve got a younger sister and she s only 14 and [I am] seeing her struggle with it while trying to explain there were certain things we couldn t do for Dad because we haven t got the money. We only had one set of flowers. Labour MP Carolyn Harris said Evans case demonstrates how susceptible low income families and vulnerable individuals are to funeral poverty .She added: This poor young girl s grief will be overshadowed by the worry of how she will pay the debt from her father s funeral. We must ensure the government do more to support anyone struggling to give their loved ones the dignity of a respectful funeral. Tiyana Robinson-Henriques, a 20-year-old student at Kings College London, found herself in a similar situation when her mother died of Covid-19 in April.Opting for a basic burial, she still faced a bill of 5,000. She told HuffPost UK: Being a student, there were so many obstacles, and it s so unfair. If that s your only income they can t expect you to use that because then how are you going to take care of yourself? She applied for the Funeral Expense Payment but was told she was not eligible. It s very stressful, she says. If you don t have anyone reliable you only really have a crowdfunder or a charity and even getting access to a charity is very difficult. Robinson-Henriques was fortunate enough to receive assistance from Down to Earth, a charity that can provide advice and grants for those struggling to cover the cost of funerals.But they cannot help everyone and the charity has called for the government to allow students to access the Funeral Expense Payment.Lindesay Mace, acting manager of Down to Earth, a project of Quaker Social Action, told HuffPost UK: The abolition of student grants means many already have tens of thousands of pounds of debt, often at a young age, and are in no position to pay these extra costs. Then there is the effect on their studies. I haven t had time to focus on uni work, says Robinson-Henriques. The days when I m not doing stuff for the funeral, I just want to take [time] out and concentrate on myself to breathe, not focus on work. Evans has started a petition to highlight what she describes as an unknown issue to most people , saying the situation desperately needs to change .A government spokesperson told HuffPost UK: Losing a loved one is incredibly distressing and our hearts go out to anyone experiencing bereavement. The financial assistance we offer is targeted at those on qualifying benefits to ensure that the most vulnerable are supported with these costs. Related... Windrush Compensation Scheme Is Traumatising Victims All Over Again I Officiated A Zoom Funeral. Here’s What I Didn’t Expect


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