Current track

Title

Artist

Current show

Airplay40

16:00 19:00


Pandemic sparks rise in crowdfunded funerals as families contend with unexpected deaths

Written by on 07/08/2020

“It’s insane the amount of money you have to pay… I thought I was going to have to sell a kidney.”

Lee Dillon’s father died just 10 days ago and his grief is still raw.

“He was my hero obviously. He was a brilliant man and I miss him terribly,” he told Sky News.

Anthony Waine died aged 53 after catching coronavirus
Image: Anthony Waine died aged 53 after contracting coronavirus

But the pain was compounded by concerns over how to afford the funeral.

“I literally didn’t know what I was going to do – pawn tellies, phones, anything really, sell the clothes off my back. I want to give my dad the best send-off we possibly can,” he said.

The death of his dad, Anthony, was sudden and unexpected. The Liverpool fan was just 53.

Much of the family he left behind in Birkenhead, including Lee, have been furloughed from their jobs.

More from Covid-19

Lee, who works as a pawnbroker, says they’re struggling to make ends meet as it is.

“Whatever you’ve got money-wise, you have to just keep hold of,” said Lee’s cousin Chelsea, who fears it’s just a matter of time before they’re all laid off.

Lee Dillon (L), his father, Anthony and his cousin Chelsea, who says 'you wouldn’t plan a funeral for someone who’s 53'
Image: Lee Dillon (L), his father, Anthony and his cousin Chelsea

Given their financial limitations, Chelsea set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for her uncle Anthony’s cremation.

Their target was £1,000. They surpassed it within days.

“It’s overwhelming and I do feel quite humble,” Lee said.

Without the generosity of others, Chelsea says there was no other way they could pay for the funeral.

“You wouldn’t plan a funeral for someone who’s 53. You wouldn’t save up for stuff like that because you’re not going to expect it,” she said.

Lee (L, with Chelsea), says they surpassed their target within days
Image: Lee (with Chelsea) says they surpassed their crowdfunding target within days

New figures, shared exclusively with Sky News, have revealed a surge in crowdfunded funerals during the pandemic.

In April, the donation platform GoFundMe saw a 192% year-on-year rise in the number of pages raising money in the “memorial and funeral” category, representing a near-tripling in 12 months.

In May, the year-on-year rise was 143%. In June, it was 104%.

Deborah Smith, from the National Association of Funeral Directors, told Sky News: “What we’re seeing at the moment, of course, is a large number of unexpected deaths, some families losing more than one person and this is coming at a time of huge economic uncertainty. And for some people that cost is simply out of their reach.”

Many people are coping with the unexpected deaths of loved ones during the pandemic
Image: Many people are coping with the unexpected deaths of loved ones during the pandemic

In 2019, the average cost of a funeral in the UK was around £4,000.

Although funerals were dramatically scaled back during the pandemic – only a handful of mourners were allowed – their cost largely remained the same.

The funeral director, the coffin, the doctor in some cases, and the burial or cremation, are among several fixed fees which still had to be met.

Government support is available for those on certain benefits, but it does not cover the full cost of a funeral.

The funeral expenses payment is also deducted from any money received from the deceased’s estate.

A funeral procession
Image: Limited numbers of mourners are allowed to attend funerals during the pandemic

David Collingwood, the director of funerals at Co-op Funeralcare, who is among those now calling for the government support to be increased, warned: “It doesn’t cover most funeral directors’ fees so families are still left with a shortfall.

“It doesn’t cover for example if you’re a full-time student and you’re faced with having to look after the funeral of perhaps a parent.

“You don’t qualify for the social fund funeral payment. And that’s problematic. That’s something that really needs to be looked at and be covered.”

Pressure on the government has also come from the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Ms Smith said: “Quite often people have to go ahead with the funeral before they even know they’ll get support.

“And generally speaking less than half of the people who apply get a grant. So we’d like to see much more support.”

:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “The financial assistance we offer is targeted at those on qualifying benefits to ensure that the most vulnerable are supported.

“Providers of funeral services including the church, funeral directors, local authorities and owners of crematoriums all have a role to play in ensuring there are funerals accessible for everyone.”

But the pandemic has meant more and more see themselves as vulnerable. And when it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one, they feel forced to turn to the public for support.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

Tagged as