Council spend thousands on paupers’ funerals

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CEMETERY chiefs have spent nearly £20,000 in the last three years on paupers’ funerals.

Figures released through a freedom of information request show that Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) carried out 21 paupers’ funerals at a cost of £19,650.

The depressing statistic paints a harrowing picture of people in the community dying penniless and in isolation.

Across Greater Manchester, more than 1,000 have been carried out by councils and hospitals in the last five years.

Under the Public Health Act (1984) local authorities have a duty to arrange a funeral for any person “where there is no responsible person able or willing to make funeral arrangements”.

And with elderly populations expected to rise in the coming decades there is a worry that there could be even more paupers funerals in the future.

A similar freedom of information request by Anchor, the older people’s charity, reveals that over-65s now account for 54 per cent of all public-health funerals, with 17,000 in the North West, 11,900 in the West Midlands and over 11,000 in London taking place in the past five years.

In some areas there has been a dramatic rise in paupers’ funerals, underpinned by a rising tide of poverty-stricken pensioners. The south east-has seen a 14 per cent increase in state-funded burials and cremations since 2006 while the east midlands saw an eight per cent rise over the same period.

According to official data there are 300,000 people living on state pensions which amount to just £37 per day to cover all expenses. The figures come as charities representing elderly people come together to lobby the prime minister over urgent improvements in social care .Figures show that real spending on older people will be £250m lower in 2010–15 than 2004–5. At the same time the number of people over 85 has risen by two thirds to 630,000 people.

Anchor chief executive Jane Ashcroft said that given the greying of the population – 10m people in the UK are over 65 years old and there will be 5.5m more elderly people in 20 years time – it was “a travesty that the issues that matter to older people are under-represented in government.”

The charity Oxfam blamed the government for the rise.

Chris Johnes, Oxfam’s director of UK poverty, said: “It’s sad to see the poorest in our society hardest hit. We need to see income being distributed more fairly if we are to make any impact on reducing levels of poverty; if we carry on the UK will return to levels of inequality not seen since Victorian times.”