Glasgow man rallies Nicola Sturgeon for greater awareness of child support payments

Devastated Michael Christie says his family is being pushed into “funeral poverty” after they were unable to access a crucial benefit to help pay for his brother’s funeral.

He is calling on the Scottish Government to make more people aware of the existence of the funeral support payment, which he says would ease the financial burden on bereaved families.

Michael, from Govanhill, says the one-off payment of up to £1,500 would have made a huge difference to his family after losing Simon to a courageous battle with cancer.

He told the Glasgow Times: “Simon was battling esophageal cancer and we were heartbroken when he passed away. He faced so much and was brave through it all.

“The loss of a loved one is hard enough without the added pressure of worrying about the cost of burying a family member. At no time did the funeral director notify my family of the payment, which would have been a considerable help to cover part of the expenses.

“Unfortunately I have been told that because the bill for his funeral was not in my name, I cannot claim it.”

The payment is available to those who receive certain benefits or are entitled to tax credits.

Michael, 40, who has long-term health problems, says he was told he could only receive the money if his name was on the bill paying Simon’s funeral bill.

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He explains: “I saw my brother go through months of agony before he died.

“I think more compassion needs to be shown to families who need extra financial help to prevent them from going into debt to cover burial costs.

“I had no idea this payment even existed; no one I spoke to seems to have heard of it either. I believe funeral directors should have a moral obligation to educate grieving families on how to apply because the criteria seem unfair.

“Covering the costs of a funeral is very expensive, especially for those who have no savings or income.

“It caused a lot of stress and worry for my family and I wish I had known all of this in advance. It would have lessened the stress we were under.”

In Scotland, burial costs are estimated to be around £3,500. For many families, covering this cost means additional pressure during what is already a difficult and stressful time.

According to Citizens Advice, funeral debt has reached a record high of £160million as families struggle to cope with the pressure to give their loved ones a respectful send-off.

One in four families also said they had to borrow from family or friends to cover the cost of a final farewell – and a quarter were forced to take out a loan or overdraft to meet the cost.

Simon, 49, from Paisley, died at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley on July 27 after developing pneumonia.

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Michael believes the Scottish Government must act now to make more people aware of the lifeline payment – and calls for it to be better publicized.

He also raised the issue with Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s office.

He explained: “I feel this so much, and I know that if we have been through this as a family, others will have it too.

“No one should have to go into debt to bury a loved one and I sincerely believe that few people know this payment exists. People can only apply after the funeral has taken place and that’s just not not enough.

“I have raised my concerns with the Prime Minister and I hope she takes them on board. Changes need to be made to make this crucial support more accessible to those who need it.

“I would also like to see all funeral directors take responsibility and pass on the information to those in difficulty. It should be mandatory for them to tell families that this is there for them.

“More needs to be done to solve this problem. I really hope speaking out will help drive change and raise awareness in more people.”

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A spokesperson for Social Security Scotland said: ‘When applying for child support payments, clients must provide evidence that they are responsible for funeral costs.

“We recognize that bereavement is an extremely difficult time and that clients have up to six months after the funeral to apply.

“Payment has been at the center of national communication and marketing campaigns.

“Since launch, 17,205 applications have been authorized for the Funeral Support Payment, providing £27.7 million of support to 15,700 low-income families when they need it most.

“People have the right to challenge and request an appeal if they think we didn’t make the right decision.”


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Elaine R. Knight