Funeral costs soar as cost of living increases

As the cost of living continues to rise, so too does the cost of dying.

The Government's being urged to increase funeral grants for low-income families as more people struggle to properly farewell their loved ones.

Saying goodbye to those we love is the last thing anyone wants to do.

But the cost of doing just that is stopping some from even having that opportunity.

Brenden Jacobsen from Ninness Funeral Home told Newshub people aren't able to give those who have died a proper send-off.

"They're having to forgo viewing their loved one after the person has passed away."

Instead many people are being cremated straight away, as that's the cheaper option. But Jacobsen said some can't even afford that.

Funeral Directors Association's Gillian Boyes said funeral fees are continuing to rise.

"Cremation fees, burial fees are all going up, which is more of a cost we have to pass on," she said.

"Just like the cost of living, the cost of dying is going up as well - and these are real costs; they're costs that a family have to deal with in a time of extreme grief."

To help with the cost, eligible low-income families can access a funeral grant of up to $2200. But Boyes said that isn't enough.

"Burying someone, when you buy the plot and have the grave dug, that's $3500."

Funeral directors want the maximum grant lifted to $6300. That sits in line with the support ACC provides to cover the funeral cost of people who die in accidents.

"It would be about 80 percent of the cost of a very modest funeral with a burial, so that would give some real choice back to our families," Boyes told Newshub.

"Out of a $7 billion benefits and entitlements budget, that's really a drop in the ocean."

The increase is estimated to cost the Government $14 million extra a year. It would also alleviate funeral homes from having to cover the cost in some cases.

Jacobsen agreed it would help as funeral homes cannot keep helping families cover funeral costs.

"We can't be doing that for so many families because we just wouldn't have a business."

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said in a statement the Government will review hardship assistance as part of its welfare overhaul work programme. 

This will include looking at income support and adequacy as well as ensuring assistance is appropriately designed and easy to access.