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24 June 2014, 06:03
The average cost of a simple funeral has risen to £3,240, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
The group attacked the "postcode lottery'' of funeral charges in Scotland, where it costs £2,716 in burial costs alone in East Dunbartonshire compared with £715 in East Renfrewshire just seven miles away.
The average charge for a burial plot and internment is £1,180, with the average funeral director charging a further £1,900 for embalming, coffin, administration and transport.
Once fees for a minister or other officiant is added, the total average cost in £3,240, a 7% rise in the last decade.
The average cremation is only slightly cheaper at £2,610.
CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said: "People who have never organised a funeral are often shocked at how expensive it is.
"There are charges for the grave site as well as fees to the undertakers, the cost of the coffin, etc.
"Our research has found the average cost in Scotland for a simple funeral is £3,240.
"That's a lot of money for a family to find at a time of emotional stress - particularly when the bereavement is unexpected.
"So, it's even worse to discover that some people are being charged significantly more in burial costs than those in other areas - even just a few miles away.
"For example the most expensive council, East Dunbartonshire, charges £2,716 - almost four times as much as the lowest-charging council (Western Isles), and 280% more than nearby East Renfrewshire.
"This means there is only seven miles between the most expensive place to be buried on mainland Scotland and the cheapest.
"These high costs come at a time when many families are struggling just to feed their families and keep their homes, so a sudden bill of over £3,000 can be devastating.
"To make matters worse, the special assistance scheme that people have been able to claim in the past has been squeezed of resources, so that 50% of applications are now being turned down.
"Bereavement is a difficult time for any family and most people don't like to talk about the cost of interring their loved one.
"But we have seen a growing number of Scots (a 27% increase in the past year) come to the CAB because they simply can't afford to pay for a burial or cremation.
"These people are, of course, in real distress at having to face this awful situation. And our report reveals a real unfairness, which we think has to be addressed.
"So, in our report today we are calling for a number of measures that will take the financial sting out of bereavement.
"We are also encouraging Scots of all ages to consider what they wish to happen to them when they die and discuss that with family or friends.
"Doing this will ensure your wishes are kept but can also make the financial side of bereavement easier for those you leave behind.''
CAS has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to reassess its Social Fund, which provides low-income families with help to pay funeral expenses but "has been set at the same amount for over 10 years''.
"These should be reassessed by the DWP to establish if they meet the actual costs involved in funerals,'' CAS said.
A DWP spokesman said: "Funeral payments provide help with funeral expenses where someone has died and there are insufficient funds available for burial or cremation.
"These payments make a contribution towards a simple respectful funeral. The necessary costs of burial or cremation are met in full including the costs of purchasing a burial plot.''