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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforms-to-the-social-funds-funeral-expenses-payments-scheme/reforms-to-the-social-funds-funeral-expenses-payments-scheme
This consultation presents proposed reforms to the Funeral Expenses Payments scheme, and asks for feedback on the changes. The package of reforms is largely focused on clarifying issues around eligibility and making the process for claiming Funeral Expenses Payments simpler.
2. About this consultation
2.1 Who this consultation is aimed at
All members of the general public are welcome to respond to this consultation but we would particularly value views from those who have experienced bereavement, and those who have accessed the Funeral Expenses Payments scheme in the past. The proposed reforms have been developed with stakeholders who have previously engaged with us on the topic, and we would encourage groups and organisations that are involved in the funeral industry, or in supporting bereaved people, to participate.
2.2 Purpose of the consultation
It is important for us to gather the views of stakeholders who are most likely to be affected by this package of reforms. The consultation responses that we receive will contribute to final decision making on whether to pursue these reforms in legislation.
2.3 Scope of consultation
This consultation applies to England, Wales and Scotland.
2.4 Duration of the consultation
The consultation period begins on 5 July 2017 and runs until 11:45pm on 21 August 2017.
2.5 How to respond to this consultation
Department for Work and Pensions
6 – 12 Tothill Street
Or email FEP.firstname.lastname@example.org.
2.6 Impact assessment
This consultation document does not include an impact assessment because we do not anticipate the proposed changes will create an additional burden on the funeral industry or on other stakeholders. However, if stakeholders think there may be an impact we would welcome information on this impact in their responses to the consultation.
2.7 Government response
We will aim to publish the government response on the consultation page. The consultation principles encourage departments to publish a response within 12 weeks or provide an explanation why this isn’t possible. Where a consultation is linked to a statutory instrument, responses should be published before or at the same time as the instrument is laid.
The report will summarise the responses.
3. How we consult
3.1 Consultation principles
This consultation is being conducted in line with the revised Cabinet Office consultation principles published in January 2016. These principles give clear guidance to government departments on conducting consultations.
3.2 Feedback on the consultation process
We value your feedback on how well we consult. If you have any comments about the consultation process (as opposed to comments about the issues which are the subject of the consultation), including if you feel that the consultation does not adhere to the values expressed in the consultation principles or that the process could be improved, please address them to:
DWP Consultation Coordinator
Or email email@example.com.
3.3 Freedom of Information
The information you send us may need to be passed to colleagues within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), published in a summary of responses received and referred to in the published consultation report.
All information contained in your response, including personal information, may be subject to publication or disclosure if requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. By providing personal information for the purposes of the public consultation exercise, it is understood that you consent to its disclosure and publication. If this is not the case, you should limit any personal information provided, or remove it completely. If you want the information in your response to the consultation to be kept confidential, you should explain why as part of your response, although we cannot guarantee to do this.
To find out more about the general principles of Freedom of Information and how it is applied within DWP, contact the central Freedom of Information team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This team cannot advise on specific consultation exercises, only on Freedom of Information issues. Read more information about the Freedom of Information Act.
4. Reforms to Funeral Expenses Payments
This package of reforms is designed to clarify issues around eligibility and make the process for claiming Funeral Expenses Payments simpler. Each of these reforms has been developed in consultation with key figures in the funeral industry, or in response to public correspondence. Funeral Expenses Payments will be referred to as Funeral Payments for the rest of this consultation.
4.1 Contributions from charities, friends and relatives
We ask applicants to declare any contributions towards the costs of the funeral that they have received from charities, friends and relatives. Under the current regulations we then deduct the value of these contributions from the Funeral Payment that we make, regardless of the total cost of the funeral.
In this change we are proposing to allow recipients to receive additional contributions from charities, friends and relatives towards the cost of a funeral without these contributions being deducted from the size of their Funeral Payment. This is because we recognise that the total cost of a funeral is often larger than the value of a Funeral Payment, and contributions from others can help recipients to meet the costs of the funeral.
Do you agree that we should allow recipients of Funeral Payments to receive additional contributions towards the cost of a funeral from charities, friends and relatives without us deducting these contributions from the value of the Funeral Payment we award them?
4.2 Exceptions for people living in care homes
To be awarded a Funeral Payment an applicant must be the responsible person for organising the funeral of the deceased. The applicant will not receive a Funeral Payment if the deceased has another immediate relative who is not currently receiving qualifying benefits from DWP.
In a small number of cases, applicants have been denied a Funeral Payment because the deceased had another immediate relative, but this relative was in a care home and receiving funding from their local authority therefore not receiving a qualifying benefit from DWP. Under the current regulations we would assign this relative the responsibility of funding the funeral, despite the fact that they are in a care home and receiving income-assessed funding from their local authority and therefore unlikely to be able pay for the funeral.
We propose making exceptions for people living in care establishments who receive income-assessed financial support from their local authority, towards all or part of their care fees, and not assigning them the responsible person status. This does not mean that they would be eligible for a Funeral Payment, but it does mean that they would not make their relatives ineligible.
Do you agree that we should not assign the responsible person status to people living in care establishments who receive income-assessed help from their local authority with their care fees, in place of an applicant who would otherwise be eligible for a Funeral Payment?
4.3 Extending the claim period from 3 to 6 months
Currently applicants must submit their application for a Funeral Payment within 3 months of the date of the funeral. If they do not submit an application within this period then their claim is rejected regardless of the circumstances.
We propose extending the period in which applicants can claim Funeral Payments from 3 to 6 months to recognise that the period following bereavement is a particularly difficult time, and some applicants may need longer to submit their applications. This is particularly true of people who require assistance to submit their application, or who need more time to find out relevant details of the deceased such as their National Insurance number.
Do you agree that we should extend the application period to claim Funeral Payments from 3 to 6 months?
4.4 Shorter application forms for children’s funerals
The Funeral Payments application form was revised in November 2016 to remove unnecessary questions, but it is still 22 pages long because of the amount of information we need in order to confirm a claimant’s eligibility. The majority of these questions do not apply in the case of a child’s funeral because it is easier to establish who the responsible person for the funeral is.
We propose launching an alternative shorter application form for Funeral Payment claims for a child’s funeral. This is to reduce undue stress on the responsible person making the claim in relation to the death of a child aged 17 or below.
Applicants will continue to be able to use our telephony service to make their claims more quickly and one of our specially trained advisers will continue to be able to complete the form on their behalf.
Do you support the launch of a shorter application form for claims relating to children’s funerals?
4.5 Clarifying exclusive rights of burial
Terminology in the current regulations has led to some confusion about what Funeral Payments cover as the necessary costs of a funeral. The use of the phrase ‘exclusive rights of burial’ in regards to a burial plot has meant that we have so far only paid for the burial plots which have been granted exclusively to a single owner. This is an issue because some people opt for burial plots that are non-exclusive, where other people can be buried inside them by the landowner. We want to ensure that we are covering the costs of these burials as necessary too.
We propose clarifying in the regulations that we will cover the cost of a burial plot with or without associated exclusive rights or burial, to ensure Funeral Payments cover the necessary costs of burials in both instances.
Do you agree that we should clarify that Funeral Payments will pay for the necessary costs of a burial with or without exclusive rights of burial?
4.6 Electronic submission of evidence
The current regulations do not allow applicants to submit supporting evidence for their applications electronically. This is an issue because funeral directors need to submit their invoices to us to process the payment owed to them or the Funeral Payment’s applicant. Submitting invoices by post causes undue delays, and allowing invoices to be submitted by email directly to our processing team would considerably speed up the process.
Do you agree that applicants and funeral directors should be able to submit evidence electronically to support a claim for Funeral Payments?
4.7 Assistance with new death certification fees
Currently a fee is payable to medical practitioners for the completion of Cremation Forms where the deceased is going to be cremated. These forms are not required, and therefore no fee is payable, where the deceased will be buried.
In March 2016, the Department of Health published a consultation on the Introduction of Medical Examiners and Reform to Death Certification in England and Wales. It proposed introducing a unified system of scrutiny by independent medical examiners of all deaths in England and Wales that are not investigated by a coroner and also proposed that this medical examiner service would be funded by a fee payable by the public. The government has not yet published its response to this consultation.
The current fees for the completion of cremation forms are covered in the Social Fund Regulations as necessary costs, and this proposal would extend this to cover the proposed new medical examiner fees – if adopted in the future – as necessary costs for all funerals and not just cremations. This proposal on funeral exemption payments does not pre-empt the government’s conclusions in its consultation response.
Do you agree that we should cover the proposed medical examiner fees, if adopted in the future, as a necessary cost, as we currently cover them as necessary for cremations?