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Death Grant

Volume 21: debated on Monday 5 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many families with an income of less than average earnings, who received death grant in 1980 and 1981 in respect of the death of a member of their family, would no longer qualify if each of the three options of his death grant consultative document were introduced.

Information is not available in the form requested. The estimates in the consultative document are projections for 1982. Under present arrangements some 510,000 deaths in that year out of 680,000 are expected to lead to payment of a full £30 grant and a further 120,000 deaths will attract a modified rate. Under the options put forward in the document, between 65,000 and 125,000 deaths a year would attract a funeral grant of between £150 and £250 a year, and virtually all those qualifying would have incomes some way below the level of national average earnings.A study in 1974 showed that of a national sample of bereaved people meeting funeral expenses 49 per cent. had a wage or salary, and 39 per cent. had a gross weekly income above the national average family income at that time.Further details are set out in the Department's Research Report No. 6, "Families Funerals and Finances", published by HMSO in March 1980.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many representations he has received concerning the death grant since December 1981.

We have received 177 written representations since 1 January 1982 and the question of death grant was also raised by deputations from the National Pensioners' Convention on 18 February and the National Federation of Old Age Pensioners' Associations on 15 February.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many death grants were paid in respect of retirement pensioners in 1980 and 1981.

466,000 death grants were paid in 1980 in respect of deceased persons over pension age. Comparable figures for 1981 are not available.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will estimate how many death grants were paid in respect of pensioners' deaths in 1980 and 1981 to those other than (a) war pensioners and those in receipt of supplementary benefits or family income supplement, (b) those in (a) above and recipients of rent rebates or rent allowances and (c) those in (a) above, and recipients of rent rebates or rent allowances with income below the housing needs allowance level and where payment of death grant in all three cases cited above depended on an estate being less than £1,500.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many funerals were financed by local authorities in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981; and how many local authorities made no such provision.

Arrangements for burials or cremations under section 50 of the National Assistance Act 1948 are the responsibility of local authorities, and the Department does not collect information about them.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost of extending the right to a funeral grant suggested in his consultative document to all those in receipt of rate rebates.

If the grant were available to all the groups covered by option 2 of the consultative document and also to all recipients of rate rebate irrespective of age, the total cost of increasing the grant for these groups to £150, £200 or £250 would be £29 million, £39 million and £49 million respectively.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost of ensuring that every retirement pensioner was entitled to a funeral grant of £150, £200 and £250.

To pay a funeral grant of £150, £200 and £250 in respect of the deaths of all persons over pension age would cost in the region of £72 million, £96 million and £120 million respectively.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much it would cost to pay a death grant to those not now entitled to one or entitled only to a reduced rate on grounds of age.

To pay a £30 death grant to people who were over, or within 10 years of, pension age on 5 July 1948, and who now qualify for no grant or a grant at a reduced rate, would cost an extra £2 million a year. If a £30 grant were also paid in respect of children, for whom a reduced rate is currently payable, and to those who do not now claim, the extra cost would rise to £3 million. The costs could be expected to reduce progressively over time.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will estimate the costs of administering the proposed funeral grant (a) as an annual total figure, (b) per claim and (c) per grant awarded.

The options set out in annex 2 of the consultative document are provisionally estimated to lead to a saving of staff because of the fewer number of claims to be handled, but until detailed procedures have been worked out no precise estimate or breakdown of the administrative costs or savings is possible, either as a total figure or on the basis of a cost per claim or per grant awarded.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many parents of deceased children received the death grant in 1980 and 1981; and how many would have received it under the terms of the options set out in his consultative document.

10,784 death grants were paid in respect of children in 1980. Comparable figures for 1981 are not available. I regret that information regarding which of their parents would qualify under the various options set out in the consultative document is not available.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many death grants were paid in 1980 and 1981; how many applications were turned down; and how many grants were paid (a) at the reduced adult rate, (b) at the child rate and (c) to pensioners.

There were 613,000 claims for death grant in 1980 and a total of 592,300 awards were made. 99,400 grants were at the reduced adult rate and 10,784 were at children's rates. There were 466,000 awards of death grant in respect of deceased persons over pension age. Comparable figures for 1981 are not available, nor is information available for either year as to the age of claimants to death grant or whether they were in receipt of specified benefits.Some information about the circumstances and sources of income of a national sample of bereaved families in 1974 is set out in the Department's Research Report No. 6 "Families, Funerals and Finances", published by HMSO in March 1980.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost and how many people would gain under each option in his consultative document on the death grant if the estate limit for entitlement to death grant were raised to £2,500.

No precise estimate is possible because of lack of information of the numbers of people leaving estates of this size at their death.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, if the death grant is abolished, he would propose to decrease the national insurance contribution by the amount estimated by the Minister for Social Security on 31 March, Official Report, column 173, to go towards its cost.

Any changes in expenditure from the national insurance fund on death grant that result from the consultative document published on 30 March will be among the factors taken into account in the annual reviews of the rates of national insurance contributions.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, under any of the options, it is envisaged that the new funeral grant will be index-linked.

The question of index linking would have to be considered in the light of available resources and of priorities at the relevant time.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether it is proposed that single working women be entitled to receive a funeral grant; and, if not, how much it would cost to make them eligible.

Single working women would be entitled to the funeral grant on the same basis as other claimants if they were in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits and met the other proposed conditions. In particular, those in full-time work might be eligible for family income supplement, if they had children, or rent rebate or rent allowance, if they were the tenants of rented accommodation. Those in part time work might also be eligible for supplementary benefit.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, based on the actuarial assessment available to him, he will estimate what would be the necessary increase in national insurance contribution to produce a death grant of £200.

If death grant were increased to £200 in the current financial year and paid on the same contributory basis as at present then benefit expenditure from the national insurance fund would be increased by about £100 million in a full year. If the whole of that sum were to be raised through higher national insurance contributions then, on the assumptions given in the report by the Government Actuary on the financial provisions of the Social Security (Contributions) Bill 1981 (Cmnd. 8443), there would need to be an increase of about 0·1 per cent. in the standard Class 1 rate.If the whole of the increase were borne by the employee then a man on average earnings of £150 per week would be paying about 15 pence per week more. A grant of £200 paid in respect of all deaths on a non-contributory basis would add about £120 million to the present cost.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, as part of his consultations arising from his proposals on the death grant, he will hold discussions with the National Association of Funeral Directors to obtain information about its level of charges.

The Department is in touch with the National Association of Funeral Directors from time Ito time regarding the costs of funerals. I have sent the association a copy of the consultative document and shall consider with interest any comments it may wish to make on it.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether it is his intention to introduced more fraud investigation officers to make follow up inquiries after payment of a funeral grant.

No. The options set out in the consultative document envisage that staff savings will be made.