It is important that help is targeted at those who are least well off at the time the need arises. The Government therefore firmly believe that the qualifying criteria for the funeral payments should be linked to the receipt of one of a number of income-related benefits.
I thank the Minister for his response, but the reality is that almost one in five people struggles to pay the cost of a funeral service for a member of their family, and more and more are taking on debts so that they can afford to pay for a service for their loved one. Will the Minister therefore consider adjusting the criteria so that families suffering emotional hardship need not experience financial hardship as well?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. We have expanded the scope of the budgeting loans scheme to include funeral costs, which were not previously eligible. If someone is short of cash to meet funeral costs, they can borrow money through the social fund if they are eligible for a budgeting loan, as well as applying for the grant that we pay, which averages £1,200.