HC Deb 03 December 2002 vol 395 c732W
Mr. Olner

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will remove parochial fees from his Department's funeral fund payments and treat the fees for a religious service in line with other disbursements; [83239]

(2) if he will make a statement on the range of parochial fees charged for funerals. [83696]

Malcolm Wicks

We are committed to providing a payment for a respectful funeral to people receiving income-related benefits or tax credits who have good reason for organising the funeral.

Social Fund funeral payments cover in full the cost of certain necessary, specified charges including fees levied by burial authorities and crematoria. Not everyone wishes to use, or is required to pay for, the services of a minister of religion or other religious fees. However, up to £600 is allowed for other funeral expenses, which gives the person arranging the funeral the freedom to select the items or services they consider appropriate. On 27 November, we announced that from next April this amount will rise to £700.

The Department does not hold information on the range of parochial fees charged for funerals and we have no plans to include fees for a religious service among the charges specified in regulations. However, we will continue to keep the level of support provided for funeral costs under review.

Forward to