'I was offered 99p to pay for my partner's funeral after she died of cancer'

James Tulloch was forced to give up his job to care for his sick partner, with the basic cost of a funeral in Scotland now more than £4,000.

When James Tulloch’s partner was diagnosed with cancer at the start of 2022, he didn’t think by the end of that same year he would be organising her funeral.

Knowing how ill she was, Rachelle Calder had been putting money into a plan every month to help with the cost of her funeral but when the time came, Mr Tulloch was still £2,500 short.

The father-of-three from Falkirk said: “If you’ve not got things put aside for things, because you’re not planning it as early, it’s not easy.

“I don’t think the majority of people realise how quickly something like this can happen. At 50 years old, you’re not expecting someone to die so quickly from cancer.”

Rachelle Calder

James had given up work to care for Rachelle. When he realised he didn’t have enough money to pay for her funeral, he turned to the Scottish Government for help.

He told STV News he qualified for just 99p, which meant he was left with no choice but to take out an overdraft that he’s only just finished paying off this month.

James said: “The only way I can describe how I got through the first few months was just autopilot.

“Then you sit down and think about it and reality just hits you. You wonder how you’ll make it through until the end of the month. 

James Tulloch and Rachelle Calder

“The cost of living is just so high too.”

A cost of dying report from Sunlife found that the average cost of a funeral in Scotland has risen to around £4,030 without including bills for a wake or other send-offs.

The average payout, according to Funeral Support Payment figures from September 2023, is around £1,949 for those eligible in Scotland.

Yet the average cost of dying reached a record high of £9,658, according to Sunlife’s figures.

Cost of a basic funeral: £4,030. Average cost of dying: £9,600.

Charity Caledonia Funeral Aid (CFA) is now calling on the Scottish Government to reconsider its financial support due to the latest figures. It says the support that’s being offered at the moment is a “drop in the ocean” compared to the full bill for services.

John Halliday, co-founder and chair of CFA, said: “Since its introduction in 2019, the Scottish Government has made real gains in increasing the take-up of the Funeral Support Payment, which can be used towards burial or cremation costs and other expenses like funeral directors’ fees, a coffin or flowers.

“The Funeral Support Payment has become a drop in the ocean for people when presented with the final bill.

“We would ask the government to consider that those who qualify for the payment are in receipt of benefits like Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support or Jobseekers’ Allowance.

“These people are also experiencing additional financial pressure due to the cost of living crisis.

“Indeed, nearly half of those surveyed in the report say the cost of living crisis impacted on how they organised or paid for a funeral.

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Since the Funeral Support Payment was launched in 2019, the Scottish Government has provided over £41m of support to more than 22,000 bereaved people to help pay for funeral costs at a time when they need it most.

“We are committed to tackling funeral poverty, which is why we substantially widened eligibility compared to the UK Government’s funeral payment, and why from April 2024, subject to parliamentary approval, provision will be increased by 6.7%, in line with inflation.”

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