Online crowdfunding for funerals rise by third in a year: ‘We had to beg for money to bury Mum’

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Within days of Daisy Haynes’ mother passing away last year at the age of 49, the only thing she could think was: “How will the family pay for her funeral?”

She said: “I just laid staring at the ceiling until 3 or 4 in the morning trying to figure out how to pay for it. There were no other family members who could help.” 

Before she died, her mother Nicole Wilkins, had become severely depressed after the death of her husband six months earlier. She had next to no money when she died and had not taken out life insurance, so there were no funds to help fund her burial.

“Once we realised she had no life insurance, we tried to find out if we were eligible for some support – a funeral grant or something,” said Daisy. “But because we all work, we weren’t eligible for anything.“

The self-employed illustrator quoted almost £5,000 by the first funeral company. For that, they would simply transport her mother’s body to the ceremony.  

“We couldn’t afford it, and every door we tried to ask for help was slammed it back in our face,” she said. “I was thinking I’d have to use my rent to pay for it.”

She is one of many bereaved relatives who have been forced to publicly appeal for funds to pay to bury or cremate their loved ones.

​Figures passed to The Independent by GoFundMe show that new campaigns to raise money for funerals have increased by around a third in the past year.

The fundraising website is currently running more than 100 campaigns for people who explicitly says they cannot afford to pay for a funeral. 

Separate figures from the Down to Earth campaign, which provides practical support for those struggling with costs, shows the number of people supported by their helpline team has trebled since 2015.

Last year it helped 978 people, compared with 302 two years before.

Eventually, Daisy’s family were forced to go to extremes to bury their mother, selling valuables, taking out loans and launching a crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMe.

“My brother got out a loan from his employer,” she said. “We sold anything of any value in their house. Everything we could sell, we sold. I started a crowdfunding page.

“To start with, I didn’t tell my siblings about this. We’re from a working class family and we’re proud people, so the thought of us having to go begging to friends for money was very difficult.”

Funeral prices are rising at almost treble the rate of house prices, with the cost standing at £4,078 in September last year – up 4.7 per cent on the previous 12 months and up twofold since 2004.

As a result, families have been forced to opt for cheaper coffins and held wakes at home to combat the rising prices.  

Many have actively cut back on certain aspects of the funeral to keep costs down.

Every local authority in the UK has a statutory duty to make arrangements for so-called “pauper’s” funerals, which occur when a person dies and their family is unable to be traced or, sometimes, when the family is unable to pay.

But these are heavily means tested and applicants must pass a rigorous vetting process.

The government also provides Funeral Expenses Payments, which can help pay for burial fees, cremation fees, travel to arrange or go to the funeral and death certificates or other documents. But these funds are also granted on a means tested basis, meaning people must receive certain benefits or tax credits to be eligible.