The average cost of a basic funeral in the U.K. at an all-time high of 3,785 pounds ($7.190.00 AU), nearly one in eight people in Britain go into debt to bury or cremate loved ones, according to a 2019 study by insurer Royal London. The average debt is almost 2,000 pounds and pushes many into poverty, the annual study found.
But social enterprises have begun springing up to tackle “funeral poverty”, often brought on by upselling of products and services such as flowers and cars that can send grieving families deep into debt.
Glasgow-based Caledonia Cremation is just one social enterprise exploring alternative business models to traditional funeral providers, which are sometimes accused of profiteering.
Similar businesses have sprung up in Canada and Australia, including community-owned businesses and funeral services for the homeless.
Caledonia Cremation has carried out about 250 direct cremations, which are carried out without a funeral service and with no mourners in attendance.
At a flat 995 pounds with no deposit, it offers a safety net for those who cannot afford a more expensive funeral. Still, about half its customers are not struggling financially.
As a social enterprise, Caledonia Cremation will reinvest profits into its mission of preventing funeral poverty, although so far McColgan said it has only just broken even.
The cost of a funeral has risen 6% a year – double the rate of inflation – for more than a decade due to rising crematorium fees, a lack of burial plots and the practice of upselling, and Britain’s competition watchdog is investigating the industry.