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Minister Doherty Partners with IHF to research the cost of bereavement in Ireland

Wednesday, 8 January, 2020

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, T.D. today announced that she was partnering with the Irish Hospice Foundation to carry out research into the cost of bereavement and funeral poverty in Ireland. 

The research will commence in the coming weeks supported by funding of €60,000 that Minister Doherty secured in Budget 2020. 

The research will examine funeral poverty in Ireland and on the wider economic impact of bereavement, aiming to:

Engage, capture and build on experience and learning from other jurisdictions and other organisations with an interest in this area

  • Establish a picture of the prevalence and realities of funeral poverty in Ireland and explore the economic impact on families of funerals and bereavement
  • Explore the wider impact of bereavement on the Irish economy
  • Foster a deeper understanding at State level of the potential for social support to alleviate these financial impacts

Speaking today, Minister Doherty said:

“Bereavement affects individuals and families economically in several ways, with funeral costs, additional death-related expenses and loss of benefit or household income.  Funeral poverty occurs when the cost of a funeral exceeds a person’s ability to pay.  It is a big concern for many people at a very stressful time.  There are other economic consequences to bereavement also.  These vary from correlations between bereavement and poor physical and emotional health outcomes, often with economic implications; to the need to take leave after a bereavement to recover or care for other family members.”

Ms Sharon Foley, CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation commented:

“Over 30,000 people die in Ireland each year, that means over 300,000 people can be newly bereaved. One of the key recommendations in the Finite Lives Report (2017) by Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell, on a whole-of-Government approach to end-of-life issues in Ireland, was to conduct research on the socio-economic impact of the costs associated with dying, death and bereavement.  Through our work at the IHF, we know the grieving process following the death of a loved one can be further exacerbated by financial worries and can have long-term effects on people’s health and wellbeing and that of their families. We have long campaigned for research in this area.

 “This grant is a major step forward by Government in recognising that dying is everyone’s business and we strongly welcome Minister Doherty’s and her Department’s commitment to this vital research project. We look forward to continuing collaboration on this important research area and hope it will, as a result, help to further inform Government policy in the future.”

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection currently provides a range of financial supports for people who have lost a family member through bereavement.  These include the widow’s/widower’s pension, the widowed or surviving civil partner grant, the provision of certain social welfare payments, including the State Pension, to a qualified adult for six weeks after a death of a spouse/civil partner.

The Department also provides a means assessed financial support to help individuals and families meet the cost of funerals through its Exceptional Needs Payments. In 2018, the Department provided almost 3,000 of these payments to a value of €5.5 million towards funeral related expenses.

The research announced today will inform what further interventions or supports the state can provide to alleviate any hardship associated with loss and the Irish Hospice Foundation will complete the research and present the results to the Department before the end of 2020.