We need to talk about death in Northern Ireland

This is just one of the key findings of our examination which looked into the cost associated with dying, the cause of death, the impact of changes in bereavement benefit payments and what it is like to live with a terminal diagnosis.

It comes against a backdrop of dwindling government financial support and rising funeral costs, which were 88% more expensive last year compared to 2004.

Our research has led to calls for an overhaul of government financial support and regulation of the funeral industry.

Joan McEwan, Marie Curie’s head of policy and public affairs in Northern Ireland, said: “I think the whole topic of death and dying is one as a society we struggle with.”

Gary Hunter, who is living with an incurable cancer, stated: “Death is a part of life so it is important to think about it and to consider how it will impact on your family.”

Citizens Advice Northern Ireland, Marie Curie and the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) believe a public health campaign is needed to address the issue.

Gary Haire, NAFD’s Northern Ireland federation president stated: “Families are often fractured in bereavement which can bring out the best and worst of individuals in the family when death is not discussed in advanced. Ensuring that the Public Health Agency has a more proactive campaign in talking about death and dying would help and perhaps more funeral directors need to be advocates for increasing this discussion within society.

Corrina Grimes, allied health professions consultant and palliative care lead at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “While it may not be something that we want to think about, the PHA would encourage everyone to think ahead to plan for the future in terms of their personal affairs and any wishes they may have for their care towards, and at the end, of life.”

Today we are publishing a series of articles looking at death and dying. Click on the links below to read the stories.

The postcode burial lottery

  • The cost of burial in a council cemetery ranges from £261 to £3,116 across Northern Ireland. We requested and analysed the fees for the 11 council areas.

The cost

  • More than 18,000 people over five years sought government financial assistance with the cost of a loved one’s funeral.
  • Since 2012 the government has written off more than £16million in funeral debt.

Bereavement benefits

  • Families with young children who suffer the loss of their mother or father could be up to £100,000 worse off after Widowed Parent’s Allowance was replaced with the less generous Bereavement Support Payment.

Living with a terminal illness

  • Father-of-three Gary Hunter tells us about living with an incurable cancer and how he has faced up to his own mortality.

The hidden cost

  • 3,000 people with life limiting conditions are missing out on end-of-life care every year.

The funeral industry

  • The funeral directors who have pledged to publish their prices and how much the industry makes.

For further information on what support is available click here.

To access all the data related to this project click here.

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