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Rise in pauper funerals and food-bank usage

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A RECORD number of ‘pauper funerals’ are anticipated to take place this year and food-bank usage is on the rise with living costs in Jersey increasing at the highest rate in years.

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Last month newly published figures revealed that inflation in Jersey had risen to 4.5 per cent with large price hikes in housing costs, fuel and food all recorded.

There are now concerns that more Islanders will struggle to make ends meet over the winter when food and fuel consumption increases and further inflation is expected owing to factors such as Brexit and global uncertainty.

This year there were more so-called ‘pauper funerals’ – which are paid for by Social Security as the deceased person’s estate cannot cover the costs – between January and May than during the whole of 2017.

According to a freedom of information request, 28 such funerals were held at a cost of £52,779 last year but in the first five months of this year there have already been 30 funerals covered by the States.

If the current trend continues, a record number of paupers’ funerals will be held in 2018.

Malcolm Ferey, of Citizens Advice Jersey, said the level of States financial assistance for funeral costs is still ‘not nearly enough’.

‘If you are on a budget, it is best to have a basic, no-frills funeral,’ he said. ‘When you start to make it very personalised, that is when the costs can really start to add up.’

Citizens Advice offers information on how to keep funeral costs down. In addition to special payments for funeral services, the States also pays a death grant, which is a single payment of £838, on the passing of most Islanders.

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Brett Cutts, of the Grace Trust, said that the use of the charity’s food bank in St Helier is steadily increasing.

‘Last year 374 individuals came into the food bank and we delivered monthly groceries to around 65 families,’ he said.

‘The need for the food bank is not diminishing – it is growing, if anything. Last year by the half-way point of the year we had handed out 1,200 bags of food.

‘This year we are about 100 higher than that by the same stage. Things like mortgage interest rates going up won’t directly affect our clients.

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‘But if their landlords’ mortgage goes up it will increase their rents. Also, in affordable housing the rents are 90 per cent of the market value. That is very high.’

Anne King, the executive officer of the Jersey Consumer Council, recently warned that food bank usage is likely to increase this winter as increasing food and fuel costs bite into Islanders’ finances.

Her feelings were echoed by Tony Morling of the St Helier Methodist Centre, which runs another food bank in town.

‘We do anticipate that there will be a greater take-up in the winter, when the additional costs for heating homes kick in,’ said Mr Morley.

‘It is going to place a greater burden on those who already struggle in our community.’

Tania Targett

By Tania Targett
Journalist

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