Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Ministry of Social Development to increase the amount people can obtain through a funeral grant after reports that people are being forced to cremate their lost ones, often against their beliefs, due to the high costs of burials. The current limit of $2058.52 is set by the Ministry and could be adjusted without substantive legislative changes.
“People in poverty whose cultural practices include burials are being made to go through the humiliation of not being able to give their loved ones the send-off they deserve”, says Kathleen Paraha, Auckland Action Against Poverty co-chair.
“We agree with the Funeral Directors Association that the Work and Income grants did not reflect the actual cost of the funeral was causing additional hardship. The funeral grants are given as recoverable, which means people must gradually pay it back at a rate established by Work and Income. Not only are people often not able to give their loved ones a proper burial but they are left with crippling debt which pushes them into further financial hardship or homelessness.
“For some Māori and other groups whose tikanga may not make cremation a viable option, the idea of being forced to make these choices goes against their traditions and cultural practices. Māori are being made to accept a funeral practice that may go against their cultural believes. A welfare system which acknowledges tikanga Māori and honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi would ensure Māori are able to carry out tangihanga how they seem culturally fit.
“While we accept that some Māori are choosing cremation as an option, we these decisions should be coming from a place of choice not hardship. No one should be begging to a case manager so that they can give their deceased a dignified funeral.
“We are calling on the Ministry of Social Development to increase the funeral grant limit to reflect the actual costs of funerals. Everyone deserves to lead a life with dignity until the very end.”