‘Is a funeral a right?‘ Exploring indigent funerals from social work perspectives

Phillipa Thompson, Polly Yeung


Research shows that funerals take place in a tension between the desire for a meaningful event and the reality of cost. Every culture has traditions for marking life‘s end and this must include responses to people who die indigent (without resources). This study takes place in the context of current welfare debates and the growing aging population which will require increasing numbers of people to organise and fund funerals. Yet funeral poverty and funeral welfare policy are an under-researched element of the welfare debate. In Aotearoa New Zealand some assistance with costs is available from the Government through Work and Income New Zealand or the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). However, grants are not designed to meet the full cost of a funeral. It is expected that family and/or friends will meet the remaining costs, but there are times when there is no one able or willing to do this. This exploratory study interviewed four professionals (two social workers, one community worker and a funeral director) who had taken responsibility for arranging an indigent funeral, in order to explore their motivations and experiences. Findings from the participants revealed that the level of current government support is inadequate; however, they also suggested that communities may need to take more responsibility for funerals, particularly for vulnerable population groups. Social workers can play a role both by initiat- ing conversations about funerals with clients and advocating for enhanced access to funeral services and grants to prevent the increase of funeral poverty 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol27iss1-2id18


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