Local Independent councillor, Ailish McManus, has called on the council to write to Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, to request the reinstatement of the Bereavement Grant with immediate effect.
Cllr McManus made the call at Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District.
“Funerals do not come cheap,” she began. “An average Irish funeral is said to cost around €5,000, excluding getting a grave or having a cremation. Funerals are officially VAT exempt, but they are heavily taxed. For example, a local undertaker will usually purchase coffins from a supplier. That undertaker must pay 23 per cent VAT on that coffin. On a €2,000 coffin, that is almost €500.
“The undertaker can’t take that hit, so the deceased’s family must shoulder the cost. You also need to pay 13.5 per cent VAT on headstones should you choose to bury your loved one.”
Cllr McManus told the chamber that the Bereavement Grant was first introduced in February, 1999. It was £500 and replaced the Death Grant Scheme of £100. The Government of the day also eased the qualifying conditions for entitlement. The idea was to help families during a difficult time, she said. After a few years, it was increased to €850. Then the previous Government scrapped it completely from Budget 2014 onwards.
“Even though the Bereavement Grant of €850 was cut for the majority of Irish citizens, other funding sources are available to a limited number of individuals,” Cllr McManus continued. “For example, there is a special funeral grant of €850, but only where a person dies because of an accident at work or an occupational disease. You may be eligible for an exceptional needs payment to help with funeral costs if you are on a low income, but each case is decided on its merits, which is a bit wishy-washy.
“Money should be the last thing to worry about during a bereavement. State assistance is minimal and families can be left with large debts, so I propose that we write to the Minister and request that the Bereavement grant is reinstated with immediate effect.”
Cllr McManus received unanimous support for her motion, and the council will now open correspondence with the Department for Social Protection.