ALONE IN LIFE AND IN DEATH; Social Changes Result in an Increase in Paupers' Funerals
Byline: GRAHAM HENRY
HUNDREDS of people are being laid to rest in empty funeral parlours - because they have no-one to grieve for them.
Research by Wales on Sunday shows 517 people in Wales have been buried or cremated in so-called "paupers' funerals" over the past six years - nearly two people a weeK.
The once-shameful practice - which used to involve mass burials with unmarked headstones - is carried out when relatives can't be traced, or when families can't or won't pay and there's no estate. DS
Between 2005 and 2007, there were 229 paupers' funerals, costing Welsh councils pounds 158,500. But that jumped to 288 services at a cost of over pounds 218,100 between 2008 and 2010.
Swansea carried out the most such funerals, with 118 over six years. Cardiff had 117 and Conwy 70.
Anglesey council carried out none, with Blaenau Gwent and Flintshire carrying out only one each.
The youngest "pauper" was from Bridgend, and was just 21. The oldest was a 96-year-old from Cardiff.
One funeral in Merthyr Tydfil in 2009 cost the local authority just pounds 109.99, compared to the average cost of saying goodbye to a loved one of more than pounds 2,700 for a standard service.
Other budget services - which often have no attendees apart from the undertaKer - included a pounds 149.69 service in Caerphilly in 2008, a pounds 250 send-off in 2008 in Merthyr and a pounds 275 service for a funeral in Monmouthshire last year.
These budget services would be enough only for a basic coffin, service and hearse.
Kate Woodthorpe, from the Centre for Death in Society at Bath University, said the situation was "sad, but not surprising".
She said: "It's not surprising because the way we now live, in terms of the networKs that we have, is changing.
"The evidence is that when people age, their networKs decrease and they become very isolated. It is as much about money as it is about relationships. If they don't have people to step in and help pay for things, then this is what is going to happen."
She warned the situation is liKely to get worse as the death rate increases - with an expected 100,000 more people dying each year in Britain by 2030.
Famous figures to have received a modest burial in years gone by include French songstress Edith Piaf - buried in a relatively plain plot in the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris despite once being France's most popular star. …