Here is a breakdown by county of how much the State paid towards funerals last year

Here is a breakdown by county of how much the State paid towards funerals last year
File photo.

An estimated total of more than €5m was spent by the State in helping families bury their loved ones last year, according to 'snapshot' figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

A total of 2,881 payments were made last year to assist funerals and burials nationwide amounting to €5,457,828, according to the two departments.

Amounts given to each applicant are means tested and varied and approved at the discretion of Department staff.

The State approved €2,083,127 to help 1,156 mourners in Dublin while the second highest number of bereaved needing assistance was in Cork where 245 were given the nod for €508,320.

The third highest number requiring help for a funeral or burial was in Co. Louth where figures show that 121 received aid to a tune of €228,131 last year.

Approved sums totalling €238,680 for 116 applicants in Limerick and €250,900 for 108 in Kildare were also sanctioned by the Department.

In Galway, 75 applicants were awarded €141,634 while there were 98 in both Wicklow and Donegal afforded €197,425 and €180,442 respectively and 95 in Tipperary that received in principal €189,259.

The lowest number of applicants who sought help was in Monaghan where 18 people were approved for a total sum of €28,970, in Leitrim where 19 people were sanctioned €34,600 and in Cavan where 23 applicants got the green light for €42,860.

There were 59 applicants in Kerry and Kilkenny who were given assistance of €105,201 and €103,915 respectively while the Royal County sought help to the value of €133,750 to 78 people.

Elsewhere, the figures were €74,104 to 43 applicants in Carlow, €77,019 to 39 in Clare, €107,577 to 44 people in Laois and €85,052 to 34 applicants in Longford.

Funeral expenses were aided in 57 cases in Mayo to a total of €113,890, 42 in Offaly totalling €99,915, 32 in Roscommon at €52,547 and Sligo where 35 cases were approved €63,010

In Waterford and Westmeath, 66 people received €141,090 and 61 obtained €92,005 respectively while €84,405 was approved to 60 cases in Wexford.

The Department said that the figures were "taken from the Department's ENP (Exceptional Needs Payment) database and represent a snapshot of the ENPs as they are approved by an officer rather than when they are paid.

Exceptional Needs Payments made in 2018 for assistance with funerals and burials.
Exceptional Needs Payments made in 2018 for assistance with funerals and burials.

"The figures do not capture payments that are cancelled, payments that go out of date or overpayments recouped."

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, the Department said they can make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income.

There is no automatic entitlement to this means-tested payment which is approved at the discretion of a representative of the Department.

According to the Department: "An application can be made under the ENP scheme for assistance with funeral and burial expenses.

"The assistance is toward the costs of the necessary basic requirements for a dignified funeral where there is an inability to pay the costs, in part or in full, by the family of the deceased person without causing hardship"

The department says that the circumstances of each applicant and the deceased, including savings, property and insurance policies are taken into account.

The figures contain payments for burials of people who have no family to bury them, under Social Welfare legislation. However, figures pertaining to the number of these burials were not available from the Department at this time.

In Meath, where assistance was given to 78 families, a local undertaker said pre-planning was helping more people become secure in knowing that their funeral was paid for before death.

Aidan Heffernan of Heffernans Funeral Directors in Trim said that the number of funerals where payment couldn't be met was low.

"It's a very sensitive thing. Some families can find the costs difficult to meet, but we seldom encounter a situation where a funeral has to be paid for solely by the State," he said

"Occasionally the undertaker will have to absorb certain costs in order to help a family in need," said Mr Heffernan who is a former board member of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors.

"Many people found the death grant, paid to taxpayers by the State extremely helpful but that has now been abolished."

"We have very many pre-planned funerals which have been pre-paid by people who may not require our services for years. Pre-planning their funeral provides them with peace of mind.

"You choose the funeral you want and fix the cost of the funeral directors' services, which are included in the plan at today's prices. A plan can save your family worry and expense and help make things easier for your loved ones at such a difficult time.

"In Meath, the average cost of a funeral is about €3,500 plus disbursements such as the celebrant, music and flowers," he said.

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